Preacher

I feel obliged to post this before the TV show starts up (May 22nd, in case you didn’t know) even though I just finished reading all the comics a few days ago. So I feel like I’m still thinking them over .

I really enjoyed these comics overall! (Cool, got that nicety out of the way. Now to complain! And then after that more nice things, I promise.)

So, the art was probably my biggest issue with the series. Which seems so silly. But it is absolutely the most generic 90’s comic book art. All of the faces are drawn exactly the same. If characters don’t have different specific outfits they wear in every single frame (good thing Jesse has a priest collar on, honestly) it’s hard to tell them apart. Nothing is pretty. Nothing even stands out. It’s just visually plain and honestly a little confusing when side characters are introduced who aren’t readily distinguishable from the main ones.

(Jesse, Cassidy, and Tulip in a diner.)

Generic human faces. And these are the three main characters in a well lit room, so this is as good as it gets.

Also, as was pretty common in 90’s comics, women make up about 5% of this universe. There’s Tulip (yay Tulip!), her one friend (who is a barely developed character except that she is in love with Jesse and talks to both Tulip and Jesse about that at various points, which is not a particularly believable human thing), Jesse’s evil grandma, Featherstone (the Grail apparently controls Catholicism the world over but only needed one lady operative), and some girls who are only mentioned because of the fact that Cassidy either does or does not date them (spoilers: it ends poorly both ways). That’s it. And only Tulip has any character development or affect on the plot. Which is a real bummer.

And the guys who get so much plot and backstory and importance thrown at them? They both kinda suck. At being people. Also at life. For additional data, the list of characters who warranted Preacher Specials: Cassidy, Herr Starr, Arseface, The Saint of Killers, and “The Good Ol’ Boys” aka Jesse’s terrifying (southern stereotype) violent, inbred, hick cousins. (I read these, none of them were particularly good. Just in case you were curious.)

Jesse is basically the face of benevolent sexism. Tulip is like the only reliable person he knows. Also, as she repeatedly demonstrates throughout the story, she’s super great at killing people. But he leaves her behind every single time he can because he cares about her and she’s a lady human so it’s the right thing to do.

(Tulip being badass.)

Tulip being badass. (Those are bad guys, in case that’s not clear.)

Cassidy… Damnit, you guys. This guy was my favorite for a while. He’s sarcastic and mean AND Irish AND a vampire? But then he’s also your friendly neighborhood rapist, abuser, and absentee father. What. The. Fuck. And then, I guess, that’s all okay because he kind of helps but actually just doesn’t kill Jesse – he only breaks his collar bone and then asks for forgiveness. Which, I guess, if these are supposed to have Catholic morals maybe has its own consistent internal logic? Still,  I am full of rage for the ongoing non-death of Cassidy.

ANYWAYS I promised you pros and I have them! I am not a liar!

The plot of these comics is just awesome. There was probably some stuff I missed with the hierarchy of angels and demons and god and maybe even Jesse’s creepy family where knowing a little bit more about religious texts would have been helpful. Even without that understanding, I still speed read my way through them because I just had to know what happened.

Also there’s Tulip! I don’t know, have I mentioned that she’s really cool already? Why couldn’t this just be her story? She’s raised by her survivalist single dad until he dies and she goes to private school and meets her rich best friend who she then saves at a party and spends most of the rest of her life protecting good people she encounters just because it’s the right thing to do. Tulip is the real hero, guys.

And The Saint of Killers! Who I primarily like because he is basically Roland Deschain back before the Dark Tower went on way too long and I started to hate him.

So I have long since learned not to get my hopes up about TV adaptations (or movies, or radio shows…all of it is mostly a let down). But I am definitely going to watch this to find out.

But so far it looks like THEY ADDED DIVERSITY! (At least a little bit. I’ve only seen the photos of the cast they’ve put on Instagram so far.)

I can’t help but wonder how they’re going to do the special effects exactly though. This could be horrendously cheesy or very interesting… TBD.

(Glowing ball of angry space baby)

How are they gonna do this in a way that’s not hilarious?

Will religious people burn the AMC offices down? Does AMC even have offices? We’ll find out!

(Jesse meet Genesis. Genesis, Jesse.)

Jesse meet Genesis. Genesis, Jesse.

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Gillian Flynn???

I think I am in love with you, Gillian Flynn.

You also scare the bajeezes out of me.

Probably this is partially my fault for only reading your books when I’m alone in strange cities on business trips. Somehow I read Gone Girl alone at night in a hotel in Pittsburgh, Dark Places alone at night in a hotel in Boston, and Sharp Objects at night in an AirBNB also in Boston where I was alone with the stranger whose room I was renting (who turned out not to be a murderer, but I didn’t know that at the time). None of those were a great time to be reading interpersonal horror* (a phrase I’m making up now but for which there probably already exists better terminology…someone let me know what it is and I’ll fix this). Why do I make obviously poor situational reading choices? Like when I started reading Preacher comics on the airplane while I was sitting in a middle seat. My seatmates definitely assumed I was a monster. I should definitely work on that.

Back to you: you are an excellent writer. You and Tana French are the only two people who write books that I genuinely cannot put down once I’ve started reading them. I worry about your characters while I’m out in the world unable to read more because I’m doing dumb things – like working. Your characters and the world you writer for them feel real – and, again, terrifying. I’m honestly sort of annoyed I’ve never seen any of your books shelved in the horror section of a bookstore. (To be continued: I have a whole rant about how book stores sort things based on useless trivia like the author’s gender. BUT ANYWAYS.) And I will fight anyone who says they could have guessed the endings of your books before they read them. A+ for plot twists that don’t seem cliche.

And on top of all that, you seem like a really kickass person, based on the few interviews I’ve read of yours. Particularly this one with the Guardian where you respond to the recurring accusation that your books are misogynist because none of the women in them are likeable. But there are a bunch of others that are also excellent.

I especially liked this bit from a post on your website:”I’ve grown quite weary of the spunky heroines, brave rape victims, soul-searching fashionistas that stock so many books. I particularly mourn the lack of female villains — good, potent female villains. Not ill-tempered women who scheme about landing good men and better shoes (as if we had nothing more interesting to war over), not chilly WASP mothers (emotionally distant isn’t necessarily evil), not soapy vixens (merely bitchy doesn’t qualify either). I’m talking violent, wicked women. Scary women. Don’t tell me you don’t know some. The point is, women have spent so many years girl-powering ourselves — to the point of almost parodic encouragement — we’ve left no room to acknowledge our dark side. Dark sides are important.”

In conclusion, please write more books before I go on any more business trips so I can have something terrifying to read while I’m gone.

*Interpersonal horror: (as defined by me) horror but where the monster lives inside someone you love. Like how interpersonal violence is the smaller cruelties that people exact against each other every day instead of, like, the bombs of movie violence.

The Dark Tower Series aka What is Wrong with You, Stephen King (Pt. 1)

I realize that the title doesn’t indicate it but I did (and do) love this series. As a whole. Mostly.

I’m going to tell you what I loved about it first so that you’ll know I really mean it. The world is AMAZINGLY well developed. It’s mostly called Mid-World but that’s always just felt like a filler title until someone came up with a better one (like Snakes on a Plane – seriously, how did that get released) so I’m not going to refer to it as such. Anyways, it is extremely well thought out and explained. There is just so much detail and foreshadowing which is especially crazy considering how long King took to write the whole series and how unlikely it seemed at the beginning that it would ever be published. I did feel as I was reading it as thought those places were real and, of course because this is Stephen King after all, terrifying.

The characters were equally well thought out. Roland is amazing and, in all honesty, the only reason I finished reading the series. He is not a good person or a nice person but he is an amazing character. And he is basically the human embodiment of purpose. It’s so interesting to watch him survive without ever really changing. He does occasionally develop feelings but the narrator always makes it clear that these are just old feelings reawakened – the person he loves now is essentially just a replacement for someone he loved long ago (often also with basically the same face). Usually when I read or see representations of the Old West it is romanticized as being a place full of white hats and damsels. But this interpretation feels more honest – being a gunslinger (or a knight on a quest) is impossibly lonely and, as historically demonstrated by Wyatt Earp and basically everyone else in the Old West.

Gilhead is something I would love to know more about – beyond simply that it was Roland’s childhood home and basically Camelot but then fell. I know it’s addressed in some of the prequel graphic novels (which I haven’t read) and maybe in some of the spin-off/tie-in books that I know of but haven’t read.

In Part 2 of this review, the title will make sense.

Let’s All Worry About Jaunting!

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

So, on a personal point I have a problem with books where I don’t want to know the main character – not legitimately nice or endearingly crazy * cough * Wuthering Heights then it’s not for me.

But this book is really good. I love some smart sci-fi and this definitely fits the bill. Interplanetary war? Check. X-Men-like evolutionary capabilities? Check.

And still, and I wonder this a lot not just with sci-fi (but pretty often with sci-fi) to write a female character so poorly…do they have to have never spoken to a female human? Probably including their own mothers? Because, if you’re going to acknowledge that men’s actions are motivated by something external you can’t then turn around and say “She did that because she is a lady and, as we all know, they are crazy.” It’s one or the other – everyone’s crazy or everyone’s motivated.

So yes, I would definitely recommend that people (who already like sci-fi) read this – I will, in fact, be giving it to a friend for their birthday this weekend – but I would also preface that recommendation with “You know the reason I am the most frequently off put by books? This has that in it.” The friend I am giving it to thinks Richard Feynman’s book is good so it’s safe to say they aren’t often offended on behalf of ladies in books.

Wuthering Heights Wins at Everything

Wuthering Heights is, quite seriously, my favorite book of all time. I’ve read it easily a dozen times and every time I notice something (or somethings) that I never have before.

The characters are amazing. They are all intriguingly damaged. Romance is mostly between good girls and bad-for-no-reason boys. The boy sees this nice girl and realizes that he could be nice to her and they could be nice together and then they skip around. Or some such nonsense. (Occasionally I am a fan of skipping, but this book is better than that. This book contains 0% happy skipping.) It is a cautionary tale about how love makes people miserable and insane. This story tells you what happens at the end of the uncontrolled love road – if you are a sociopath and/or none of your friends has the decency to slap you and tell you to get it together (or if, in the case of Catherine and Heathcliff, you have never had any friends). Hint: it’s brainfever.

I do love a frame. I feel like this is a plot device under-utilized in books but over-utilized in, say, mystery TV shows. We are shown the eventual outcome and then the story jumps backwards – about 30 years in this case. And then we all get to be detectives with Lockwood. PLUS two stories in one!

Unreliable narration just makes me happy. It leaves the entire interpretation up to the reader. It is a story that seriously expects more of you. Lockwood is wrong about everything. And he’s decidedly un-omnicient. (There has got to be a better way to say that.) He’s actually pretty stupid; he mistakes Heathcliff insisting his new tenant sleep outside in the snow for shyness. C’mon, that’s priceless.

You have to read it twice. I know this is bad news because it is written in a dense, old style that’s time consuming and the characters are all basically jerks but, I promise, everyone who’s terrible gets what they deserve. But even if I told you everything that happens in it, and I will if you ever foolishly mention this book in my presence, you would still have to read it twice. The first time you adjust to the flow of it and realize that the plot is never going to go where you think it will; the second time it’s amazing. AMAZING. Plus Kate Bush wrote a song about it with a ridiculous video. AND Kate Beaton felt it deserved two comic strips. So the two best Kates I can think of approve.

In conclusion, it wins at everything.