Four-Color Flashback: ‘Preacher: Vol. 5 – Dixie Fried”

Welcome to week 5 of 9 in our analysis of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher. For more, read weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Paul: Juhz. (Justice.)
Vuhh. (Vengeance.)
UHFUH. (ARSEFACE.)

AJ: As much as I’ve had my problems with Arseface thus far, any time he said something like that in this volume, I cracked up. UHFUH.

Paul: He’s just so sweet and earnest.

AJ: He really is. And the gang cracking up while he has them at gunpoint? How can you not laugh at that?

Paul: Poor Uhfuh.

AJ: This is easily the best application of Uhfuh. The writing of his character seemed like it came from a mean-spirited place in earlier volumes–though his origin story kiiiiind of put things in a different context–but here he stops a waitress from getting raped, lands a record deal, and is generally a clueless but well-meaning hero.

Paul: Well, I told you that he does have his own character arc, but that for the most part it kind of keeps to itself. So if you find you don’t care for it, you can pretty much just ignore it. However, I think when all is said and done, it does have things to say about the broader themes explored by the series.

AJ: I have to say, Dixie Fried as a whole really impressed me. A lot, actually. I know the last volume wasn’t technically part of the series proper, but it indulged a lot of Ennis’ worst tendencies and was kind of pointless (though I still dig the Saint of Killers story). Even the other volumes, which had some great stuff, also contained storylines I felt were kind of extraneous. Not so here. The larger story, with Jesse going to New Orleans to find out more about Genesis and Les Enfants du Sang coming after Cassidy, was pretty strong. And the character work…well, damn, it might have some of the finest examples of characters just sitting around and talking I’ve ever read in comics.

Paul: I completely agree. I wanted to mention the character work specifically in issue #29, “Old Familiar Faces.” But I think perhaps we should start at the beginning of the volume, with yet another one-shot released outside the body of the main series, Cassidy: Blood and Whiskey. You mentioned Vol. 4 from last week and how it didn’t really work. I think you’ll agree this particular special issue is far, far more successful in moving the main story forward. And you finally got your V-word…kind of.

AJ: You can’t even compare Blood and Whiskey to any of the stories in Ancient History. The Saint of Killers origin story is brought up again in this volume, but even that seemed like a largely self-contained, stand-alone piece. Blood and Whiskey directly ties into the main series, and if I hadn’t read it, I would have felt like I was missing out. Even on its own, though, it’s brilliant entertainment.

Cassidy finally meets one of his own, Eccarius, but the guy turns out to be like Armand from Interview with the Vampire: stuffy, pretentious, given to purple prose, and finding amusement in humans’ desire for him. For the record, I greatly enjoy Interview with the Vampire, but it was a joy to see Cassidy rip into the whole notion of deifying vampires and acting like they carry such a tragic burden. Which, of course, is how 95% of post-Rice vampire fiction tends to portray them. It reminded me more than a little of the Buffy episode “Lie to Me,” which also revolves around a vamp-worshiping cult that gets played by their leader. Though I don’t think that one featured two drunken vampires mooning the cult whilst calling them wankers.

Paul: Blood and Whiskey, besides setting up some antagonists to show up and wreak havoc later in the volume, also serves what I think is an important function: it shows us (reminds us) that Cassidy is in fact a decent person. Important because we’re about to start seeing the ugly side of the character.

AJ: Very true. Up to this point, we’ve seen almost everyone’s dark sides…except for Cassidy’s. Cassidy has been depicted as basically the one thoroughly decent person in the series, but everything comes crashing down on him here. He drunkenly professes his love for Tulip, which comes as an absolute shock considering how loyal a friend he’s been to Jesse. That he keeps pushing the issue is unbelievable. It also casts new light on his actions to save Tulip in Proud Americans, and his promise to Jesse to stick with him until they find God. Then we find out that he did the same exact thing to his voodoo buddy Xavier, except that Xavier’s woman actually gave in to his advances. Do you think that Cassidy has ulterior motives? Or is he genuine, just reckless and unthinking?

Paul: It’s difficult for me to answer since I know the answer. But I’ll point out that Xavier himself says, “I honestly don’t believe that he’s an evil man. Just careless. And thoughtless. And terribly, terribly weak.” Also, there’s the possibility that Dee’s curse, which Xavier takes up at the end, is having an effect on him. As you say, it seems pretty hard to believe that Cassidy would continue to push things with Tulip the way he does. Maybe he’s not 100% in his right mind?

AJ: Good point. The curse certainly explains why he’s had such shitty luck lately. I wonder if Cassidy is actually in love with Tulip, or if it’s entirely the curse. Either way, this explains why Tulip’s been uncomfortable around him from the start; if some weird Irish vampire is mooning over you all the time, whether subtly or not, you’re gonna get the creeps. Since you’ve read the series multiple times, does Cassidy’s behavior toward Tulip seem like infatuation in hindsight?

Paul: I think…I have to be careful what I say. I think in many ways Cassidy’s feelings for Tulip are actually a sort of a proxy for his feelings for Jesse. (Ha, I deflected that question.)

But seriously, Tulip is a strong, independent, beautiful woman that refuses to take any of Cassidy’s bullshit. He’s never really met anyone like her before. Plus, she’s the one true love of his one true love, Jesse. So yeah, it’s all messy and confusifying for him.

AJ: You should be a politician, man.

You said you wanted to specifically discuss #29, “Old Familiar Faces.” This issue had some absolutely lovely bits of business, like Tulip pushing Cassidy’s coffee cup beyond a shaft of sunlight so he can’t reach for it, the gang’s musical tastes clashing when they attempt to find a cassette for their road trip (which was also a reminder that cassettes used to be a thing that existed), and Jesse talking about why he loves the South even though some of the most godawful moments of his life occurred there.

Paul: By this point in the series, Ennis and Dillon have such a firm grasp on these characters that they really seem to come to life. A dialogue scene covering six pages is far from boring or indulgent, but actually compelling. Plus: “He did wrong. He fucked people up. He has to be made to face it. You look at it that way, he’s just another son of a bitch.”

And then you’ve got moments of horrifying violence, some perpetrated by Tulip herself. Another great piece of dialogue: “She looks good enough to eat.” “Many have tried, goatfucker. Many have tried.”

So, what about the final, dramatic “revelation” of who was responsible for the Saint of Killers? Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

AJ: Well, it was strongly implied in Ancient History.

Paul: I know, I was being sarcastic. I always felt the quest for that particular answer was a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. I realize that these characters didn’t have the facts to piece that together, but the readers did. So it just seemed rather anti-climactic.

AJ: That’s true. At least Jesse has even more motivation to go beat the Christ out of God.

…That was a failed joke, and I’m sorry I made it.

Paul: I want to point out one really nice artistic touch Dillon does in the voodoo showdown scene. While Jesse is in his trance, his eyes roll back in his head, but whereas most artists just white out the entire eye, Dillon actually leaves a tiny bit of the irises showing from beneath the lids. Looks so much more realistic.

AJ: I agree. Much more disturbing, too.

As for the showdown itself: Cassidy gets his head sliced clean off! Xavier loses another gal pal because of Cassidy (though Janis is much worse off than his other woman because dead)! A snake eats a guy! There’s general death and destruction! It’s exciting stuff, one of the best action sequences the series has done so far. The image of the sword in the one guy’s stomach impaling the girl’s head is gonna stay with me.

Paul: “You know what I’m gonna do with that pigsticker, you don’t quit wavin’ it at me?”

Ouch.

 

AJ: Besides the main story, there was some interesting stuff going on around the margins. Herr Starr tries on hats. The Saint of Killers shows up for one page just to remind us that he’s out there, somewhere, ready to start a war. And it turns out that Jesse saw Bill Hicks doing stand-up shortly before he died, and even met the man. Apparently, when we first saw Jesse three sheets to the wind and telling everyone in Annville what he thought of them way back in the first issue, it was because he was so pissed about Hicks’ passing. I’m…not sure what to make of that. It feels like a weird, years-late way to commemorate Hicks’ passing while throwing in some good stand-up.

Paul: Yeah, I’ve never jumped on board the Bill Hicks blowjob train that so many have, so that little plot point was kind of wasted on me. Still, I enjoy when stories fill in blanks between the panels like that…usually.

And the “dickhead” montage with Starr makes me laugh every time I read it.

AJ: I’m not terribly familiar with Hicks, but what I have seen has been hilarious. Also, “blowjob train”…alternatingly sexy and disturbing phrase.

Paul: Thanks, I worked all night on that one.

AJ: Ewwwwww.

Paul: In the scene between Dee and Cassidy at the end, where she breaks down and screams at him, telling him he destroyed her and taught her how powerless she was…1) one of the best expressions of the damage abuse can cause to a person’s psyche, and 2) a chilling hint at Cassidy stories to come.

AJ: It also tied into Tulip’s ongoing conversation with Jesse about how much he trusts her and whether or not he’s capable of ceding power and independence to her. I loved Tulip cuffing Jesse to the bed, by the way. I called it as soon as she brought out the handcuffs during their faux foreplay, but it was still satisfying. Jesse’s a good man, but he can also be a real shit, you know?

Paul: Part (a big part) of Jesse Custer’s journey is to learn to let others be responsible for themselves. It’s part of why it’s interesting he’s a preacher, a profession not typically associated with allowing others the freedom of choice and personal responsibility.

AJ: Most aspects of Rev. Custer are contradictory. That’s what makes him such a compelling, knotty lead for the series.

So what was the song Arseface was singing for his adoring masses? From what I could make out of his unintelligible speech, I thought it might be The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today,” but before he steps up to the mic he asks the band if they like “Ohwazuh.” Oasis? Maybe?

Paul: I think it’s Oasis, but don’t know the song.

AJ: Well, you’re no help.

Paul: The Internet informs me the song was “Wonderwall.”

AJ: You know who else is an arseface? One or both of the Gallagher brothers.

Paul: So true.

AJ: Favorite lines or moments we haven’t already mentioned?

Paul: Eccarius: “We are a dark mirror to them, reflecting back their self-doubt and self-loathing. We are –”
Cassidy: “Aw, fuck me…!
Eccarius: “I’m sorry?”
Cassidy: “Yeh’re a wanker, aren’t yeh?”

Tulip uncuffing Jesse and asking him to hold her after Cassidy’s confession of love. The cover for issue #29. “That’s a big fucking snake.”

AJ: I think my favorite line of the volume came from Cassidy, talking to Eccarius about the earlier, less lethal incarnation of Les Enfants du Sang: “Too much time on their hands, mate. Leads to poetry.”

So, Paul, the time has come for me to ask once more: what cryptic hints do you have up your sleeve for the uninitiated?

Paul: Best part of this volume? We are this close to the next volume! Shit is about to get real, yo.

Hints…”I have an erection.” “Fox Three.” “Now let go.” “Fuck you.” “Wipe.” And lastly…finally…”Not enough gun.”

Next week: Preacher: Vol. 6 – War in the Sun, collecting Preacher Special: One Man’s War and issues #34-40 of the series proper.

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