The first volume of Hyung Min-woo’s western fantasy manhwe series, Priest, sets a violent scene in the American West that is populated by train robbers and hellish demons. Anti-hero Ivan Isaacs’ first outing shows Isaacs taking on a train of the undead monsters, servants of the fallen angel Jarbilong.
A Prelude to the Decease, Part 1 is a thrill ride, full of action and fascinating artwork. Only a hint of the past–expressed in an introduction and periodic flashbacks–is explained, leaving the reader curious for more. We get a taste of why Isaacs sold his soul to the devil, but pieces of the puzzle are still missing. How did he end up on the cross, shown on only the second page? Where did he acquire all the weapons that seem to be the only defense against the undead hordes? Who are the men that seem to be manipulating Isaacs from afar?
The other character of note on the train is the captured leader of the Angel Gang, taken captive by the marshals to be hanged at their final destination. But when her gang hijacks the train to free her, they literally release Hell. They are forced to fight seemingly-unkillable zombies in order to escape.
The story is over all too soon, but the reader is left feeling a thirst for the next volume. Hyung puts so much action into the short story, it is easy to get wrapped up in the excitement.
I was introduced to Priest via the 2011 movie of the same name, starring Paul Bettany and Karl Urban. While the movie was not a huge success and was largely dismissed by most critics, it had so much potential in the universe it created. It was a shame it did not get a bigger following so we could see that universe expanded. Thankfully, the manhwe exists. The two are loosely connected, the movie version supposedly set in the distant future of the world originally created by Hyuang.
There is not a lot of time for character building in Volume 1, but we learn enough to start drawing our own picture of Isaacs. We see the madness that his decision to sell his soul is causing, and how his past refuses to relinquish its hold. Is he the tragic anti-hero he appears to be? The reader looks forward to seeing how he develops in future volumes.
If action thrillers are your thing, you should definitely check out Priest. It’s a quick read, and full of action and intrigue.