I have always been a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories, and Just a Pilgrim by Garth Ennis fits that bill. It was originally released as a five-issue miniseries by Black Bull in 2001, but you can get the complete trade paperback now. Ennis, of Preacher and Punisher fame, combines a bunch of off-kilter ideas and character traits in this story, which makes the comic interesting, but strangely enough, also keeps it from being anything other than an amusing oddity.
The story takes place after a solar event called “the burn.” The burn scorches the Earth, destroys all plant life, and evaporates all the water. Apparently, the radiation also created some monsters. The setting is a quirky mix of an Eastwood spaghetti western and The Road Warrior. Pilgrim is Eastwood, kinda.
Just a Pilgrim
We are never given his name, other than Pilgrim. He’s an anti-hero that the reader can never quite be sure about, especially at the end. In typical Ennis fashion, Pilgrim is a religious fundamentalist with a wicked past and a penchant for grotesque violence, while quoting scripture. He assists a group of people traveling through the wasteland of the Atlantic seabed. They’re trying to find a rumored outpost where people can live in relative safety. On the way, a band of barbarians, with a leader who is the stereotypical pirate, becomes determined to kill, rape, and pillage the group. A young boy with the traveling group, Billy Shepherd, documents the trip in his diary. It’s high adventure on the dried up seas.
Some of the details just feel like they were meant to be shocking for the sake of being shocking. Pilgrim’s character is interesting. Is he a hero? An anti-hero? A villain? But the religious twist just feels like Ennis is taking unfair jabs at people of faith. Overall, Just a Pilgrim is a quick, easy read with post-apocalyptic flair and adventure, but there’s not much weight to it.