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Manhwa / Priest

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Priest is a manhwa written and illustrated by Min-Woo Hyung. Featuring a strikingly angular art style and a complex story spanning three time periods - the Crusades, the Old West (the primary setting) and the near future - the series follows the immortal priest Ivan Isaacs as he wanders the American frontier seeking revenge on a band of fallen angels after the death of his beloved. Initially a fast-paced, violent horror western, the series has evolved into a complicated and critically acclaimed apocalyptic tale.

A film serving as a sequel to the manhwa came out in May 2011, with its own comic spinoff. It takes place 150 years after the end of the manhwa (whenever that may be - see below), and the remnant note "feral" vampires (similar to those in 30 Days of Night) are the main antagonists. The Order of St. Vertinez remains to stop them, their chosen warriors branded in tribute to Ivan.


Publication has stopped at Volume 16, with no new issues being printed. Nobody knows why, and the author hasn't mentioned anything relating to it.

Dream Theater (yes, that Dream Theater) has confirmed this manhwa to be the basis for the song In The Presence of Enemies from their album Systematic Chaos.

This comic provides examples of:

  • Actual Pacifist: Nera
  • All-Loving Hero: Nera
  • Anachronism Stew: Ivan Isaacs wields a Tommy gun in the Old West. The Tommy gun was not invented until the 20th century. Not to mention the bandits who appeared to have banana-clip sub-machineguns.
    • There's also an enemy at the end of Vol. 8/the beginning of Vol. 9 who uses a chainsaw. It should be pretty obvious that those didn't exist in the Old West. (let alone to be used as weapons) Borders on Critical Research Failure in the eyes of some fans.
  • The Antichrist: Newly-released Temozarela
  • Anti-Hero: Ivan Isaacs, who often comes across as a Sociopathic Hero.
  • Anti-Villain: Kinda strange that Nera would be on Temozarela's side, eh? It's shown in the story that Temozarela took her in as one of his disciples due to his desire to see where her faith in God and humanity would lead.
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  • Apocalyptic Log: Ivan Isaacs' journal.
  • Asshole Victim: Yeah, sorry Father Piestro, but nobody gives a crap about your death considering what you did in the lead up to it.
    • The Sentenza gang members fall into this as well. Particularly Sentenza himself, who was willing to shoot his last living partner just for the sake of getting a larger share of the diamonds they stole.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Ivan has a habit of doing this as he is slaughtering the army of mooks. This is Lampshaded when he fights Achmode, who asks whether Ivan really thinks that's the word of God. Ivan replies that no, he doesn't think so, but finds comfort in men's words.
    • He seems rather partial to Psalm 23.note  The scripture's meaning doesn't really have anything to do with his current situation, but considering the scripture in question is commonly used as a healing prayer, he may just say it in order to steady his nerves.
  • Author Tract: Though the series hardly presents the Church in a favorable light and most of its protagonists are atheist or otherwise faithless, the author does keep his own feelings on the subject confined to a small bonus comic in the back of Vol. 9.
  • Ax-Crazy: Ivan Isaacs, definitely. He's arguably one of the most mentally-unstable protagonists in graphic literature.
  • Back from the Dead/Came Back Strong: Ivan died. It didn't stick.
  • Badass Bookworm: Ivan surprisingly averts this. On one hand, while he definitely filled the "Bookworm" role early on in his life, he never fell into the category of badass until after his death/resurrection. On the other hand, while he's clearly taken countless levels in badass since then, he doesn't find enjoyment in reading and studying anymore and therefore doesn't bother to do either.
  • Badass Longcoat: Ivan's coat.
  • Badass Native: Cairo and his family.
  • Badass Preacher: Ivan Isaacs, in spades.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Nera
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Lizzie (attempted, but saved from A Fate Worse Than Death by other means).
  • Big Bad: Temozarela.
  • Bishōnen: Armand.
  • Blood Knight: Ivan really seems to enjoy killing. Not just zombies and angels as part of his personal vendetta, either. If you give him enough of a reason to, he'll be more than happy to add you to the mounting pile of corpses he's been building.
    • In fact, it might be his last pleasure in life, since killing in general is implied to be the only thing keeping him sane. ("Sane" being a relative term here.)
  • Body Horror
  • Body Surf: Jarbilong's ability.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Ivan is always shown reloading after every two shots of his sawed-off shotgun. His Thompson SMG has been shown running out of ammunition as well.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor Nera. Becomes Kill the Cutie once she gives up hope.
    • Given Ivan Isaacs' past, it's safe to say that this trope applies to him too. In his backstory, he started off as one of the most well-meaning characters in the series. Now look at him.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Ivan and Gena. Technically they're unrelated, but Mr. Isaacs still disapproves.
  • Burn the Witch!
  • Came Back Wrong: Thanks to Belial, Temozarela's ressurection didn't go as smoothly as he hoped.
  • Chainsaw Good: One of the mooks comes up with this against Ivan, which doesn't work too well.
  • Church Militant: Father Joshua and the rest of the Order of St. Vertinez.
  • Circus Brat: Nera's band
  • The Clan: Mayor Dudley was a part of the Ku Klux Klan 20 years prior to the story and participated in killing an entire family of African Americans. He did so out of revenge that an African American killed his wife while robbing his home.
  • The Coats Are Off: Uh oh
  • Corrupt Church: Some of the measures taken to "enhance" certain members of the Order of St. Vertinez are fairly monstrous. Not to mention what they did to Ivan and poor Gena.
  • Crapsack World
  • Crucified Hero Shot
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Ivan is on the receiving end of one from Armand. To top it off, for some reason Armand is mortal, without his supernatural powers. This gets a Lampshade Hanging from Nera. He makes a better effort in his previous battle with Achmode but still needs a Villainous Rescue from Armand, on Temozarela's orders.
  • Deader Than Dead: Raul Piestro
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Lizzy looks strikingly similar to Genna, which gets a Lampshade Hanging from Jarbilong and Belial.
  • Deal with the Devil: Ivan's deal with Betheal qualifies since it involves Ivan's giving up (half of) his soul.
  • Death by Origin Story: Gena, Betheal, Ivan Isaacs, Raul Piestro, Vascar De Guillon, Matthew...Yeah, none of the human characters shown in the backstories are safe from this, no matter how minor they are.
    • Doomed by Canon: Ivan and Gena's deaths overlap with this once the backstory chapters start.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Ivan does this by opening up one of his suitcases, revealing the freshly-severed heads of three members of the Sentenza outlaw gang. Justified (sort of), since carrying their entire bodies to the town would have been much more cumbersome, and wouldn't have made much difference to anyone anyway.
  • Demonic Possession: Happens a lot - most notably Temozarela's possession of Vascar de Guillon and Belial's possession of Ivan.
  • The Determinator: Ivan. Although on the edge of death many times, he refuses to let Belial take full control of his body, since if he dies, it's all him. Nera also fights against all the odds to prove to Temozarela she was right, but finally gives in when all of her friends end up dead.
  • Despair Event Horizon: A central theme here, going hand-in-hand with History Repeats.
    • Vascar De Guillon has his beliefs absolutely destroyed when his wife dies of an unprecedented disease that the doctors and priests deem to be of Satanic origin. It only gets worse when his faith in God is broken even further by Temozarela's recounting of past events, and his realization that he and the Fallen Angel are apparently Not So Different.
    • Betheal Gavarre loses his grip when he witnesses the aftermath of his adoptive son Matthew's brutal murder of one of the women at the monastery. After that, he passes the point of no return when he strangles Matthew to death, only to realize that his son was under Temozarela's influence. If that doesn't convince you, he then decides to accept his circumstances and give up on his life, sacrificing himself to the Devil in order to get revenge on Temozarela.
    • Ivan Isaacs outright loses his mind during the events of Temozarela's attempted resurrection, which turn everything he believes in upside-down and result in the deaths of both his Love Interest and himself. After his resurrection at the hands of Belial, he apparently experiences mental/emotional shock so bad that he attempts to go back to his old town to live a normal life with Gena 's corpse, and subsequently suffers an intense psychological breakdown that culminates in him going on a grief-induced rampage and killing all of the now-undead residents of his town. His mental stability only continues to worsen from that point on, until he's nothing more than a faithless, remorseless, sociopathic lone-wolf whose only pleasure left in life is violence and killing.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Matthew, after he had killed and mutilated a servant girl for Temozarela. He sincerely believed that Temozarela's voice was God and that he was doing God's work. Apparently if Betheal is your mentor figure you wouldn't be bothered at all if God asks for such gruesome things.
  • The Dragon: Armand. Temozarela was this to God in the war against Lucifer.
  • Elite Mook: Achmode's agents, tougher and better armed (Read: Armed with massive chainsaws) hard hitting zombie/angel hybrids, along with some having Flight.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Neither Temozarela, Armand, Belial or Ivan ever understand what Nera was trying to achieve in her benevolence and protection of people, with a possible Ignored Epiphany for Temozarela after Nera realises it was for his benefit, not hers.
  • Eviler Than Thou: You thought Jarbilong was bad? How about Achmode? Or St. Vertinez? Or Temozarela himself.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: The Order of St. Vertinez learned this the hard way when they released Temozarela
  • Eye Scream: Jarbilong's true form had his eyes plucked out at some point in the past.
  • Fan Disservice: Priest almost rivals Berserk with this, and that's really saying something.
  • Flashback Twist: Quite a few of these.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Nera.
  • Future Me Scares Me: A very young Ivan is plagued by nightmares of his terrifying future self.
  • Gonk: Most of Nera's band of outcasts, Baba especially.
  • Gorn: To say the least.
  • Gatling Good: Novic.
  • Genre Roulette: The series takes readers from a story deeply rooted in the the Weird West genre to a brief scene set in a near-future city. It then shifts to historical fiction set in the era of the The Crusades, before returning to the Weird West genre and setting it started in. In addition, heavy elements of religion-based fantasy and Religious Horror permeate the storyline. Tropes Are Not Bad here, because all of these genres are integrated in a way that manages to work. (and is pretty damn engrossing to boot)
  • God Is Evil: Arguably more of a Jerkass, though we haven't seen him ourselves and the only firsthand descriptions of his actions come from the fallen angels who have turned their backs on him. Several characters have lost faith as a result of God's lack of intervention during various horrific events.
    • It's also implied that Blue-and-Orange Morality is in effect here, since both the fallen angels and the humans alike can't seem to grasp his reasoning. (The angels don't seem to understand why he shows compassion towards the humans that constantly break his rules, while the humans don't seem to understand why he would be willing to allow such tragedies to happen to them in order to test their faith.)
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: Several characters, most notably Ivan himself, although this gets circumvented by Armand when he wants Ivan to stay out a specific battle, and he's left for dead when fighting Achmode.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Definitely Betheal and Ivan.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Rivers of it. Just opening the Domas Porada causes a torrent of blood to explode from it.
  • History Repeats: A central theme. Currently we know of three characters who have sought revenge against Temozarela for very similar reasons: Vascar de Guillon (during the Crusades), Betheal Gavarre (during the Inquisition) and Ivan Isaacs. Upon seeing an odd rock formation atop a cliffside, a young Ivan is told that it holds a Native American chieftan locked in an eternal battle of wills with an ancient demon - a fate which mirrors that of Betheal/Belial and, eventually, Ivan himself.
  • Holding Back the Phlebotinum: Justified. The reason why Betheal cannot use his full power of darkness is that Ivan refuses to give up all of his soul even in the most urgent situations.
    • A villainous version. When Ivan finds Armand, he's technically in human form, not allowed to use his special powers because Temozarela said not to.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Ivan uses this with a voodoo doll he had during his religious studies when he fights Jarbilong.
  • Human Sacrifice: Seen in Temozarela's flashback and in Betheal/Belial's flashback, and how Gena dies.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Invoked by Temozarela and the rebel angels in their Rage Against the Heavens.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Gena. Although in Ivan's case it's more of a case of "I let Gwen Stacy Die and had to kill her again when she came back as a zombie".
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Used heavily in Ivan's fight with Jarbilong.
    • It also happens to him when he's crucified and killed in his backstory.
  • Important Haircut: Lizzie.
    • Betheal/Belial is an inversion, since he ended up growing a beard during the turning point of his backstory.
    • Ivan also goes through a variation of this; After he takes a level in both badass and crazy, he stops wearing a ponytail and wears his hair down for the rest of the series.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Volumes 1-8 in general. Becomes apparent during the backstory chapters, which (if one were to take a step back for a minute) center around Vascar De Guillion/ Temozarela and Belial's backstories, which are in turn within Ivan's backstory. Which, in turn, is being ready by priests in a flash-forward to the near-future. note  Once Betheal's backstory arc ends, the pieces begin to fall into place as we're taken back through Ivan's backstory until we arrive at the series' current time period.
  • The Juggernaut: The fallen angels. To a lesser mortal extent, Brother Bastion, who is unstoppable until he meets good guy juggernaut Novic. It's quite a fight.
  • Knife Nut: Cairo, though more emphasis on "knife" than "nut." Father Joshua of St. Vertinez also keeps a cross-shaped knife which he likes to throw at people.
  • Knight Templar: Vascar de Guillon is literally a Knight Templar, and the Order of St. Vertinez is the epitome of this trope. Temozarela was one in service to God.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Oh yeah. Held in check by loads and loads of character deaths.
  • Love Martyr: Nera/Netraphim for Temozarela.
  • Mad Artist: Achmode considers himself an artist, but may be closer to a Mad Scientist.
  • Monochromatic Eyes: Ivan and several other characters have completely white eyes.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: Briefly after Gena is killed.
  • My God, What Have I Done?/Oh, Crap!: Father Piestro in his final moments.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: Played very straight with Coburn and Joshua after the Order of St. Vertinez kills Cairo.
  • My Sibling Will Live Through Me: Cairo's family follows an oath of continuing the battle against the enemy of the sibling who died in battle.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Bendo, Nera's wolf companion that she brought back to life when he originally died and purports Undying Loyalty as a result.
  • Off with His Head!: Ivan tears off Jarbilong's head with his bare hands.
  • One-Winged Angel: The fallen angels show their true form before they die.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Coburn is stabbed in the chest. He shrugs it off like it's nothing, saying that his opponent missed his heart.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Very different.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: They're only vulnerable to silver, fire and dismemberment. Just a headshot from a lead bullet won't do the trick.
  • Outlaw: Lizzie and her Angel Gang.
  • Out of the Inferno: Ivan, after defeating Jarbilong and burning down St. Baldlas.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank
  • Pet the Dog/Morality Chain: Betheal's relationship with Matthew. Of course it doesn't end well.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Mr. Dudley does vehemently despises foreigners, African Americans, the deformed, or the outcast.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Cairo's family.
  • The Quiet One: Novic.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Temozarela and the other fallen. Temozarela inspires in turn Vascar De Guillon to do the same, and then Belial, and finally Ivan.
  • Red Right Hand: Ivan gets one of these after his battle with Achmode.
  • Religious Horror: The angels here are hardcore cannibalistic beasts who considered eating their own brethren 'reward'.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Betheal and Ivan against all the fallen angels, Vascar De Guillon during the crusades against everyone once his family dies.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The otherwise-mundane scene where Betheal's beads snap after winding them too tight is meant to symbolize how faith that is too strictly adhered to will eventually break. (Lampshaded in the introduction of Vol. 6)
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Several but most prominently Betheal's adopted son and Ivan's girlfriend Gena, whose deaths prompted Betheal and Ivan to go on the Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Vascar's family, too, although it's left ambiguous whether Temozarela caused it or not, whereas he caused the other deaths.
  • Sanity Slippage: Ivan starts going through this after witnessing Gena's death/Temozarela's resurrection, and essentially having all of his beliefs turned upside-down. It becomes increasingly apparent that he's going mad with grief, and the whole ordeal becomes outright heart-wrenching after a while.
    • It culminates in him attempting to return to his father's home and return to his normal way of living... with Gena's dead corpse. And then a scene occurs a little while after that shows him flipping between laughing madly and letting loose cries of anguish. He's...pretty much beyond anyone's help at this point.
  • Scary Black Man: Novic, comes to a head when he fights Bastion.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Domas Porada.
    • In volume 1, the crates in the cargo hold of the train contain this.
  • Shout-Out: Min-Woo Hyung stated in an interview in Vol. 3 that Priest was inspired by the PC game Blood, and the protagonists of both are similar in design. Father Antoine, the regenerating priest with Scary Shiny Glasses, may also be a Shout-Out to Father Anderson of Hellsing.
  • Shown Their Work: Aside from a couple of obvious exceptions (mostly as far as weapons are concerned), the author clearly made sure to shoot for accuracy with this story. The various time periods are faithfully represented, and the author also shows a well-rounded knowledge of The Bible.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: O'Neill towards Ashley.
  • Silver Bullet: Ivan's favored weapon against the fallen angels and their henchmen along with his silver knife.
  • Sinister Scythe: Ivan is often depicted with one in full-page art spreads, but only actually uses it once, during a flashback.
  • Story Within a Story: Played straight several times in volumes 2-8. See Jigsaw Puzzle Plot above.
  • Super Serum: Joshua, Anderson and Bastion of St. Vertinez got injected with something which makes them have Healing Factor, Super Strength, heightened senses and, possibly, increased perception.
  • Taken for Granite: Temozarela and the fallen angels are imprisoned this way, until Vascar releases them.
  • Technical Pacifist: Father Lucian.
  • That Man Is Dead: To say that Betheal and Ivan are no longer who they used to be is putting it mildy.
  • Token Good Teammate: Nera
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Nera
  • Tragic Monster: Bastion.
  • Train Job: In the first volume.
  • True Companions: Coburn, Novic, Cairo and Father Lucian. Lizzie's band seemed to be this as well, but they were all killed in the first volume.
  • Tsundere: Young Gena.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Ivan's supernatural abilities are literally fueled by his rage.
  • U.S. Marshal: Coburn.
  • The Virus: The Dark Doctrine.
  • Waistcoat of Style: Armand
  • Walking the Earth: Ivan, and by extension Lizzie, as she's following him.
  • Weird West: Except for the flashbacks and flashforwards.
  • Whip It Good: Coburn.
  • Where I Was Born and Razed: Ivan returns home after making his deal with Belial and ends up killing the townsfolk who have been transformed into zombies. He's obviously insane from grief, though, and they're obviously beyond help.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Volume 4 deals with Ivan's backstory, Volume 5 and 6 with Vascar de Guillon and Belial's. The latter two are actually flashbacks within Ivan's flashback.
  • Wicked Cultured: Armand.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Ivan Isaacs, and how! To wit, a man adopts Ivan in order to give his daughter Gena someone to keep her company. After said father finds out that the two of them have developed feelings for each other, he kicks out Ivan and sends him off to seminary, where he gains a passion for studying and researching religion, as well as writing religious thesis. After his newfound passion and talent gets him put on a team of people researching an Ancient Artifact, he realizes all too late that said artifact is really an Artifact of Doom housing Sealed Evil in a Can, and that the head of the team plans on releasing that evil. It only gets worse from there, as he eventually witnesses Gena sacrificed, has his religious faith utterly destroyed, and is nailed to a cross and killed, all in the span of a few minutes. After he is resurrected by Belial, he suffers from one of the worst cases of Sanity Slippage you'll ever see, and in a frenzied, grief-induced rage, slaughters several undead townspeople in the town where he was raised. Now, having relinquished half of his soul to Belial, the only thing keeping his body alive is his sheer anger towards those who sent his life into chaos. It's implied that his only pleasure left in life is killing, and the little sanity he has left is put towards focusing on his personal mission of finding and slaughtering Temozarela and his other Fallen Angel subordinates.
  • Would Hurt a Child: And then hypnotise, dissect and mutilate one to create an abomination. Looking at you, Achmode. St. Vertinez as well, although for Knight Templar reasons.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: Armand gives Isaac one around the start of Nera's arc, which is why he's mostly absent from it as he's hiding in a cave, recuperating. It finally heals in Volume 15.
  • Your Head A-Splode: Temozarela does this to most of the researchers at St. Vertinez, though it's merciful compared to what he does to Father Piestro.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: What happens to pretty much every town infiltrated by Temozarela's agents.


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