In the opening sequence of “Preacher,” a minister in Africa is knocked to the floor by a mysterious supernatural force. When he rises to his feet, his congregation starts shouting “miracle!” Then he explodes and his blood splashes all over them. The same thing happens to a minister in Russia and if you’re listening to the TV in the background of a later scene to Tom Cruise at a Scientology meeting. The show, adapted from Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Vertigo comic book series, is full of gore, dark humor, pop culture references and bizarre scenes that feel like a dare: See how much you can watch before you give up or give in. My vote is give in and enjoy the ride.

The only one who survives the force’s uninvited entry is Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a preacher with a past who is doing a poor job of ministering to his deceased father’s congregation in the dusty town of Annville, Texas. The experience moves Jesse to confront his crisis of faith with a renewed sense of purpose. It also gives him the power to make people do exactly what he tells them to do, a gift he doesn’t immediately know he has.

Explanations are hard to come by in “Preacher” so describing the show in more detail is difficult, as are some of the characters. One, whose suicide attempt leaves his face disfigured, is a test for more sensitive viewers. In the comic, he is called “Arseface,” so that gives you an idea of why he might cause some to call it a day and turn the channel. Did I mention there is also murder by way of an ear of corn, a cow in the wrong place at the wrong time and an airplane pilot whose unfortunate encounter with a champagne bottle turns him into a tap for a wisecracking Irish vampire named Cassidy? And all of that is just in the Pilot episode.

Death by corn cob is courtesy of Custer’s ex-girlfriend, Tulip (Ruth Negga) who is introduced in a manic fight scene that takes place in a car as it plows through a corn field, hence the weapon of choice. She ends up at the nearby farmhouse where two kids help her build a bazooka out of duct tape, toy soldiers and coffee cans. She teaches them a lesson about love then uses the DIY weapon to dispense with the rest of the men who are after her. What is stranger than that scene is that she is instantly likeable.

This ability to balance cartoonish violence with sweet moments is what makes the series work. Custer, in his willingness to do the right thing, is sympathetic. Tulip, in her feisty, no-rules way of life, has an energy that draws you in. Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), a dangerous predator, is confronted with a sense of community. Will he eat his friends? Who knows? And that unpredictability is appealing.

There are larger questions in “Preacher” about faith, forgiveness, purpose and the boundaries between good and evil. It also throws in a good dose of skepticism toward organized religion and institutionalized authority. How all these things will come together or not, is part of its challenge and its charm.

“Preacher” is on Sundays at 9 p.m. EDT on AMC.

— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at staytuned@outlook.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.