Feb 14, 2012

Until the End of the World: The Love Story of Jesse and Tulip

I don't talk about it much, but if I you pointed a gun at my head, attached me to a polygraph, and asked me to name the comic that means the most to me in the sense of just loving the characters and the narrative, my immediate answer would be Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's PREACHER.

There are many reasons to love this series, such as the compelling hook (Reverend Jesse Custer is off to find God, who has abandoned humanity), the balance of violence and humor (the Irish vampire Cassidy is both the series' most tragic and hilarious character), the shouldn't-work-but-it-does atmosphere of a Western in a modern-day setting with some magic and myth thrown in for good measure, and, most of all for me, the fact that the characters just feel real and connect with you on an emotional level, as I wrote here.

As a part of that last point, today, Valentine's Day 2012, I'd like to focus on my favorite couple in all of comic books, the stars of PREACHER, Reverend Jesse Custer and Tulip O'Hare.

There are spoilers in the next few paragraphs, but they won't go past the second volume of PREACHER.

When PREACHER starts out, Tulip is a hired hitman (hitgirl?) on the run from a botched job, while Jesse is a reverend in a small Texan town that just got ravaged by a deadly supernatural force. A half-angel/half-demon baby named Genesis bonded with him, giving him the power of the Word, which lets him command anyone to do anything he wants. As he's recovering amongst the wreckage, who should coincidentally find him but Tulip, his girlfriend whom he'd left some years before.

After their first adventure, in which we meet the principal players of the series (including the Saint of Killers and the aforementioned Cassidy), Tulip decides to stick with Jesse until such time that she gets an explanation for his abrupt departure. It's an explanation he refuses to give, but is then forced into doing so the moment two guys named Jody and T.C. barge into their lives.

Turns out Jody and TC are from Jesse's past, and that past isn't pretty. Jesse was raised by his grandmother, who believed that as long as she said that what she was doing was in the name of God (to be fair, PREACHER's version of God isn't exactly benevolent), and with this philosophy, pushed Jesse into a lifetime of religious service, all under her control and supervision.

(On a side note, she's probably the creepiest character I've ever seen — a testament to Ennis and Dillon's abilities, considering that all she is, is an old woman.)

Jody and TC and evil creepy Grandma turn out to be working with God (see, I told you — not benevolent), so Jesse's Word doesn't work against them. He and Tulip get tied up, and that's when he can't say no when she demands an explanation. He recounts his past — how his dad came back from Vietnam and met his mom, how he loved Westerns, how his grandmother took them all to her home and killed his dad when they tried escaping, and how his mom was taken away one day and he was raised alone by his grandmother, until he finally ran away and discovered the world.

That's when he meets Tulip, and they fall in love. Deeply in love.

Until the end of the world.

Unfortunately, Jody and T.C. caught up to Jesse eventually and took him from Tulip, hence their separation. She finally forgives him, and then Jody shoots her in the head.

Jesse then spends the next issue gathering his courage to face his grandma and the boys, while Tulip gets resurrected by — who else — God, for reasons that at this point were still unclear. They both make their comebacks in dramatic, adrenaline-rushing ways, first with Jesse going up against Jody:

Then with Tulip shooting T.C.'s brains out:

After Jesse's fight with Jody (which has to be seen, because it's that awesome. It's probably my favorite fight scene in all of comics), Jesse turns around and sees Tulip.

And this ranks in my top 5 favorite scenes in comics, easily.

The love story of Jesse and Tulip gave PREACHER an emotional anchor from beginning to end. Amidst the theological arguments, the Western gunslinging and fistfighting, the cussing, the dirty jokes, the genital removal, it is these two and their love for each other that keeps you coming back for more and seeing where the story goes. And that's one of the reasons PREACHER means so much to me.

Comics fans can take their Clark and Lois, their Peter and MJ, Peter and Gwen, Bruce and Selina, Ben and Alicia, Reed and Sue, Matt and Elektra — whatever. I'll take Jesse and Tulip. Any time. Until the end of the world.

Happy Valentine's Day, Cubers!


Anonymous said...

Duy, I hope this comment goes through, because for the past year, I've had trouble posting comments to Blogger.com pages, for some reason--my comments to posts on Blogger tend to end up in limbo (though occasionally, they do, and I have no idea what's different in those cases). But I'm going to try again, because the relationship between Jesse and Tulip remains my favorite comic-book romance of all time, and so I loved reading this.

--Rich Handley

Nemo said...

great one. you´re totally right. this is one of the most engaging love stories and couple in comic books, ever.


pau said...

I love preacher! I've only read up until the second book and the grandma just creeps me out everytime. I can't wait to get the third book.

Duy Tano said...

Pau: You are in for a treat.

Joan said...

Just read your post--so I'm pretty late since it's now 2015 but wonderful assessment and I couldn't agree more! I too used "Until the End of the World" for vows for my marriage back in 2010.

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