Garth Ennis’s second ‘Preacher’ arc begins with a disturbing and incredible origin story for Jesse Custer. The character’s tragic past engages the reader and then breaks their heart. “Until The End Of The World” is pulse pounding. Buckets of gore and bodily fluids paint almost every page. A secret organization attempts to establish Jesse as the new messiah. New characters introduce themselves, and old ones say goodbye. If that wasn’t enough Ennis’ script finds time to weave a love story through pages loaded with the excess of debauchery.
Jesse Custer had one hell of an upbringing. His father was killed in front of him when he was just a boy. His mother disappeared shortly thereafter. He spent his days under his insane and violent extended family. Forced into a life of servitude. Where his asshole Uncle Jody beat him into submission almost daily. It took everything he had, but Jesse escaped his horrible family and never looked back.
We reunite with Jesse and Tulip in the present. They share candid stories of their past, and all of a sudden Uncle Jody shows up. He kidnaps Tulip and Jesse, hauls them back to Texas, and takes them to Jesse’s grandmother Marie L’Angelle. She lives in the ironically named Angelville. Marie is a bible-thumping monster. She raised Jesse to fear the lord, and isn’t afraid to use violence against him. Her character, although batshit insane, pushes a strong sense of morality onto Jesse. Ennis does an incredible job at establishing both Jody and Marie as unquestionably evil. Marie orders the execution of Jesse’s father on the first page of the trade. Jody nails a barking dog to a fence, just so it’ll shut up.
Jesse didn’t take this abuse lying down. Sadly though, whenever he would resist Marie or Jody. They would lock him in a coffin beneath the surface of a lake. Sometimes for hours, and other times for days. These moments are the foundation for Jesse’s relationship with John Wayne. He began to see the famous cowboy four years before he passed away, and Jesse doesn’t seem to have an explanation for it.
Tulip has some real moments in Angelville. In her efforts to fight against Jesse’s family she loses her life. After a brief encounter with God we learn she is feisty even in death. Her death fuels Jesse to confront his past. He’s stronger and more resolute in his faith than he’s ever been. He is tested, time and time again, but in this moment he pushes against his family to victory.
Tulip is resurrected, and the two burn the Angelville farm to the ground. Ennis makes sure to remind us of Jesse’s painful past. It cements his character in both his faith and sense of morality. It also explains his choice of profession. The first three issues of this trade are seemingly about Jesse. In reality they are about Tulip and how she empowers Jesse to escape his past and become a better person.
So the two ride off into the sunset. Happily ever after… except they regroup in San Francisco with ol Cassidy. Shit has hit the fan in Cassidy’s life, his new girlfriend has OD’ed and died. The vampire has all of her heroine and doesn’t know what to do with it. Meanwhile a pasty sex freak called Jesus DeSade is looking for said heroine. If that wasn’t enough a big man with a dead eye calling himself Starr looks to make Jesse the next messiah.
Ennis spends time basking in the disgusting underbelly of America. Whenever Cassidy is involved things are bound to be rough around the edges. Ennis reserves Cassidy to a supporting position for most of this book. Which pays off by the end. Ennis gives him a strong moral beat that he deserves. Jesse’s moral code then comes into play. We get to see him judge another group of degenerate assholes. Which culminates in a climatic showdown in the middle of a semen soaked orgy.
Ennis revels in this disgusting world. After the first few pages the shock of what you’re reading will go away. However, Ennis always manages to dive deeper into debauchery. At it’s best it’s a great juxtaposition to the religious tone of the narrative. It shows just how far America has fallen in absence of God.
Even the mythology of the bible isn’t even safe from Ennis’ touch. He takes strides in developing his own alternative history to the religious text, which thickens the plot of the book and adds to the mystery of his world.
The love story between Jesse and Tulip rises above everything else. They may not be perfect, but they love and empower each other. Ennis is smart to allow Jesse and Tulip to bask in this terrible world. As long as they have each other it allows them to partner in judgment of the people they encounter. The road to finding God will be long, but in a relationship it doesn’t feel like a chore.
Dillion’s art is nothing short of magnificent. His depiction of Angelville in the flashbacks stuns you into feeling sick. His ability to linger within violence adds to the strength of the book. His art never shies away from the hard imagery within Ennis’ script and the story is better for it. You feel Jesse’s pain as Jody beats him to a pulp. You want to throw up as you watch the back of Tulip’s skull disappear, and you feel a strange sense of victory looking down on Jesus DeSade’s purple and puckered face.
Dillion’s character work is incredible. Jody’s perfectly square jaw and glassy eyes make for an intimidating force in every panel. Marie’s sagging tits add to her general monstrosity. Starr’s white pupil is so prominent that he remains an interesting character despite his boring droning.
Dillion isn’t afraid to dive into the shit with Ennis. Together every page is soaked in blood and bodily fluids. You feel as if the book was dragged down a piss soaked alley to give it a feel of authenticity. Which is something to commend, as the levels in which this book reaches are definitely low, they somehow feel fully fleshed out and real. Ennis and Dillion give you a grand portrait into scummy nineties America, filled with murder, drugs, sex, and a whole lot of lost people searching for God. Comics don’t get much better than this.