The Book Meme: Day 22

Day 22 - Favorite non-sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)

A thorny one, this. For one thing, some really interesting literary relationships don't start as romantic, but they eventually end up that way. (And as a result of this, there are going to be spoilers below, so read on at your own risk.) One of my very favorite relationships in a book involves a favorite character (Owen Griffiths of Le Guin's Very Far Away from Anywhere Else) and the thoughtful, dedicated, multi-talented Natalie Field. But I'm not sure it counts here, because it moves into romantic/sexual territory at one point. Except that it doesn't, entirely, and that's kind of the point of the book, but it makes me hesitate to write about it for this particular prompt.

I could say the same about another relationship, one from a favorite comics series, Y: The Last Man: the complicated interplay between the titular last man on Earth, Yorick Brown, and his bodyguard/companion Agent 355. As depicted by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Pia Guerra, Three-Fifty is a wonderful character in her own right, a kickass black woman who's equally adept with firearms or knitting needles, but she's even better when she's forced to put up with Yorick's neurotic white-guy survivor's guilt and nonstop banter. But yeah, still not sure it quite counts for this prompt, because spoilers. One thing I do love about this duo is that both of them change hairstyles and clothing styles from time to time over the course of the years-long narrative, basically because I think they get bored (or maybe because Guerra did.) I also like how each has skills that complement the other's, though 355's are frequently the more useful of the two (unless lock-picking or sleight-of-hand is called for.)

In fact, comics are generally where a lot of my favorite relationships come from. Transmetropolitan's Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson make the relationship between outlaw journalist Spider Jerusalem and his Filthy Assistants, Channon and Yelena, hilarious fun. At times he's a mentor, at times a tormentor, at times a complete shitheel, and at times a genuine inspiration to them, and Channon and Yelena have their own delightful interactions as well.

Mike Carey has written a lot of wonderful stuff (and in my own occasional interactions with him, he's been a mensch), but my favorite may still be Lucifer. The thing Carey always remembers about his protagonist is that his main sin is pride, and that puts him into some interesting situations, particularly with the supernaturally gifted schoolgirl Elaine Belloc. Over the course of the series, Elaine grows in a variety of ways, learning more about the fallen angel and the dangers that come with being in his orbit, but at the same time she seems to understand him and even trust him more than anyone else--and more than she can really afford to. It's not even a remotely romantic or sexual relationship, but man, is it complex and fascinating.

Neil Gaiman's Sandman is rife with enjoyable non-sexual relationships. Dream's siblings offer a wealth of opportunities to provoke their brother in different ways, but it's hard not to love the way he gets along with Delirium (basically as a straight man) and Death (often as a straight man, but in many cases as a guy who genuinely needs his sister's insight). Rose Walker gets to know a whole houseful of folks in the book's second arc, The Doll's House, but I'm especially fond of the way she relates to Gilbert, who's sort of a demented uncle, or possibly a Georgian version of a knight errant. Barbie's friendships, especially with Wanda, in the fourth arc, A Game of You, make her a more complete character than many in the book, but I think my favorite of the bunch may be the relationship between Dream and his raven, Matthew, whose stubborn refusal to abandon his boss is sometimes funny, but often poignant.

My favorite relationship, though, is from a different comic altogether: Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Preacher. There are dozens of characters in this sprawling narrative of a preacher who is granted the unwanted power of commanding others with Divine authority, but the the main trio of characters are complicated, vivid, emotionally engaging and believably dependent on one another. Jesse Custer, the title character, is burdened with a need to get answers from God and a seemingly unbreakable standard for masculine behavior; the former comes from his possession of the Voice of God, the latter from his Green Beret father and his twisted upbringing by his grandmother. Tulip O'Hare is an independent woman with an extensive knowledge of firearms and a low tolerance for bullshit, which makes her passionate love for Jesse more than a little strained at times. And then there's Cassidy, a hard-drinking century-old Irish vampire who becomes Jesse's best mate. The relationship between these three shifts drastically over time, taking individuals or pairs through companionship, intimacy, trust, betrayal, disappointment, heartbreak, vengeance, despair, and redemption. They laugh, they cry, they fight. There's hilarity, and horror, and yes, there's some sex, but that's not really why the three of them are so fascinating.

There's more violence in Preacher than many readers will like, and there's no question that Ennis and Dillon bring a streak of harshness in the story, not to mention humor black enough to reach the infrared spectrum. If you enjoy seeing bad guys suffer for their badness, you'll get plenty of that, though of course they often make the good guys suffer first. But it's the richness of those relationships between and among Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy that makes the book stand out in my estimation. 

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on July 28, 2018 1:04 PM.

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