Or – “This One Should Be Mighty Interesting…”


I’ve long been a Garth Ennis fan, dating back to his run on Hellblazer, a cornerstone of my pull list for nearly 20 years now.  I’m approaching today’s recap with trepidation (and not a small sense of excitement) simply because of the fact that most of what I enjoy about Garth’s work is his unerring sense of where the line of propriety is drawn.  ‘Course, he matches that with a boundless joy of not only crossing the line, but gleefully finding that point so far beyond good taste that it almost crosses the meridian back into acceptibility.  We’re moving into delicate territory here, and I’m gonna be tap-dancing a fine line, as The Boys is decided rated ‘R,’ and Major Spoilers is in the area of a sketchy ‘PG-13.’  Fasten your seatbelts, Spoilerators, ’cause it’s bound to be a bumpy ride…

Previously, on The Boys:  Butcher is a man who doesn’t officially exist.  In a world where Boys1.jpgall the superheroes are REAL, it’s his job to keep them from straying into corruption, to make certain that the common man has a defense against human failures combining with superhuman powers.  His associates are likewise unusual:  Mother’s Milk, who looks like a drill sergeant, but acts like a kindly auntie.  The Frenchman, who is apparently every single Gallic cliche wrapped up in a deadly package.  The Female, a petite, silent ruthlessly efficient killer who even Butcher has his questions about.  And Wee Hughie, the newest recruit, essentially just an average bloke whose life was irretrievably altered when his beloved girl was killed by a spandex punch-em-up.  It sounds like the setup for a bad Hollywood movie, but the execution is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.  Here’s your warning:  we’re going to be dealing with some grownup concepts, and while I can bleep out a few cursewords,  I don’t believe you can protect anyone from ideas.  We kick off this month’s festivities with Hughie and Butcher checking their source material…  the comic books.


Heh.  I wonder if Hughie wants to do some recaps for us?  The rather poorly written comic in question is based on the adventures of a real ‘hero,’ Swingwing, the former kid sidekick of Teknight (who has a hilariously perverse problem of his own, one that we’ll get to in a moment.)  Hughie complains that the superhero aspect cheapens the entire issue of gay-bashing, and Butcher agrees.  “That’s the whole POINT of supes’ innit?  Somethin’ complicated, you make it simple.  You make it somethin’ you can hit or else you can just ignore it…”  Given the job of keeping people safe from superheroes makes you a bit inured to their super-problems, apparently, but Butcher has a point.  He shows Hughie a picture of a young man who was killed a few months ago, a young man whom Butcher’s sources indicate was having an affair with the real Swingwing.  Unfortunately, he’s out of the superhero loop, with no way to contact the hero in question, so Hughie suggests looking up one of the murdered boys friends instead…


Heh.  The weird thing is, I can totally see Butcher’s point of view.  He has no use for euphemisms or comfortable words to hide the truth as he sees it.  Hughie thinks (rightfully) that the words are disrespectful because of a dead gay man, but all Butcher sees is a dead man.  It’s that weird kind of macho ‘code of honor’ that made Preacher such a fun read, back in the day.  As for the aforementioned Teknight, he has problems of his own.  If you’ve ever heard the joke about the pickle slicer, you may understand his plight.  For those who HAVEN’T heard it, Teknight is besieged by the urge to…  how do I put this delicately?  He feels the urge to put his wedding tackle in places it shouldn’t go.  Last issue, he deflowered a cup of coffee, the tailpipe of his Teknight-mobile, but was thankfully able to exert enough control to send his young sidekick Laddio off on a “solo mission” before the point of no return.  A superhero in the Bruce Wayne rich-playboy mode, Teknight is able to hole up (no pun intended) in his stately mansion, but forgets the important comic book rule:  for every Bruce Wayne there is an Alfred.


Yeah…  Uh…  We’re moving on, here.  Teknight offers to pay for medical treatment (Heh.) but Thomas is having none of it.  “The relationship between gentleman and manservant is as clear-cut as it is time-honored.  I will serve your meals.  I will lay out your attire.  I will announce your guests upon their arrival.  I will put you to bed when you are the worse for strong liquor, I will ensure that discretion prevails when female company becomes unruly.  I will be your confidante..  When appropriate, I will even be your friend…  What I will NOT do is subject myself to manhandling or physical assault; most certainly not the UNSPEAKABLE OUTRAGE that was recently committed upon my person!”  That…  is… awesome.  I love that speech, as it shows everything that’s right with Garth Ennis’ writing.   He promises to keep Teknight’s secrets and takes his leave, and somewhere, Dr Wertham spins in his mausoleum.  Meanwhile, Butcher and Hughie find the bar where the young victim’s friend works, and Hughie is innocently stunned to see that a gay man would work in a gay bar.  Butcher laughingly points out the dichotomy of correcting his language and then being afraid to enter the bar, and Hughie grudgingly comes in.  When they ask about Stephen’s murder, the barman wants to know exactly who the hell they are…


The horrified look on Hughie’s face there is worth the price of admission all by itself.  Darick Robertson does wonderful facial expressions, and his work is hitting a new level of sophistication here.  When they ask about Swingwing, Paul the bartender is a bit impressed, pointing out that none of the real detectives ever even seemed to consider foul play.  Paul says that Stephen was confused, and the man at the end of the bar remarks that he was also a very hot young thing, in a rather angry and hurt tone of voice.  Paul introduces his boyfriend Max, who stomps out, obviously still jealous of whatever was going on between his man and the dead man.  Turns out that Stephen knew Swingwing because of SW’s reputation…


And suddenly we swerve into the oncoming lane, and our two plots start to intermingle.  Teknight is essentially Batman,  (with elements of Iron Man thrown in) and Laddio essentially Robin, thus Swingwing is a sort of Nightwing-analogue.  And while there are echoes here of the legendary (and bull$#!+) theory that millionaire Bruce Wayne had a thing on the side with his ward Dick Grayson, there’s a problem.  No matter how ‘gay-friendly’ Swingwing is, his former boss makes Hughie’s discomfort look like absolutely nothing in comparison.


I’m actually finding Paul very likable, and I’m glad that Garth is playing the character (you should excuse the expression) straight.  This is, after all, meant to be a real-world book, even with the superheroes onboard, and a prancing, mincing, Paul Lynde character would really throw the story out of balance.  As for Teknight, though his manservant agreed to keep his secret, it’s gotten out anyway, and his consideration for membership in a prominent superteam (presumably The Seven, a Justice League analogue) has been rejected.  He tries to figure out who narced on him, and is coldly told that the position has been filled.  He’s crushed by the rejection, and can’t for the life of him even figure out how his affliction could have occurred, wondering about mind control rays from a villain called the Zodomite (Heh) and finally ASKS who informed on him.  The caller intimates that it was Swingwing, and Teknight is floored.  Meanwhile, back at Butcher’s office, The Female and The Frenchman are playing cards (apparently, reverse strip-poker, where the loser PUTS ON an item of clothing) while Wee Hughie talks to Mother’s Milk about a recent mission where Hughie killed a “hero.”  He dances around the issue before finally ASKING whether MM has killed anybody before…


Mother’s Milk is a fascinating character, but he’s giving my curseword button a workout.  Hughie asks if Butcher has killed anyone, and MM sits silent for a moment before answering, “He sleeps just fine, too.”  Hughie is impressed with Butcher’s cool, remarking “Every time I think I got him pegged, he does somethin’ that puts me right back at square one.  Like today, at the gay bar, he couldn’ta been more relaxed wi’ these guys, more natural…  but if you’da told me beforehand, I’da said you were daft.”  MM takes a moment to comment hilariously and profanely about UK slang (“Poof.  Wanker.  Nobber.  Aubergine.  What the #$&# is up wit’ you people?”) before explaining Butcher…


Ah, crud.  That last balloon finally busted the bleep button!  Hope we don’t need it again…  I have to say, Mother’s Milk is my favorite character in the book, acting as a sounding board and philosophical viewpoint on everything.  He’s the kind of cool character that you can actually believe existed, somewhere in the world.  Sometime later, Butcher and Hughie follow up the lead that Paul gave them, traveling to Westchester.  Hughie comments on how bad the comics about the hero are, mentioning how “they have him as this dark, driven avengin’ fella, but they always pull their punches.”  I’m the #$&$@ Teknight, and I just pierced your left testicle!  Heh.  Butcher points out that, in all his time doing this job, Teknight is the only one of the “big boys” that was never on their radar, that he was always boring.  Teknight hears a knock at the door, and at first can’t figure out why his manservant isn’t answering, then rushes to get out of his suit (stashing it less-than-successfully under a rug in the hallway) before rushing to greet his guests…


This ought to be interesting…  Garth Ennis is bound and determined to outdo the most outrageous aspects of his previous work (and given how far Preacher pushed the envelope, that’ll be a fascinating ride) but the most intriguing part of this storyline is the humanity of the characters.  Far from being a two-dimensional jerk, Teknight KNOWS that something is wrong, even tries to seek help for his “condition” and his confusion makes him sympathetic.  The book deals with homophobia in a very real way, admitting that even Hughie, a character we like can be freaked out by it.  Wee Hughie’s initiation into the strange shadow world of Butcher is engrossing as heck, and even though the point of the book is that superheroes aren’t perfect (and that some of them are right bastids) there’s an obvious love for parts of the genre and for a good adventure story.

Darick Robertson’s art is note perfect, with the main characters feeling like people you might meet if you went to the right bar (or the wrong barfight) and Ellis makes even the most outrageous parts of the narrative feel very real and VERY wrong.  Jettisoned by Wildstorm for it’s content (the first arc had a series of scenes in which a very JLA-like team engaged in some very NOT-JLA-like behaviors) I’m glad to see that The Boys didn’t get stuck in limbo.  It’s a book to watch (assuming you’re of age and don’t mind the use of adult language and situations) and a fun read, as if 90’s-era Image and Vertigo comics were compressed into one universe.  This particular issue, in large part prologue and exposition, still ranks a well-earned 4 motha$&@ing stars out of 5.


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Mark I.
    July 3, 2007 at 2:16 pm — Reply

    Based purely on this review, I just ordered the first trade of “The Boys” 1-6 from Amazon. Thanks for essentially sticking this book in front of my face…never would have bothered with it otherwise.

  2. Stephen
    July 3, 2007 at 2:40 pm — Reply

    don’t worry about censoring anything… as long as the warning is there before the jump, we’re good :D – have you seen some of the image sneaks lately? ;)

  3. July 3, 2007 at 2:53 pm — Reply

    don’t worry about censoring anything… as long as the warning is there before the jump, we’re good :D – have you seen some of the image sneaks lately? ;)

    Yeah, but I’m essentially a worried old lady when it comes to that sorta thing. :) Besides, it’s kind of fun putting in the bleeps. Sort of like a four-letter crossword puzzle…

  4. July 3, 2007 at 2:55 pm — Reply

    Based purely on this review, I just ordered the first trade of “The Boys” 1-6 from Amazon. Thanks for essentially sticking this book in front of my face…never would have bothered with it otherwise.

    Happy to be of service. The Boys reminds me of the jokes of George Carlin, in a way. Some people think it’s cool for the cursewords and sexual situations, some people call it trash for the same reason, but once you get past all that surface, there’s a hell of a lot that makes you think…

  5. Mark I.
    July 3, 2007 at 3:11 pm — Reply

    Instead of bleeps, it might be funny to shoehorn some sort of standard alternate word into place.

    Instead of “motherf*****,” you could, for instance use “daffodil.” Instead of “a**hole,” you could say “nostril.”

    I dunno, just throwing that out there, daffodil.

  6. Brent F.
    July 3, 2007 at 5:05 pm — Reply

    I enjoy the brutality of this series. It is certainly a very unique depiction of super powers being placed in the wrong hands.

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