Or – “And Then There Were Four…”
It’s easy to dismiss The Boys as nothing but “shock schlock,” sex and gore aimed at those of puerile mind who want a quick guffaw before heading off to the tractor pull or Kwik-E-Mart parking lot.Â But as easy as it is to look at this book as nothing but a series of vignettes featuring sex and death, it’s also overlooking some amazing character work, and real emotions from the writer, as well as some of the most expressive art in the comics industry…Â And when they’re really on, the team behind the Boys can give you moments of emotion that few other books can deliver.
Previously, on The Boys:Â The Boys (Billy Butcher, Wee Hughie, Mother’s Milk, the Frenchman and the Female of the Species) are a special task force of the United States government (or, at the very least, of the CIA) whose job is to keep the superhumans of the world in check.Â After a high-profile series of confrontations with Teenage Kix (a super-group with echoes of the Teen Titans) they set their sights on the G-Men (who are a reference to exactly who you think they are.)Â With Wee Hughie undercover in one of the dozens of G-Men spinoff groups, the Boys discovered that G-Men founder John Godolkin was a pedophile and a kidnapper, and came as close to disaster as they ever have.Â They were saved by the timely intervention of agents of Vought-American, the corporate entity behind all the supers, after which a V-A representative stood up to Butcher, and told him that they can clean up their own messes.Â Adding to the complications are Wee Hughie’s relationship with Annie, a girl who is secretly a super herself, and Butcher’s abusive sexual relationship with Director Rayner of the CIA.Â The excrement is rapidly nearing the whirling blades, folks, and I suspect things will get a bit messy.
We open this issue with another batch of supers (and it’s rapidly clear that the art this issue is NOT by Darick Robertson) gathering in a parking lot for some sort of opportunity.Â They seem to have been summoned by Vought-American, and the six supers (apparently former partners of the late, not-at-all lamented Teknight) think this is their ticket back to the big leagues.Â A van races up, and they leap at the chance to show their stuff…Â and then are immediately attacked by Butcher and his friends.Â The heroes are quickly beaten down by the men (and woman) in black coats, and left bleeding in heaps.Â Butcher taps the leader with his boot, and says “As for you, wanker: No more dead hookers.”Â Hughie is a bit shell-shocked by the violence, and Butcher asks Mother’s Milk for a moment of his time.Â Elsewhere, at the headquarters of the Seven, Homelander meets with the mysterious man from Vought-American, and they discuss the changes that the team needs to make to cover the revenue gaps left by the Seven.Â The team has already been issued new costumes, and Homelander contemplates blowing up the helicopter for a moment as the corporate shill flies away, then decides against it.
As for missing Seven member Starlight, she’s off with her boyfriend (Wee Hughie) for another stolen moment, during which they both express how stressful their jobs have become.Â Each describes the situation, not realizing that it’s the same situation they’re discussing, and Hughie asks iff she wants to run away with her.Â “Don’t tempt me,” says Starlight, but Hughie seems to be serious.Â Elsewhere in the city, The Female has again taken a hit from the Mafia, and arrives at the address to kill some scuzzballs, only to be confronted with Stormfront, a neo-Nazi psycho whose powers put him on a par with the Homelander.Â She attacks, hurting him, even ripping out his eye before the racist ubermensch gets the upper hand and beats her down.Â He fires lightning at her, and we cut away to Starlight, arriving back at headquarters.Â She is given her new costume, a g-string and hooker shoes.Â Her teammates laugh at her discomfort as she is dragged away by the fashion experts.Â Back at the Flatiron Building, where the Boys make their home, Butcher tells the story of Hal Jordan’s origin, complete with alien weapon of incredible powers.Â “Two days later, his nob falls off an’ he $#!+s out his own brain.Â $&@$ gave him space-AIDS.”Â It’s a horrible story, but Butcher seems very pleased with himself, making him even more disturbing that usual.Â Suddenly the Frenchman breaks in, his face full of pain and horror.Â “What’s the matter, mate?” asks Butcher, but Frenchie can’t speak…
I don’t know if The Female is actually dead or just badly hurt, but either way, the final shot of the Frenchman is heart-wrenching, even if the overall art in the book isn’t quite as smooth as Robertson’s usual job.Â Carlos Ezquerra does a good job overall, but forÂ some undefined reason, the art doesn’t quite gel for me.Â It may just be a case of high expectations (though I feel the need to mention that Robertson’s name DOES appear on the cover) but the final shot and the overall story make up for it all.Â The protagonists of this book aren’t heroes in any sense, but they are people with emotions, and seeing Frenchie’s utter devastation at the seeming loss of his friend is powerful.Â It’s a transitional issue, moving us from the G-Men plot intoÂ a new direction, and giving us some new motivation on the part of the Homelander, whose hatred for Butcher drips from every word of dialogue he has.Â EvenÂ the worstÂ issue of The Boys has so far been pretty good, and this one isn’t bad at all.Â The Boys Thirty-One earns a well-deserved 3.5 out of 5 stars, and if you’re of an adult mind, looking for something out of the ordinary, you won’t be disappointed here.