Review: The Boys Thirty-Two

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Or – “It’s Kind Of Ironic That They’re Called ‘Payback,’ Isn’t It?”

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Because I have a strong suspicion that Butcher is about to remind them why their own name is a b!+<#…

Bo1.jpgPreviously, on The Boys:  A grave tragedy has befallen the black-clad operatives known collectively as The Boys…  After barely managing to pull Wee Hughie out of the headquarters of the G-Men (a mission which led to the murders of ALL the superheroes that made up the various G-organizations) one of their own number, the Female of the Species, was lured into a trap and mercilessly beaten by a superhuman neo-Nazi jerk called Stormfront, late of the supergroup Payback.  In case you’re wondering, that was possibly the most inordinately complex sentence I’ve ever typed.  While Mother’s Milk, The Frenchman and Wee Hughie are paralyzed with regret and concern, Billy Butcher seems unlikely to take this kind of assault lying down.  I shudder to think what sort of (you should excuse the expression) payback that he has in mind.

 We open in a silent hospital room, with a barely recognizable Female bandaged and comatose while her fellows look on.  The Frenchman is horrified, obviously blaming himself, while the other team members try to figure out what happened.  “I know what she was doin’,” says Butcher.  “Someone’s havin’ a $#&in’ go at US.”  While The Boys regroup, superhuman (and Hughie’s girlfriend) Starlight gets her new costume, a tiny thong set that makes stripper attire look demure by comparison.  Her dismay at the uniform is nothing, though, compared to her horror at the new “origin” her handlers have prepared, a story about a sexual assault that sounds strangely like Red Sonja’s.  Back at the hospital, Mother’s Milk suddenly realizes that the hospital may not be all it seems, and the team realizes that they’ve willingly walked into a trap, and the four men gather up their distaff member to make a break for it.

Starlight finally loses her cool, blowing up at her “fashion consultants,” (you’d think one might be more awareof the feelings of a woman who could burn you to the ground with a wave of her finers) refusing both her new look and faux history, memories of her recent near-victimization by A-Train fresh in her mind.  Carlos Ezquerra makes Annie really perversely unattractive throughout this sequence, with swollen lips and exagerrated curves emphasizing everything that SHOULD possibly be sexy in a way that certainly is NOT.  Back at Fakred Heart Hospital (Where’s Kelso?) The Boys try to make a break for it, only to get waylaid by Payback.  As Butcher leaps into action, the nameless face of Vought-American gets a mysterious phone call, telling him that he may be making a huge mistake playing with Butcher this way.  The proof of that theorem comes as Butcher sends his injured men away and faces Payback all by himself.  When Crimson Countess threatens his dog, Butcher SNAPS HER NECK, causing Mind-Droid to panic.  The telepath homes in on Billy, and hears one single vicious thought:  “You’re next, $&@$s.”

There are some timing issues with this particular issue, coming as it obviously does AFTER the events of the only-halfway-completed Herogasm limited series.  I also have some issues with Ezquerra’s art, which is unattractive in a way that I think (but can’t quite confirm) is intentional.  Garth Ennis’ scripting feels somehow different without the slick art of Darick Robertson, and Ezquerra’s ugly, rough-hewn Butcher is almost a completely different character than the smirking devil-may-care lad Darick draws.  Given that one of his own has been attacked, though, it’s very apropos to see Butcher’s facade slip to show the monster underneath.  This series has long been one that revels in the moments that you can’t believe they got away with, including a particularly uncomfortable sequence that more than likely cost Stormfront his testicles, in a not-so-serious look at some serious violence, in an issue not shy about the bloodletting.  This isn’t the time for a casual reader to come on board (from both a plot line and an ultra-violence standpoint) but it’s an acceptable issue overall.  The Boys #32 earns an interested-yet-horrified 3 out of 5 stars, and next issue promises to be the kind of trainwreck moment that you can’t look away from.  Here’s hoping Stormfront loses a couple more major organs…

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