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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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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7 Comments

  1. John Luiza
    July 7, 2009 at 10:58 pm — Reply

    I’ve read the first two trades of this series and am really enjoying delving into it. I feel like this series really does some subtle things that are developing slowly (Wee Hughie’s GF) while going b@lls to the wall with the majority of the story. Scarily enough, I’m not really noticing the violence as much anymore…

  2. vistapa
    July 8, 2009 at 12:03 am — Reply

    overall a good issue, but man i hate the art, hate it. it’s wrong in so many levels, looks like something from “el sensacional de traileros” (ask rodrigo)

  3. July 8, 2009 at 9:50 am — Reply

    I really do think that the art is intentionally designed to be a little uncomfortable… Ezquerra’s work doesn’t always have this stylization to it (we are talking about the man who created Judge Dredd after all) and it’s more pronounced during the scenes with Starlight and the battle sequences.

    I really think that he’s giving ugly situations a little twist to make them uglier… Could just be me, though.

  4. MaximusRift
    July 8, 2009 at 11:35 am — Reply

    Why not just ask him to be on the show and pop the question there?

  5. ~wyntermute~
    July 8, 2009 at 4:14 pm — Reply

    I love reading the reviews for this series, because I’m curious as to what’s gonna happen next but can’t handle the graphic art. :D So, like, thanks for keeping at it. :)

  6. Maven
    July 12, 2009 at 11:26 am — Reply

    Uh, seriously? You liked this issue?

    Former Pro-Wrestling Great Mick Foley once said “You’re only as good as your opponent. If you treat your opponent like a worthless punk, then when you win, you’re just the guy that beat a worthless punk.”

    After two years of building up Payback as the “#2 Supergroup in the world”, Ennis blows them off by having Butcher murder them single-handedly. Meanwhile, all Payback manages to do is “slightly bruise” The Female. Speaking of which, it’s interesting, isn’t it, that the “Good Guy” Butcher savagely murders a woman for “speaking harshly” to his dog, while the “bad-guy” Stormfront barely bothers to sprain The Female’s arm after she pulls his eye out? That, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with this book.

    • July 12, 2009 at 9:26 pm — Reply

      Uh, seriously? You liked this issue?

      I did, up to a point. And I’m immune to sarcasm…

      After two years of building up Payback as the “#2 Supergroup in the world”, Ennis blows them off by having Butcher murder them single-handedly. Meanwhile, all Payback manages to do is “slightly bruise” The Female. Speaking of which, it’s interesting, isn’t it, that the “Good Guy” Butcher savagely murders a woman for “speaking harshly” to his dog, while the “bad-guy” Stormfront barely bothers to sprain The Female’s arm after she pulls his eye out? That, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with this book.

      Two points: He beat her into a coma from which she may or may not recover. Even given comic book exaggeration, that’s a little bit more serious than a sprain. Second, since nobody but the ersatz Scarlet Witch is dead, and there’s a whole ‘nother issue coming, we have yet to see whether this is a full-scale punkout or not. It’s certainly not the blow off to the feud. Whether I’m judging the series too easily (and it’s entirely possible, as I like Ennis’ writing) I think you may be judging it too harshly… As always, your mileage may vary.

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