Or – “Tartan Plaid And Heilan’ Trews…”

Recent events in “The Boys” have left Wee Hughie Campbell confused about his life and the path he has taken since the death of his girlfriend a couple of years ago…  His friends may be his enemies, his enemies have become dear friends, and the games of deceit and death have worn harsh on his mind.  What happens now?  Well, as a wise old sage called the 80’s taught us, sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, which for Hughie means a tiny hidden hamlet in bonny aulde Scotland…

The Boys – Highland Laddie #1
Writer: Garth Ennis
Penciller/Inker: John McCrea w/Keith Burns
Covers: Darick Robertson
Colorist: Tony Avina
Letterist: Simon Bowland
Published by: Dynamite Entertainment

Previously, on The Boys – Highland Laddie: Inspector Hugh Campbell is, to all intents and purposes, a perfectly ordinary nice guy, but a freak encounter with the supernature (his girlfriend was literally smashed into pulp as collateral damage during superhero fight) changed everything.  The young Scotsman was headhunted by Billy Butcher, a freelance operative of the CIA, and brought in as the fifth man on a secret block ops team known as The Boys.  Injected with a compound that gives him superhuman strength (against his will, mind you) Hughie has seen the true depths of depravity to which the “heroes” have fallen, but has been horrified to find that Butcher’s methods aren’t any more civilized.  The killing blow to his resolve came when his sweetheart Annie revealed herself to lead her own double-life as the superheroine Starlight, causing Hughie to question his love, causing Butcher to question whether Hughie is a double-agent, and causing some other things we haven’t yet seen.  Taking a leave of absence from the Boys, Hughie returns home to Auchterladle, home of…  pretty much nothin.’

We open with Hughie stepping off a (double-decker) bus outside his hometown of Auchterladle, and things get off to a very “The Boys” start as the driver offers him a hit of cocaine (!) which Hughie politely declines.  Walking into town, Hughie forces himself to not get emotional (“Don’t be gettin’ sentimental,” he chides himself) and goes to his childhood home, where his mother and father greet him warmly.  He has a hot home-cooked meal, enjoys a dram with his da’, and sets off to find his old pals to try and set his head right.  Of course, again, it’s The Boys, and we find that his best buddies are a man whose natural odor is so disgusting that he is forced to wear a gas mask at all times, and a burly man with beard stubble who also happens to be a cross-dresser (with lovely taste in sundresses.)  Hughie and his lads hang out together, and they bond a bit (we even get a flashback to their youth, where pals Det and Bobby resemble Beavis and Butthead) before the duo start to get on Hughie’s nerves.  The art is handled by John McCrea, who also did the six-issue Herogasm mini a couple of years ago, and although it’s really different from Darick Robertson, it’s effective and his Hughie remains visually distinctive to the Robertson style…

There’s a flashback with Hughie leaving the Boys, wherein we get quick little awesome sketches of the Female and the Frenchman, and ends on a cliffhanger with Hughie asking Butcher, “Did you know?”  I presume he’s asking if Butcher knew that Annie was Starlight, but we don’t see the rest of that story, cutting back to Auchterladle as he leaves his friends puking in an alleyway to find his way home.  Hughie finds a man standing and trying to paint the “simmer dim,” to capture the special twilight state of the town and the mountains, and ends up confiding in him (something that I know will come to haunt him, you mark my words.)  Hughie talks about how he’s missed his old friends so much, but now that he’s been around them for a few hours, they’re already getting on his nerves.  While he chats, we cut to a mysterious man in a darkened car talking about a “new shipment” of “supe-sugar”, and how the appearance of Wee Hughie could be a problem.  We end on an ominous note as the man gives his lackey an order to not let Hughie stand in the way of their business, making me wonder if that was really cocaine in the first scene after all…

The world of the Boys is an odd one, in that parts of it feel “realistic,” i.e. there aren’t any idealized super-types with perfect morals and perfect teeth saving the day, but also keeping that Garth Ennis hallmark of over-the-top wackjobbery.  Det isn’t just a dirty feller, he’s so disgusting that no one can stand his stench, even himself.  Hughie’s journey home is already NOT what he expected, and just as in real life, there aren’t going to be any easy answers.  We have yet to see the upshot of Annie’s confession to Hughie, we have yet to really understand Butcher, but Wee Hughie is possibly the only really redeemable person in the story thus far, and I’m hoping that this whole miniseries rebuilds his resolve to humanize the Boys rather than turn him to their manner of thinking.  It’s a thought-provoking story with some ridiculous touches, and McCrea’s art is good throughout.  And unlike Herogasm, where I missed Darick Robertson’s pencils throughout, the art seems perfectly right for the story being told.  I’ve been a fan of The Boys since almost day one, and Ennis never fails to deliver interesting work in unusual settings.  The Boys – Highland Laddie #1 sets up the conceit and gives us a compelling little mystery and some background, earning a well-deserved 4 out of 5 stars overall

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Has there ever been a story where somebody realized you COULD go home again?

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. Ray
    August 18, 2010 at 3:28 pm — Reply

    Did Frenchie spit on Hughie’s back out of spite?

  2. TaZ
    August 18, 2010 at 5:54 pm — Reply

    “Has there ever been a story where somebody realized you COULD go home again?”

    Other than my own? Not that I’m aware of…

  3. August 18, 2010 at 9:11 pm — Reply

    Did Frenchie spit on Hughie’s back out of spite?

    No, Frenchie spits because “La Boche” (Germany) is mentioned. He’s just oblivious to spitting ON Hughie, at least in my reading of the issue…

  4. tidge
    August 18, 2010 at 9:13 pm — Reply

    “Has there ever been a story where somebody realized you COULD go home again?”

    Superman and Lois Lane in Crisis on Infinite Earths…oh wait…

  5. Ray
    August 18, 2010 at 10:05 pm — Reply

    Ah thanks. It was interesting reading this issue without knowing the back story. I love this book. I also miss Darick Robertson but have been pretty happy with the replacements so far.

  6. Gibralter
    August 18, 2010 at 10:45 pm — Reply

    No you can’t go home again. I went back to my own hometown a few years ago after almost a decade away. I meet with some of the people I grew up with, walked around and visited some of my old hang outs. After a while I got reminded of why I left. So things haddent changed but other things had. The point is You can’t go home because its not the way you remember it. Things change, you change. You go back with the hope its going to be the same, the way you remember but its not. I think learning from that and moving on is what really important.

  7. Drum
    August 20, 2010 at 1:43 pm — Reply

    I might just be thinking on a random one here, but did anyone else think the mysterious painting man might actually turn out to be Mallory? Something about the way he was depicted, it just seemed to carry a bit more meaning than it would have done if it was just a random character.

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