Or – “Requiem For A Super-Trollop…”
There are a couple of schools of thought on The Boys at Stately Spoilers Manor these days. Stephen likes to joke that this book is all about dirty sex, murder and dragging icons through the mud, and while there is merit to that argument, I still like to believe that there’s more than just Captain America wetting himself to recommend this one. The sweet romance between Wee Hughie and Starlight has been a clear indication that neither side of the Supes vs. Boys conflict has a monopoly on scruples, and last issue ended with Starlight seeking out her former beau to try and patch up their sundered romance. Will Hughie be able to see past his pride to the woman he says he loved, or are we in for more darkness and muck-draggin’?
Previously, on The Boys – Highland Laddie: Hughie Campbell has a rather unique day job, working for a covert CIA-funded operation code-named “The Boys,” a task force dedicated to making sure that the supes of their universe keep their noses clean and don’t get any delusions of grandeur. His black jacket and secret super-powers have been a burden that is lessened only by the time spent with Annie, a woman he met entirely by chance in a park.
Annie January’s life is pretty much as difficult as Hughie’s. As Starlight, she has graduated from bush-league to big-league superheroing, and has been chosen by Vought-American to become a member of the highest profile (and highest PROFIT) super-team of them all, The Seven. Her initiating wasn’t without it’s bumps, though, as she was forced to perform perverse sexual favors for the male heroes in order to secure her membership, and has only recently won an argument about costumes that kept her from dressing like a caped hooker every day.
When Hughie discovered what Annie had to do to get into the Seven, he dumped her in a tirade of obscenity filled with personal attacks and rage and left for his home in the highlands of Scotland. Last issue, Annie tracked him down to try and get him to talk, but as we open this issue, it’s clear that Hughie isn’t interested in saying anything to her. To her credit, rather than pick a fight to hurt him, Annie decides that it’s time she came completely clean with Hughie, and begins telling him of her origins. Sadly, the story of “Starlight: Who She Is And How She Came To Be” isn’t a clean tale of rockets from dead planets or winning tournaments against her amazon sisters. At birth, her powers left her parent permanently blinded and injured, leading to her becoming a ward of Vought-American and spending the FIRST FIVE YEARS of her life essentially sedated to keep her from harming anyone else. At the age of five, she was given to foster parents who raised her with the intention that she would someday be a meal ticket for them as a superhero. While Annie talks, Hughie continues to stare angrily into the distance, but her truth-telling reminds him that he hasn’t been entirely forthcoming either. Garth Ennis does a wonderful job here with the dialogue, with Hughie angry incoherent rants sounds like a real person trying to come to grips with betrayal, while Annie matter-of-factly explains what it’s REALLY like to be one of the Supes.
When Annie starts explaining what Compound V is to the already-enhanced Hughie, it’s clear that he’s starting to realize that she’s not the only one with secrets in her background, but then Annie transitions into the creepiest part of all: The Vought-American “pageants” for young superheroes. I’m reminded of the disturbing images of Jon-Benet Ramsey as the youngsters in full make-up and costume prance about trying to convince the judges that they are the next big thing in superheroing. Annie tells of what happened to a loser (a horrifying story involving melting body parts and screaming) and I am again reminded of how many unsavory implications there really are in superheroing… Bygones. As their conversation goes on in the hills, another conversation goes on in Auchterladle, as the local drug kingpin Bill Tupper prepares to bring in a shipment of Compound V laced drugs, while his flunkies start to wonder what it is they’ve gotten into. Annie’s story gets existential, as she sleepwalks through her early career, and eventually drifts to a point where she thinks she’ll finally find the place where superheroing becomes real and meaningful with The Seven, but gets only a faceful of super-penis to disengage that line of thinking. She then tells Hughie about that moment, and even questions his story of how he found out, and for the first time raises her voice. It’s a lovely sequence, as she reminds him of all the things he called her, all the hurtful words he had for her, as Hughie weakly tells her that he remembers what he said. “You said it all right,” she replies, “but can you make it stick?”
After a week with some pretty disappointing outings from old favorites, it’s really good to see a book shining like this issue does. The secondary plots about old friends with peculiarities and a drug-smuggling operation isn’t the point of this series, it’s the conversation that we see in this issue. For all those who believe that Starlight is just another Supe willing to do anything to get ahead, this issue shows that she is, in her own way, just as noble, screwed-up and conflicted as Hughie or even Butcher himself, and cements for me that fact that they belong together like a post-nuclear Romeo and Juliet. John McCrea’s work has been very good on this series, and this issue is no exception, with Annie’s discomfort and resolve clearly on her face, while Hughie’s face slowly softens as he hears his lady-love’s tale of woe. I have to say, I understand why they chose to tell Hughie’s tale separate of the Boys main title (although I disagree with that decision) but this is one of the better issues of the book since Hughie learned the truth about his girl. This entire issue a pretty amazing piece of work, and I was fascinated by most every page. The Boys – Highland Laddie #4 earns 5 out of 5 stars overall, making a simple conversation into a riveting reading experience, not an easy proposition…
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Does anybody else think Hughie has put himself in a pretty indefensible position, attacking Annie for having secrets while keeping his own double-life under wraps?