REVIEW: The Boys Fifty

by

Or – “Wherein The Hero Looks More And More Like A Villain…”

If you’ve been reading this title since the beginning, you’ll remember that it began soon after a dustup with the heroes of The Seven that somehow led to the death of the Lamplighter (a sorta-kinda Green Lantern type.)  Bits of information have led to us hearing more about the events that led up to that fateful confrontation, but The Boys are about to take us back in time to show the truth about how Butcher came to command…

THE BOYS FIFTY
Writer:  Garth Ennis

Artist:  Russ Braun
Colorist:  Tony Avina
Letterer:  Simon Bowland
Cover Artist:  Darick Robertson
Publisher:  Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.99

Previously, on The Boys:  I have a really hard time with these in linear books, but in a book with as much dramatic change as The Boys, it’s particularly difficult.  After the various members of the team told Wee Hughie their origins (The Frenchman’s is particularly amazing and nonsensical) things got weird as Butcher began to suspect that Hughie was a double-agent, Annie revealed the truth about her day job, Hughie took a sabbatical and CIA director Rayner gave direct control of Butcher’s day-to-day administration to Monkey, who is using his newfound power to get even with Butcher for years of maltreatment.  As The Homelander (who is clearly not Superman, as Superman is intellectual property of DC Comics) becomes more and more unstable, Butcher remembers the events that led to Hughie joining the team…

In The Beginning, There Was Darwin…

I’m really kind of wondering what in the world happened to Darick Robertson, as this issue once again features the work of Russ Braun.  It’s certainly not that Russ is bad (in fact, his Butcher and Mother’s Milk are on a par with their creator’s work) but it seems like Darick has been gone for something like seven issues now, reportedly drawing a spin-off mini for Butcher himself.  With both Wee Hughie and the original artist missing, this anniversary issue feels a little flat.  We start some time after last issue, wherein the Lamplighter split off from his partners and began following Colonel Mallory.  As we already knew, he then went after his family, killing Mallory’s grandchildren just to prove a point, causing The Seven and The Boys to have a moment of Cuban Missile Crisis proportions.  We see a younger and less jaded Queen Maeve in action (one of the more sympathetic portrayals of ‘the supes’ in this title, I might add) and The Legend sets up a tete a tete between the superhumans and their CIA overseers.

Then Came The Fish.

The Boys meet up with The Seven in the middle of nowhere, in a warehouse in the middle of nowhere, neutral ground for both parties.  Of course, when they arrive, we finally figure out what the cryptic memories about “I believe we are standing in them” in previous issues were all about.  Suffice to say that The Homelander’s tendency to treat normal humans as chattel isn’t a new occurrence, and feel bad for the soldiers and leave it at that.  Homelander puts forth an uncharacteristic compromise:  Vought-American will suspend the use of superhumans in domestic defense programs (what with the horrifying events that occurred in the universe in September of 2001) and, in return, The Boys will agree to back off.  They even offer Mallory a compensation for his recent “personal tragedy:”  The Lamplighter himself, bound and gagged.  Everyone heads back for home with a bad taste in their mouths, and Mallory reveals that he is done, he is retiring, unable to take any more of the horror and bodycounts and such.  We get a cryptic look into Butcher’s memories and the terrible things in his own past that make him hate Homelander, and we end on a cryptic note, with Butcher realizing something that I’m not quite sure of…

The Verdict: Not What I Expected…

The Boys is a title that seldom hits a really sour note, instead taking characters through organic growth and using terrible people in terrible situations to tell good stories, but this issue wasn’t one of my favorites.  While it was good to see the truth of Lamplighter’s demise, it also took some power out of the unknown, taking an awful thing of legend and bringing it down to depressing reality.  Butcher’s raging against his boss and mentor struck me wrong, as well, underlining the truly vicious side of the character and making him seem completely out of control, a Captain Ahab searching for his White Whale regardless of the consequences to his crew and the general public.  Still, it ends on an up-note, and the imminent end of Wee Hughie’s spin-off mini makes me hope that he’ll return to these pages soon, so all is not lost.  Indeed, a less impressive issue of The Boys is still a more compelling read than many regular monthly books on the stands.  The Boys #50 only suffers in comparison with previous issues of the same book, giving us more depth and background and edging us closer to Butcher’s endgame, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  Oh, and BRING BACK DARICK!!! 

Rating: ★★★½☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  What characters or titles would you give up if/when a beloved artist were to go away?