REVIEW: The Boys Fifty-Two

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Or – “Though This Might Technically Be Called Highland Laddie #6.5…”

In five years of world-building, Garth Ennis has carefully laid out a LOT of dominoes in intricate patterns around The Boys and their corporate antagonists at Vought-American.  At this stage of the game, we’re really just waiting for someone to flick a finger and start the inevitable tumble.

Have you met Greg Mallory?

THE BOYS FIFTY-TWO
Writer: Garth Ennis
Penciler(s): John McCrea/Keith Burns
Cover Artist: Darick Robertson
Inker(s): Keith Burns/John McCrea
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Colorist: Tony Avina
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Cover Price: $3.99

Prevously, on The Boys: A lot has gone down in a short time, as Wee Hughie discovered (thanks to Butcher) the truth about his girlfriend Annie, took a leave of absence from the team and gone home to Scotland to brood.  While he got involved with friends and family and wrestled with the problem of Annie, Butcher found his way out of a scrape with the government, and Mother’s Milk blamed Butcher for everything that went down.  At the end of his trip home, Hughie was startled to find that the kindly old English gentleman who had taken an interest in him wasn’t kindly or English at all, but the former commander of The Boys.  Now, that story folds back into the main book, as the shadow of the other shoe grows larger and larger…

“Did No One Ever Tell You To Shut Your Mouth Before?

I will say this for Colonel (I think) Mallory:  It’s clear why he was able to control Butcher, as he quickly and effortlessly shuts Wee Hughie up, sits him down and sets him straight about a lot of things.  It’s a beautiful sequence by Ennis, as Mallory makes Hughie see that he has friends, family, even a woman who loves him, and that he has been particularly stupid in not recognizing her from the get-go (something that many readers have echoed about this title, honestly.)  As for how he got there, Mother’s Milk called Mallory (!!) to check in on Hughie after he left America, and Greg got curious as to why Butcher would have pulled an innocent idiot into the middle of things.  Annie makes an appearance as well, trying hard to salvage her relationship with Hughie, making me like her more each time she appears.  Even though she’s a member of the Seven and an evil supe, she’s one of the characters that you root for in this wild and wacky story…

“Pickled, Was The Word He Used To Use…”

Mallory also reveals that his return has an ulterior motive: Seeing what has become of his former protege.  Both men are uncertain about what Butcher is up to, what he’s capable of, and what seems to be about to go down.  Russ Braun handles the conversation sequences very well, using his “camera angles” judiciously and making a very cinematic series of pages out of what could have been talking heads.  For all the mockery that Stephen and I give decompression, there are times when I wish some old stories had been written with this kind of focus on character and conversational moments.  (The Korvac Saga is one, parts of the Nomad storyline, even the Justice League’s summer JSA team-ups could have been interesting.)  Mallory takes the time to follow up on comments made by The Legend many issues ago, explaining the history of superhumans in World War II.  (Greg also lets slip that he’s damn-near 100 years old, another side effect of Compound V.)  The issue ends with the stage set:  Superhumans in the field, Mallory’s tank battalion in a support role, waiting in a quiet portion of the German forest, expecting little to no action.  The Ardennes Forest.  In 1944.  Any of this ringing any bells for the history buffs?

The Verdict: Intriguingly Ominous

The first couple of years of The Boys was a thrill ride, seen through the eyes of Wee Hughie, the innocent point-of-view character, but as Hughie has become more and more drawn into the madness of Butcher’s world, things have gotten darker, which I think has led to some of my misgivings in recent issues.  This issue, though, brings Hughie and his story to the main narrative again, and his presence in the middle of things somehow makes the story feel stronger.  I still want Darick to return, but this is a good, strong issue leading into one of the historical pieces that this title does so well.  There’s a terrible momentum building here, and strong implications that we’re headed towards the patented Garth Ennis bloodbath ending, but the ride is smoothing out a bit as we go.  The Boys Fifty-Two earns a strong 3.5 out of 5 stars overall, and it’s good to have my personal protagonist back.  But when does that Butcher solo mini start again?

Rating: ★★★½☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Do you prefer that stories like Hughie’s solo adventure in Auchterladle get their own series, or are they better served in the core title?