By Jarred A. Luján — For those unaware, The Boys has returned recently via a new omnibus collection. The story, co-created by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson, follows a CIA-backed, physically enhanced outfit as they aim to keep superheroes in check. This is second part of my review of the omnibus, covering issues #7-#14 (you can read all about my bad teenage haircut as well as issues #1-#6 here).
This, it turns out, is a great place to divide it up, because The Boys takes a pretty big tonal shift following the conclusion of “Cherry” arc. While heretofore the story has been rather straightforward, linear, that starts to change here, and we get hints Ennis and Robertson’s full ambitions. See, the last two arcs in the omnibus, “Get Some” and “Glorious Five Year Plan,” feel much more like detective stories than the first one. That’s a good shift, because while I enjoyed the first two arcs plenty, after the characters were established, I was curious to see how this would read with straight forward storytelling. So much of the first half was dependent on Wee Hughie’s decision on whether to stay or go, while also getting his feet wet in the process. We needed a change to just kind of keep the pacing of the book fluid.
That said, I can’t really think of a better way to introduce a shift than with “Get Some.” While much of the storyline up to this point has been grandiose, this arc zeroes in on a street level investigation of a murder. The story is counterbalanced with the superhero Tek-Knights, and it’s woven together so well that it becomes a weird combination of darkly funny and straightforward social commentary. Wee Hughie, finally exposed to the real nitty gritty of the job, is brilliantly written as a normal person coming to serious realizations about the world.
It’s that same street level vibe that makes “Glorious Five Year Plan” such a great follow up. We’re quickly moved from a murder investigation to an international conspiracy. While Ennis and Robertson manage to up the ante on this one, they also maintain the detective vibe from the preceding chapter, making the transition smooth despite the stakes being raised much higher. There’s also a bit more action in this arc, which features basically as much hyperviolence as you could want. Also, Love Sausage is probably one of the most hilarious characters I have ever seen in a comic.
What Ennis and Robertson manage to capture so well in these last two arcs is just the sheer range of issues the superheroes in this story are getting blamed for. Inauthenticity of public relations, power, and corruption are all free game in the world of The Boys. As a matter of fact, homophobia receives some of the nastiest satire in the whole book. Ennis and Robertson use a publicly gay, but privately homophobic, superhero to counterbalance Butcher’s homophobic slurs, while being right at home in a gay bar. Even Wee Hughie criticizes Butcher’s use of slurs, while he himself is shown as uncomfortable about the subject. The satire doesn’t completely come across at first, until you realize that it’s three straight men with varying comfort around homosexuals and not a single damn one of them can get it right. If that isn’t a biting shot at 2006’s culture, I’m not sure what is.
Most importantly, the innocence Wee Hughie gives the story a welcome contrast. We know, by now that Butcher’s primary motivation is vengeance. The Frenchman and The Female seem to just be bullets pointing in the right direction. Mother’s Milk has retained a sense of mystery, just not nearly as much as the two aforementioned members, but he does come off hardened by the world he lives in. Hughie, though, is clearly trying to do something good, to make the world better. Even when he stumbles, Hughie is still making an effort, and in this particular world, that says a lot.
After 14 issues, I’m still ready for more. There’s still so much that we don’t know about our little band of killers. There’s definitely quite a few breadcrumbs being dropped in these arcs, setting up what will likely be a major conflict between The Boys and some of the heaviest hitters on the block. While The Boys is clearly the darkest superhero satire possibly of all time, it also features some of the most unforgettable characters of any comic I’ve ever read. Oh, and hey process nerds: the omnibus also has an entire Garth Ennis script! It’s awesome!
The Boys Omnibus
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Darick Robertson
Colorist: Tony Avina
Letterer: Greg Thompson
Release Date: March 26, 2019
This review covers the second half of this omnibus, but click here for part one!
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Jarred A. Luján makes comics, studies existential philosophy, and listens to hip-hop too loudly. For bad jokes and dog pictures, you can follow him on Twitter.