Garth Ennis is back with a comic called The Boys. The premise is the CIA has put together a team to essentially keep the superheroes of the world in check. In the story superheroes are more oblivious to the damage they cause, are vain, and love the spotlight. The purpose of the team is to be a check just in case the superheroes decide one day that they don’t want to protect people anymore, they want to rule the world.
The premise is fine. You would think any government worth their salt would have something in place. I mean, in the DC Universe, wouldn’t they want to have something in place just in case Superman decided to say fuck it, the world needs to bow down to lil’ ol’ Kal El? The problem I have with this first issue has more to do with the characters that are set up as the main cast we’re meant to care for.
The leader of the group is Billy Butcher and he is just not someone I like. Maybe that’s the point but I think it’s a bit counterproductive for the story when as the reader I think the leader of the group the story about is an asshole. He looks like a smug prick who’s intent on being manipulative than with any sort of passion to protect the public. Maybe he wants the fame and glory the superheroes have? Maybe he has a vendetta against superheroes for something they did to him?
The only character we come across with any sort of sympathy, someone who has any real motivation to keep superheroes in check, is a Scottish man named Wee Hughie. We see that during a day where he shares his first kiss with the woman he loves, a superhero battle kills his girlfriend, so suddenly of course that Wee is left holding his now dead lover’s arms. That is motivation. That is a reason why someone would want to protect people from the group of folks who want to protect the world. Billy though, I just don’t trust his intentions. Maybe that ends up being the point and the further I read into the story I will understand my initial distrust. For now, you don’t get why he’s doing what he’s doing. You just think he has some ulterior motive.
One other bit in the comic that kind of threw me off was when Billy Butcher and his contact Ms. Rayner end up having sex in her office. I am no prude (just check my browsing history). The suddenness of the seen, it’s blunt and in your face but lasts for one panel and is not mentioned again, just doesn’t really fit this issue. Maybe if they alluded to some sort of relationship before they commenced to attack each other’s genitals like pitbulls in a dogfight you would understand what the hell was going on. As it stands, Billy enters the office, they look at each other, they fuck for one panel of the comic, then they’re back to being fully clothed. No mention of animosity between the two that dissolves enough for them to enjoy each other carnally, nothing. Maybe future issues will explain it, I just wish there was more explanation about the relationship between the two.
The artwork is pretty solid but I don’t know, it just comes across as too silly for me to get into the story. It’s like the animation team that made Beavis and Butt-Head were making a superhero movie. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, not all art has to resemble Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko to be good. There was just something about the art in this issue that created a further disconnect for me that kept me from enjoying the story further.
This is an interesting start. I don’t think it’s a smooth start by any means, the fact that I don’t really care for the people we’re introduced to and are expected to care about is a big issue so far. Sure, that may be addressed in further issues but I think there should have been more effort to explain the relationships of everyone before they got to the point of getting together as a team.
And believe me, I like the idea of exploring the dynamics of a team put in place to monitor the actions of superheros. It goes without saying that especially in today’s world climate, if a superhero or a group of them were to emerge the government would not be as accepting as they are perceived in the comics. No matter the good that someone like Superman would do in the world, the United States government would still view him as a threat and put a team into place to keep him in check or even take him down. Governments are paranoid beasts. They want to be the ultimate power. If someone or something comes around that has the slightest chance of eroding that power, the government will do whatever they can do in their power to put that something down before it has a chance of affecting the status quo. When after the first issue we as the reader are not only having doubts as to the integrity of the superheroes in the story but the intentions of the people who keep them in check, who are we supposed to be behind? Why should we care about any of them? I’m not getting any real sense so far of where Garth Ennis wants to bring the story. Maybe future issues will smooth out some of the concerns I have. As a first issue though, I have to say it’s pretty weak. I have to give it a 5.
The artwork is just not good. Granted, there is far worse out there. I just don’t think the art as drawn really helped the story at all. It seemed too goofy more than anything. Garth Ennis stories do walk a tightrope between gritty and silly. For as much as he gets right for the grittiness of his stories, he does have the tendency to make the silly parts too silly which can take you out of the game. (I know he didn’t draw the piece but obviously he has say in how things are drawn. Darick Robertson is the artist of the piece and co-creator as well.) I think of the Jennifer Blood comics. Fun stuff mind you but once it gets too ridiculous in a story it goes from having a suspension of disbelief to laughing at how silly everything is.
I think of the Machete movies. The first movie was silly as hell but Robert Rodriguez was able to walk the tightrope of grittiness and silliness without falling off. You were able to suspend your disbelief long enough to enjoy the story at hand. Machete Kills however is a different beast altogether. Like the Grayson family in Batman fame, Robert Rodriguez fell to his death with the first step he took. That doesn’t mean the end result was a bad film. I rather enjoyed it. But I enjoyed it for its silliness more than anything. It was a 21st Century version of a Charles Bronson Cannon film from the 80’s. (If you don’t know what I mean, watch Death Wish 3. Not only do you see Marina Sirtis, Counselor Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation gratuitously show her boobs during an unneeded sex scene, you get one of the most silly, stupid, and entertaining films you will ever see. It’s a crime they made it but the end result is still entertaining.)
This comic at least out of the gate took the proverbial fall off the tightrope. They have a chance to land on the net and try again but there is just too much going on that takes you out of the story for you to really get into the work. The art is a big detractor in this. Plus, the artist must think all Scottish men look like Simon Pegg. Come on. Do better than that. I give the art a 4.