Thursday, June 25, 2009

Trade Waiting - The Boys Vol 1, The Name of The Game

Garth Ennis is not a writer whose work I generally enjoy. However, the man is obviously talented, even if what he writes holds little appeal to me. Eventually, I did pick up the first volume of Punisher MAX and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I decided then to give some of Ennis's other work a second look and The Boys was one of his books that I was interested in. Aside from generally hearing some good things about it, I can't say curiosity didn't play a large role in my decision to start with it either. After all, DC decided to stop publishing the book, forcing it to another publisher. Hit the jump for my review.

Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Darick Robertson
Collects The Boys #1-6

The Boys is, obviously, a super hero satire. A savage and vicious one at that, but it is well done. I know super hero satires can be ill received at times simply because they are satires, but I do enjoy a good one, so I had no problem with the book in that regard.

Unsurprisingly, none of the super heroes in the book are decent people. In fact, that could apply to the vast majority of the characters in the series. I also buy into the premise that super heroes could, or would, be a bunch of assholes or otherwise unpleasant people. It's not that much of a stretch when you think about it and most heroes are not the do-gooder, boy scout Superman type to begin with.

The Boys is also part of the "realistic" super hero genre with Ennis having super heroes as celebrities moreso than heroes and there is an entire Super Hero Industrial Complex, as it were, which helps to explain why many of the heroes are less than heroic. In fact, in a meeting with The Seven, a member of Vought-American, a corporation that funds The Seven, sits in on the meeting, and the scene is spent with the heroes arguing over merchandising rights and profits. The Boys themselves are also part of the realistic bent, being a covert group funded and backed by the C.I.A. to keep the heroes in check. All of this is not to say that The Boys and Ennis has anything besides utter contempt for super heroes, which is obvious on the first reading, but, rather, the story is something more than a vicious satire of the genre. The point is that The Boys functions, quite well in fact, as a story with or without the satire aspect.

The Name of The Game is your basic introduction arc and Ennis manages to introduce a lot of players but still manages to give enough of an intro so that the readers can get a good sense of the characters. Wee Hughie, a civilian, and Billy Butcher, the leader of The Boys, are the two main characters of the series. Hughie is recruited by Butcher after his girlfriend is killed, accidentally, by a member of The Seven, the JLA analog, named A-Train, who is a Flash analog.

Most of the trade deals with Hughie's introduction to The Boys and Butcher's some times less than honest attempts to get him to join. Ennis does a good job characterizing both Butcher and Hughie while having Hughie's decision take up the six issues without having it feel decompressed. Part of Hughie's intro into the team involves The Boys' attempts to blackmail the Teenage Kix, a Titans analog of sorts, which is also a message to the super hero community that The Boys have returned. Something goes slightly wrong with the mission with the implication that someone betrayed The Boys. The story winds down with a showdown between The Boys and Teenage Kix during which Hughie accidentally kills a member of the Teenage Kix. The story ends with Hughie joining The Boys and The Seven aware of their return.

Ennis works in several other subplots and character introductions into his main story. The three other members of The Boys don't really get the attention aside from their short introductions where you get the basics of their personalities. The same goes for many of the other supporting and minor characters. For example, the most Ennis does with most of The Seven is show us that they are, in fact, assholes.

The one minor character that does get some attention is Starlight, a new member of The Seven. She is perhaps the one decent character in the entire series besides Hughie. Needless to say, her induction into The Seven goes less than perfectly. She's almost hopelessly naive so her introduction is an eye opener for her, but, in the end, she does join The Seven. There is an interesting scene where she and Hughie, without knowing who the other is, discuss complications with their new jobs. It's a nice little scene and does provide some insight into both characters. Starlight is the character I'm most interested and want to see where she goes next, but I doubt that's going to be anywhere good considering the tone of the story.

The art by Robertson is pretty good and he does a decent enough job with the material. It's nothing special and can be a little inconsistent at times. That said, he is a good story teller and his facial expressions add a nice, extra layer of detail and visual impact to Ennis's scripts. The gore is also something he handles pretty well. It's never too much, but neither is it too little to have an impact. And, speaking of gore, The Boys did not live up to its reputation, as it were. At least to me and I am only six issues into the story, so it could get worse.

Verdict - Must Read. Despite some minor qualms with the story being vicious for the sake of being vicious, Ennis has his reputation as a great writer for a reason and the The Boys is one of the more interesting and unique superhero books out there right now, even if its whole point is to tear them down.

Like this review? Interested in this books? Purchase The Boys Vol 1: The Name of the Game from and help support The Weekly Crisis.

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Daryll B said...

My issue with The Boys...and you can see it what happens when the group comes into contact with heroes that DO represent selflessness and good ideals?

I can see the repercussions being major and epic...

bigjimnc55 said...

Love the series. But I keep wondering with all of these rogue heroes, where are the villains?

Anonymous said...

I thought the book was way too hyprocitacal.

A bunch of dudes decide they don't like superheroes so, they give themselves superpowers, code names, matching uniforms and beat up law-breakers. No one calls them on that.

They argue that one of the reasons is that the super hereos are so ineffective is because they don't have decent traing and rely on their powers. They pull a guy off the stree, give him super powers but no trianing. Not suprisingly, he ends up accidentally killing someone.

The Boys argue that superheroes are too secretive and human beings are natural currurpt with no oversight. So they work with the CIA and recruit someone from the Mafia.

There are bunch of other weird things like that, but I cant rememer it because I haven't read it in a while.

Why is there no cut and paste or spell check in the comments section?

Eric Rupe said...

Darlly B - I don't think Ennis will go that route. Seems antithetical to the whole point of the book.

Anonymous - True, but Ennis is a talented writer so I'll give him sometime to see if he does anything with it.

Also, you can cut and paste using the ctrl button and the Firefox spell checker works if you have it.

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