Written by Garth Ennis
Art by John McCrea and Keith Burns
This tale takes place directly after the events of the last issue of The Boys that shipped. Hughie has found out a terrible secret and so feels he needs to go back to his roots to figure out exactly where he really is and where he wants to be. There will be some cameos of the other team members, in flashbacks, but otherwise this is Hughie’s time to shine.
The first mini series attached to the Boys was Herogasm and it focused on the terrible superheroes as they attended their annual ‘crossover event’. This event, the eponymous Herogasm, was just a massive excuse to all get together and express their salacious and devious sides. It is a very funny idea that these supers just pretend to be off fighting some intergalactic menace when they’re actually chilling out and generally frolicking naked and doing whatever they want with whatever or whomever they want. A very funny idea that wasn’t exactly the making, nor the setting, for a good story. That mini didn’t feel like it went very far and so I went into Highland Laddie with heavy trepidation.
This first issue doesn’t assuage my fears, even though it looks like it’ll pack much more story than Herogasm even thought about. My main problem is that the story being shown doesn’t actually look very good. The idea of Hughie going back home for some introspection and self-discovery should have been great. It could be grounded in a solid cast, family and friends, and Hughie could carry the tale as he so often does anyway. Sadly, Ennis instead decides to pack the tale full of more silliness and he pretty much loses me on a few sticky points.
The scene that follows gives us Hughie and his family. It’s surprisingly simple, nice, and sweet but it doesn’t really go too far. It’s a little too easy and even though I complain before about the terrible break is ‘realism’ and here we are given quite a real moment of Hughie sitting down to a meal with his parents it still doesn’t interest me. There’s far too much regional dialect that took me off the page while I slowed down the read everything. I don’t mind altering the speech patterns of a character to make them fit their location but with this exchange I needed to constantly stop and figure it all out. It’s not effective if it takes you out of the story which this did. I’m sure if I met people like this in this place I’d struggle to listen to them as well, so it’s probably precise, but it doesn’t make me enjoy it any more.
The other mate, Bobby, was a bruiser back in his youth and still packs the kind of muscles that only McCrea can draw, which is not a compliment. This man among men now also sports a dress and terrible make up. Before the reveal even comes you kind of know what to expect, which is a real shame. Ennis has become a real pastiche of his former self and that’s the sign that he needs to stop trying to out-Peacher Preacher. You can shock, sure, but you don’t need to do it constantly. Preacher worked because of the story not the shocks, and here Ennis firmly seems to think it was the other way around.
By the end of the issue, Hughie has realised that you can go home but you can’t go home, a story trope well worn and not exactly deftly delivered here. His mates aren’t exactly what he thought he hoped they were and nothing quite seems as clear and simple as you always hope going home should be. He’s lost and disillusioned on so many fronts. Then, on the last page, we see he’s not alone in his predicament because there’s a major drug runner who has spotted his return. Hughie is a member of interest from his youthful days of running a little detective agency of sorts and so it looks like thid dealer is going to keep Hughie in his sights.
Yeah, some of you may have missed that. Hughie ran some sort of mystery solving group as a kid. I know, it doesn’t sound promising. I concede that it may be handled really well, I just don’t think it will be, and I certainly won’t be around to find out either way. The main title of The Boys has toyed on my chopping list lately for being cut, especially with the departure of co-creator Darick Robertson and the price hike to $3.99, but the last few issues have actually been pretty good so I’ve stayed the deciding blow. Highland Laddie will not be given any such graces, Herogasm massively disappointed and I just can’t commit to another half a year of an overpriced comic that I’m getting because I feel I should not because I want to.
Verdict - Avoid It. Highland Laddie peddles in pretty trashy stereotypes, shocks, and out there moments. Sadly, unlike its parent title The Boys, it doesn’t do it within a good story. Watching Hughie get his exposition out on his parents and then drink with his mates who cover their faces, with gas masks and make-up, isn’t my idea of a good comic. To top it off we seem to be leading into a story where no-name dealers going up against Hughie because of his great childhood pedigree of crime solving isn’t something I want to be in on. It might change Hughie, send him back to the main title with a clear head, but I don’t care how it happens. Count me out.