The Boys

Superheroes have been with us for nearly a century now (Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman was in 1938), and they've been examined from damn near every angle. Hailed as saviors of humanity, condemned as dangerous aberrations, they've been used as proxies to examine the heights and depths of what humanity has to offer. So, by the time the new century had rolled around, superhero themes were fairly well played out - from the golden age boy scout of the 40s to the grimdark vigilantes of the 80s, it had all become, more or less, stereotype. People started examining the relationships between superheroes and regular people, often with the regular folks losing out in the end. Enter Garth Ennis. On the heels of his wildly successful and entertaining tale of supernatural religion and ultraviolence, better known as Preacher, Ennis decided that he wanted to do a superhero story from the point of view of normal folks, predicated on a very simple idea. What if superheroes were just a massive marketing ploy to make corporations obscene amounts of money, and in turn, were allowed to act with no sense of obligation or repercussions? What if, on the other hand, there was a group that made it their purpose to "police" these supers, to make sure that there are consequences for their actions, and they've just recruited their newest member to put a final nail in the coffin of the superhero industry? Meet 'Wee Hughie', the latest addition to "The Boys". Unintentionally forced into this part of society when his girlfriend is accidentally killed in a superhero fight. Recruited by Billy Butcher, Hughie becomes an investigator for the group, occasionally connecting dots that even Butcher admits he misses. As the series progresses, Hughie develops relationships with members of The Boys, as well as the superhero community, and comes to realize that things are not always as they seem. Ennis has created a certain shorthand throughout his career. His name has become fairly synonymous with gruesome violence, semi-gratuitous nudity, controversial themes, and surprisingly deep story lines that seemingly meander only to come into sharp focus in the most shocking of ways. If you've read Preacher, you have a good idea of what to expect from The Boys. If you haven't, be prepared to be shocked, possibly offended, repulsed, or sickened. Ennis doesn't pull his punches, and it's this raw, unflinching in-delicateness that makes his stories so engrossing and draw you back in, time after time. Pairing this raw brutality with Robertson's artwork really brings the more shocking aspects of the story home. His ability to lovingly tease out the horrors of gerbiling (without explicitly showing the incident), or fighting off a sudden overwhelming need to vacate one's bowels beautifully contrasts against the quieter moments of two star-crossed lovers first meeting in a park. The emotions of characters are amazingly rendered in ways that speak volumes other artists would be hard pressed to even hint at. This is definitely not a series for all audiences. If you've got a weak stomach, or hang ups about people behaving (extremely) badly, you're going to want to give this a pass. If, however, you're a fan of Ennis (especially Preacher or Crossed), this is yet another series you don't want to miss. The Boys is recommended for mature audiences for graphic violence, nudity, adult language, adult themes, adult situations, and damn near anything else you wouldn't want kids seeing.

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