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The Boys #56

By Josh Dean
July 9, 2011 - 19:50

In his introduction to the collected edition of The Filth, Grant Morrison states that he was hoping to inoculate readers to some horrible things by exposing them to small, controlled doses in his writing. It is hard not to believe that Garth Ennis is living this same philosophy. Every issue of the Boys introduces some depraved act that I never thought I would see in a comic book.

Of course, after the info dump that was the last arc, it is nice to return to the baseline of horrific ideas that make up the world of the Boys. For those who don’t know, this is the story of a task force that keeps their eyes on the super-heroes of the world to keep them from crossing the line. They are literally those who watch the watchmen. From an Iron Man/Batman surrogate buggering everything in sight (whether living or not) to an X-men style team made of sexually abused children, this title is not for the faint of heart. This issue introduces Doctor Peculiar (guess who this is a parody of) who acts as a sort of pimp to the super hero community. And before you ask, yes, the image on the cover is two green AIDS monkeys having sex with a man’s ears.

If you have never read Garth Ennis before this must all sound horribly shocking and scandalous. Unfortunately, if you have read him before, it all comes across as way too tedious. The inciting action is the off-panel murder of a transvestite prostitute that leads the Butcher and the newly returned Hughie into an investigation. The characters in the book comment on how they “think they’ve seen it all” but Wee Hughie (the audience surrogate) is still shocked at the acts he sees documented in Peculiar’s library. Instead of feeling his revulsion, I’m afraid I have crossed over into Butcher’s ennui and it all seems kind of tiresome at this point. I think the readers are ready to move towards an end game, especially with weird detours like the Highland Laddie limited series and the aforementioned last arc snooze fest. This issue reads like the beginning of yet another case that will no doubt end with lots of violence.

The only other complaint I have about this series is the way characters from previous issues are referenced as if we recall a minor background character from 30 issues ago. There is an interlude with a white guy in a suit who I honestly can’t recall the importance of (I think he is the big bad, maybe?). The cover is of a guy named Monkey who I vaguely recall from the early issues. There is nothing in Ennis’ writing to even give us clues as to who some of these characters are. When dealing with the main cast (the Boys) or the various super heroes (like the 7), there are no problems but once we enter the world of the bureaucrats and businessmen who make up the supporting cast, I get lost as a casual month-to-month reader. Once all this is done and I can reread the whole shebang, I’m sure it will all make way more sense.

On the art front, Russ Braun is a fine substitute for Darick Robertson. Although he is not quite as detailed, he conveys facial expressions and perversity pretty well. The muted color palette of Tony Avina is a big part of the visual success of this series. None of the heroes are allowed to shine too brightly and they all look vaguely dirty and dull. I especially like how Jack from Jupiter looks like the surface of the planet.

All in all, way too late to jump on board but, if you are a longtime fan put off by that last arc you may be pleased to know that Ennis is back to the old format. It just may be a little too old.

Rating: 5 /10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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