The Boys #1


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The Boys #1


  • Words: Garth Ennis
  • Art: Darick Robertson
  • Inks: Darick Robertson
  • Colors: Tony Avina
  • Story Title: The Name of the Game
  • Publisher: DC Comics/WildStorm
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Aug 16, 2006

There are 250,000 beings with super-powers in the world. The Boys are back on the scene to make sure they know their place.

There’s a saying in the intelligence community: To do God’s work, sometimes you to have to shake hands with the Devil. Deep down, we all know it’s true, and we sleep easy at night when others kick ass in our names and get the job done without us knowing about it. In a world where super-powers are running rampant and crossing the line, The Boys are those others. A directive has come down from The President—super-power is the most dangerous power on earth, and those who possess them have to be watched. Enter Butcher, the most dangerous human on the planet. The CIA has the expertise and the bankroll. Butcher and his crew have the intel and the resources. It’s a perfect match, made in Heaven…or Hell.

Doc Martens are back with a vengeance thanks to Darick Robertson’s brawny naturalism. The degree of detail in his artwork gives his images dimension and texture, while his tight shots, claustrophobic frames, and the way his outsized figures invade one panel from the confines of another imbues this issue with dramatic size. It’s not the graphic sex and violence, but the edgy, sweat-drenched sense of intimacy on these pages that viscerally conveys how cloistered this world is, as if the dark, dirty places where people like Butcher operate and thrive are barely large enough to contain them. And amid Tony Avina’s array pristine, almost vinyl blacks and muted shades we can almost breathe the recycled air and hear the sort of back room deals that make the world turn, for better or worse. But while Robertson gets high marks for establishing mood more with subtle technique than over-the-top panel content, in The Boys it’s all backdrop for some masterful visual characterization. Butcher’s cool, smug detachment—we know that this man is a true sociopath before he utters a word. Wee Hughie’s sense of contentment, then his anguish—we feel for him as much as we fear him. In every facial tick and worry line on Director Rayner’s face we see that she’s as dirty as the people she’s supposed to protect us from yet grimly knows who and what she is, the picture of her husband and children (knocked over during a sex bout with Butcher) telling us that she’s more than willing to perpetuate lies in the name of a higher truth. Then there’s the dog. Robertson makes us love Terror.

Reading Garth Ennis is very much like dining in an Italian restaurant. When you know exactly what you’re getting, everything hinges on how well the tried and true are executed. Indeed, his technique in this first issue is typically solid. His scenes are boldly written, well-structured, briskly paced, and cut as hard as the dialog. The amount of room he gives Robertson to do his thing (page 15, panel 2 is the best example) is the mark of a pro who knows that art tells the story as much as words. Likewise, Butcher seems a typical Ennis lead. Though he has none of the Punisher’s pathos, nor his seething vengeance, he’s the monster on the outside that Frank Castle is on the inside, one who knows that there are bigger, badder monsters out there in silly masks and capes. And it’s only a matter of time before they realize how superior they really are and act on it. It all seems like typical Ennis, until one considers the moral universe he’s constructing in The Boys. There’s no talk here of "good vs. evil," but rather of "us vs. them," and, deeper, of the all-too-human faults and frailties that will result in catastrophe if they get the better of someone who can outrun tachyons or swim across the Sun. Butcher’s black garb and Docs suggest an existential dread—certainly not his, but ours, at the thought that a fantasy world of superhumans could actually be real, because it’s their weaknesses as humans and not their powers as supers that makes potential threats out of those who have the power to relieve suffering and make the world a better place. It’s a powerful idea, but though Alan Moore crafted it with a scalpel in Watchmen, The Boys reads like a wrecking ball, and by the end of issue #1, we want to see them in the middle of Marvel’s Civil War, taking a particle beam can-opener to Iron Man and making Captain America eat his shield, because the very fact that there is a war among superheroes is the very reason why the world needs someone like Butcher.

The Boys #1 is an intense first issue that apologizes for nothing while it forces us to consider the harsh realities of a fantasy world.

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