Welcome to the superhero world of Garth Ennis, a realm of foul-mouthed subversion. The Boys are no role models, they’re here to put the boot into all out of control, spandex-clad heroes. Ennis has built his reputation in creating shadier characters, fighting their own brand of justice, kicking back at the establishment, and wrestling with their own inner demons.
With The Boys, he’s set out to disembowel superheroic traditions and is not worried how many sacred cows he slaughters on the way. His random group of aggressors have been brought together to keep heroes in line, heroes that rampantly abuse their powers and sexual prowess away from their holier-than-though public image.
Billy Butcher and Wee Hughie are the lead investigators in these two tales that form Volume Two. In Get Some, a young gay man has been murdered and the activities of two superheroes come under scrutiny. Has Tek-Knight’s desire to screw anything got out of control, and how gay-friendly is his former sidekick, Swingwing?
In true Ennis style, he targets the unspoken thoughts about the true relationship between a crime-battling duo, and he makes sure he hits well below the belt. The scarcely disguised references to a certain caped crusader offer no sophistication either. His language too reflects that, pushing into offensive before making an about turn with a peace offering of tolerance. Never easy bed fellows.
In the second story, Glorious Five Year Plan, The Boys land in Moscow to investigate the activitites of Little Nina and her recruitment of supervillains to prepare for a new coup in Russia. With the help of big business, Butcher hopes to clean things up. This is a much more sedate tale, it simmers with political mischief and never seems to plunge into the same depths of depravity, even with a superhunk called Love Muscle. Still, it does read like you’ve been hit over the head by a hammer and sickle.
Ennis’ partners in crime are two artists, Darick Robertson (best known for Transmetropolitan and Wolverine) and Peter Snejberg (Midnighter). Both create a muddled world of shadow, revelling in delight to show bone-crunching, blood-splattering violence, with a loose approach to panel structure and facial expressions. They revel in anatomical exaggeration, squeezing muscles into ridiculously tight clothing which adds to the satirical effect.
If Wee Hughie looks familiar it’s because he’s based on Shaun of the Dead‘s Simon Pegg, a big-time comic-book fan, so I guess that’s an honour of sorts. But with Ennis determined to mischievously go out of his way to offend everyone, it’s clearly intended for adults-only, but it become a mite tiresome and juvenile. Then again, a show like South Park gleefully hunts down our media obsessions and culture of political correctness before ripping them apart. Even though this is no Team America, it’s a book that should sort out the men from the boys…
Author: Garth EnnisArtists: Darick Robertson; Peter SnejbergPublisher: Titan Books (paperback, £11.99)