Monday, November 10, 2008

The Boys #24

It's already been a fairly speckled run for The Boys, both between the covers and behind the scenes. Wildstorm canceled the series, which focuses on the misadventures of a hush-hush team of government operatives who supervise the superhuman community, just six months after its debut. Its creators didn't bat an eyelash, taking their book to a new publisher and resuming publication without even altering the issue count, let alone the book's content. With a more liberal publisher now willing to back it, the series continued its harsh examination of superheroes and the seedy world they inhabit during their time away from the spandex.

As a brazen Garth Ennis fanboy, I actually followed The Boys regularly for its first year before taking it off my pull list. After twelve issues, I discovered that I'd had just about enough of the writer's self-indulgence, that perhaps Ennis is just one of those men whose ideas, almost illegible on their own, only truly blossom under the watchful eye of an editor. Or four. Look, I get that he doesn't like superheroes. Point made. I got it when he was in charge of The Punisher just before the series moved to the MAX imprint and gave him (and the character) a new lease on life. That doesn't mean I'm all that eager to sit back and watch him shit all over the things that I like about the genre, especially when the territory he's blazing isn't entirely fresh.

Well, it didn't take long for me to realize that the book hasn't changed a bit since we parted ways. It's still as profane as ever, painting the entire superhero population with the same thick brush. This may be a corner of the industry that doesn't get a lot of attention, but naturally that doesn't mean it's not out there. Seems like every way of life has a seedy, rebellious underbelly, so why would superheroing be an exception? It's not necessarily The Boys's subject matter that gets stuck in my craw so much as it is its reluctance to explore any other areas of that niche. As I said, it's been a year since I took a peek at this series, but the subject matter hasn't changed one iota. They're still investigating a squad of sex-crazed frat boys with superhuman abilities, only the names and faces have been switched out. Forward progress? What's that?

Of course, if we've resigned ourselves to the book's fate and surrendered to its redundant subject matter, we really couldn't ask for a more appropriate artist than Darick Robertson. His loose, shadowy, humor-injected style bathes its readers in the kind of dirty atmosphere that I'd expect in such environs. The world isn't a clean, shiny place as it is, and its darkest corners can get pretty filthy, which is where Robertson feels the most at ease. He's clearly having a hell of a time with the series, illustrating the kind of sick, twisted situations he missed during his time on Nightcrawler and New Warriors. An occasionally rushed panel or two asides, this is Darick Robertson doing what he does best.

Some leopards don't change their spots, and The Boys is precisely that kind of beast. If you've been impressed by Garth Ennis's penchant for gross out humor and envelope-pushing imagination, you'll feel right at home here. It's Ennis unleashed from cover to cover, but this car doesn't have more than one gear. If that's your bag, The Boys is a dream come true. If you're hungry for a bit more substance from your reading material, give it a skip.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2

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