01/06/2010. Contributed by Ewan Angus
pub: Titan Books/Dynamite Entertainment. 200 page graphic novel. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84856-298-1.
check out websites: www.titanbooks.comand www.dynamiteentertainment.com
There that got your attention.
Yes, it's 'The Boys', so what more could you expect? I could make penis jokes or something else to grab your attention but that would be childish and it would miss the point that again this is a graphic novel that hauls you in. Skim its pages and you'll see gratuitous violence, horrendous sexual images and a seemingly paper-thin plot. This is a story that wants you to think it's immature and sick, when it's really not. It's a brilliantly intelligent read, one that has enough levels and hidden meanings to keep the most astute of literary readers busy.
This time around The Boys, Hughie, Billy, Mothers Milk, Frenchie and The Female are charged with infiltrating the G-Men. A parody of the X-Men, the G-Men are a subtle character study or a sick and twisted 'What If...?' issue in which instead of Charles Xavier being an amazing selfless man, he was a self-absorbed paedophile.
Stop! Enough of the flinching and the tutting. Let me finish.
It's not just a straight forward 'he's an evil pedo' storyline, this is not an ITV drama, no it's a comicbook, and it's Garth Ennis. So have faith. He's the same man who masterfully handled the slave prostitution storyline in the 'Punisher Max' series.
No, instead of it cramming this distasteful and shocking storyline down your throats, it's done with a degree of subtlety. In fact, it's done with more subtlety than Nick Clegg and David Cameron having virtually identical faces. It never implicitly states that the character Mr. Godolkin is a child molester, rather it's alluded to. Heavily.
But it's not just the sickening act of an unhinged character, it's also the repercussions it has for his teams of super-heroes. Much like the X-Men, there are splinter groups. G-Wiz, G-Style, G-Force, all a brilliant piece of comic humour that is both accessible and unabashedly geeky and all of them are psychologically flawed through their abuse. Kidnapped and then manipulated into becoming super-heroes to make a profit. They are kids without childhoods. Their infantile years replaced with sexual and drug abuse in order to manifest their super-powers with the compound V, the main reason for the super-heroes abilities.
The main plot has Hughie infiltrate one of the younger groups, G-Wiz, under the moniker of Bagpipe, a Scottish super-hero following the apparent suicide of one of the core members, a parody of Storm from the X-Men. During the course of his investigations, he discovers that the team, whilst under the premise of living normal lives, are in fact living outrageous twisted life-styles. One that involves lots of piss, drink, drugs and other humanly waste. As he becomes more involved, he tries and fails, of course, to help the team he's joined. To put them on the straight and narrow if you will. The repercussions of this storyline and, indeed the closing scenes, push this series into even darker territories. What's a finale of 'The Boys' without mass murder?
Of course, throughout this is the hilariously subtle satire that Ennis fills his work with. This time round he looks at national identity through a drunken St Patrick's night, he discusses alcoholism and wraps it all up with a kind of amoral sigh.
Darrick Robertson's art is exactly the same as it is in the previous arcs. Well-drawn, well-paced and with the appropriate full page spread when needed. The colours range beautifully from light to dark and his manic faces of glee bring their own smiles. Not quite as character defining as 'Transmetropolitan', but still great art.
One thing I have to say is that the seemingly disgusting storylines from this series aren't given nearly enough credit. They seem disgusting, they are, the subject choices can be horrendous, but they have a stark brutal honesty. This is poignant satire. Unashamed to mock and degrade everything in life. Think 'The Thick Of It' meets 'Californication' meets 'NCIS' in comicbook form with superheroes.
That's what you get with The Boys. It is awesome.
Next up is Herogasm.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA