In the conclusion to the four-part “The Self-Preservation Society,” the Boys take on the final remaining member of Payback (the Avengers-like group tasked by Vought-American to eliminate the Boys), Stormfront — aka ‘Nazi Superman.’ While the other members of Payback were handled with swift, deft brutality by Butcher last issue, Stormfront is a much larger threat, having already put the Female in critical condition and, well, ‘Nazi Superman’ sums up his threat level fairly well. Things get a bit messy as you can imagine.
After the somewhat anti-climactic end to the previous arc, “We Gotta Go Now,” this conclusion is all action as we see what the Boys can do against a superhuman of this power level. What could be a fairly typical bloody fight becomes something else in the hands of Ennis, who uses Stormfront’s Nazi background in an interesting way against the Boys, which is made up of a Brit, an American, and a French man, three of the Allies that won World War II. A save from a friend of the group completes the Allied forces analogy as Stormfront gets hit on the Eastern front. Ennis manages to channel his love of World War II stories in an unexpected and rather clever way here.
The fight is brutal in its ferocity, both sides wanting to not just defeat the other, but kill them in horrible ways. For all of the superhuman fights shown in comics, not many of them come with this mix of hatred and passion. Now, there is a certain amount of ‘fun’ to be had in a group of people kicking the crap out of a Nazi and Ennis doesn’t ignore that, he also doesn’t treat it as the joke that it could be. This issue is where ‘Nazi Superman’ stops being funny and starts being terrifying.
Carlos Ezquerra returns after missing last issue and his messy, rough style is exactly what this issue calls for. So much of the nastiness and brutality of the fight is found in his art. The Boys look beaten down going into the fight and so does Stormfront, adding a level of weariness that only amplifies the viciousness of the confrontation. When people are hurt and tired, they resort to measures they wouldn’t otherwise, and Ezquerra’s art sets the stage for that quite well.
At the same time, his handling of the interludes and post-fight scenes doesn’t match his work on the fight. He does a fine job of the talking scenes that require more emotion than grit, but it’s obviously not where his strengths lie and after depicting the action so well, it shows that that’s not where his strengths lie.
Primarily the fight between the Boys and Stormfront, “The Boys” #34 is brutal and nasty and a great read. Ennis also introduces some interesting elements into the ongoing subplots involving the Seven and Vought-American. “The Self-Preservation Society” concludes having accomplished the goal of kicking the story into high gear and setting the characters down harsher, darker paths. Plus, it’s got ‘Nazi Superman’ getting wailed on — and who doesn’t love that?