Butcher becomes the man we know today throughout this mini. Here, we discover the exact detail that leads him toward the life of violence. Last issue showed us the event that spurred this transition and here we get the actual transition. It's interesting but it feels like unnecessary exposition. His wife just died a horrible death; I think we already understand the motivation. The only reason to drag us through each step of pulling into the world of The Boys is to make each progression fascinating. Sadly, this issue doesn't exactly hit the mark.
It's pleasing to see Butcher was pretty much the same man before he was given the compound V so as to keep up with the superpowered people he despises so much. We've seen him in war as a young man, and angry at pubs years later, and his response to the death of his wife is suitably consistent. Butcher is an angry man. The compound in him isn't what makes him battle; he just needed it to even the playing field and make his battle smart.
There is a terrible moment finally recounted in these pages, after much set up and allusion over the past years. Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson take an uncharacteristic approach in being mildly subtle with the subject matter. Butcher reads through his deceased love's diary to discover the details of what led to her demise. These slabs of text are laid over Butcher horrified face. It is a relief not to have to actually watch this sequence unfold. However, Ennis doesn't quite nail all of the paragraphs. There's something false about them, the tone and the pacing of it all. It's effective enough, though, and most likely better than the alternative.
The end of the issue plays out like an 80s action movie obsessed with guns and death rather than story. Each bullet wound and recoil is documented as if we are supposed to care. This is violence for its own sake and can't actually be enough to sate Butcher after what he's been through. It cheapens the character to a degree to see this orgy of violence mean something to him. A more intimate, and explained, case would have been far more satisfying.
Robertson's pages are not as detailed and vibrant as we usually like them. Backgrounds are flat, faces are plain, and Butcher doesn't have the usual presence on the page. There are some great close ups of his haggard and weary face that are pitch perfect, but other pages feel like this is one of the fill in artists who couldn't keep up with Robertson's long shadow. The violence is still amazing, and two images in particular will keep your attention more than you might like to give.
"Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker" has been consistent with other minis for "The Boys" in that issues can be high and low. This mini has easily been the best, with many issues right up at the highest peak. This issue crests down lower than the rest, though it is still enjoyable and decent. Butcher's origin is about to wrap up and most of it has been what we might have expected. The highlight was his wife and she's gone now so the final slope toward what we know, and love, must be around to wrap things up. For now, though this is an issue with most of the characteristics we like about this series, it's missing a bit of the heart.