“The Boys” is one of those titles that has crested the dizzying highs and sunk well into the terrifying lows. When there’s a return to form, you want to pump a fist in the air and dance with glee. The good times make it all worthwhile. The best issues are examples you can point to and justify your love because this isn’t just about the depravity of excess (and vice versa). “The Boys” is a study of power and the temperament of those who wield it. This issue contains some scenes that are instant classics, moments you will not forget quickly.
The detente between The Boys and The Seven is a strange situation that simultaneously yields both groans and blissful episodes of violently manic intent and hostility. Both sides have been at a standstill for far too long and this arc finally brings them back together once more. It’s all a beat up; everyone is being manipulated. The resolution might not be what you expect, or secretly hope for, but it is still a knock out. Garth Ennis writes these men, and their reactions, so perfectly. This is war, and war requires brains. It also requires a pretty loose mouth as Butcher shuts down the Deep hilariously and Hughie rages against A-Train. Ennis gets the story to truck along and still fills the panels with these quirky and fantastic little lines.
The middle of this issue lapses a little as two scenes do their job while never rising completely above their intent. Hughie is sick of being the heel amidst his own crew and it’s a diatribe that feels like we’ve felt it all before. It’s a good scene but it’s not as brilliant as the opening standoff, or the absolutely superb issue send off. The Vought-American back and forth in regards to Ms Bradley’s actions and future, is also a sequence that tidies up the plot without offering more.
It is the final sequence of the comic that will easily be remembered for some time. There’s blood and violence and yet it’s all so simple and poignant. This isn’t a grab for attention or thrills, this is the outcome of making a mistake in this world. This is Butcher at his absolute worst and you won’t be able to look away through the chills you will have. Ennis is smart enough to give this moment six whole pages to bubble over and the pacing is unnerving. It’s not so much what Butcher does here but rather this is all about the precision with which he does it. A superb example of what “The Boys” does so expertly – it grabs you by your tender nerve endings and applies consistent pressure. This is a moment on par with anything else Ennis has ever orchestrated.
For all the gore and nastiness you’ll see, it is the face you will remember. Russ Braun steps up his characterization to another level in the finale of this issue. Butcher has never looked better and it’s due to an almost cartoony line and some brilliantly placed ink for the lines. Some of these panels are downright haunting and they form a mesmerizing meeting of words and art to complete some very deadly intent.
Every now and then, Ennis drops a moment on you that becomes an instant classic. He does it many times over all his titles and here he does it yet again. It’s a heartbreaking moment you won’t enjoy in any sense of the word but you will respect the hell out of it. “The Boys” isn’t a one trick pony and it refuses to be written off that easily. This is a story populated by characters who feel and react with precision. This is a book about the prices we pay and the rates we charge. This month delivers a moment that seems harsh until you understand what it hints at for the future. When “The Boys” is good it is downright superb.