After years of bouncing around between film and TV, and from network to network, it looks like Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson, and Russ Braun's The Boys is coming to Amazon. Maybe. So I thought I'd take a look at my guilty pleasure comic, a comic that I can't even decide if it's good or not. But I like it. So let's revel in some nastiness, and talk about the best arcs and issues from The Boys. MAJOR SPOILERS THROUGHOUT. I AM NOT GIVING ANOTHER WARNING, SO BE ADVISED.
(The Boys #44-47)
It's time yet again for Believe, a Christian Superheroics festival attended by The Seven and numerous other heroes!
And just in time for Butcher to find out that Hughie's new girlfriend Annie January is secretly Starlight, the newest member of the Seven. He no longer thinks Hughie is a traitor, but he needs to figure out what to do about it, anyway. Also, Hughie and Annie's relationship is undergoing strain due to their mutual secret-keeping.
This story also goes a long way toward setting up the final arcs of the book. It's a brutal end of the second act. And the Homelander's plans are slowly coming to fruition, which should make everyone afraid. Relationships start to fray. Not just Annie and Hughie's, though. This is the arc in which Annie starts to separate herself from the Seven and stand up for herself.
And it's the arc in which Butcher begins to do things that aren't exactly likable. In fact, they're downright horrific, and the series progresses.
9. Highland Laddie
(The Boys: Highland Laddie #1-6)
I know this isn't a storyline most people really love, and I accept that it has flaws. But what it tries to do is admirable, and it’s something I don't often see in comics.
In the aftermath of Believe, Hughie heads home to Scotland to try and reconnect with his old life. In doing so, he realizes that maybe his old life isn't what he remembers.
When I returned home from college for the first time, I couldn't wait to see my old friends from high school. Upon doing so, it only took me a couple days to realize I'd been forgetting their negative qualities, and it was a tough experience. We whitewash our friends in our heads as being the best, forgetting the parts of them that we don't like. I haven't seen a ton of stories about that. And those are the parts of Highland Laddie that work best.
Plus, it serves as excellent foreshadowing for Hughie's relationship to The Boys, and more specifically Butcher. For the last act of the series, Hughie will be seeing the darker side of Butcher that he’d ignored. It's much better than people give it credit for, even with its flaws.
(The Boys #3-6)
Of course the opening story has a definite spot on this list. Yes, I know, The Name of the Game is technically the opening, but it's really more of a prologue.
As an introduction, it does a lot to set up a world and a tone that you want to read about and that feel distinct. Teenage Kix are maybe the least obvious of the Expys that populate The Boys (Briefly, The Seven are the Justice League, Payback are The Avengers, Superduper are the Legion of Superheroes, etc.).
Plus, Hughie, Butcher, Mother's Milk, The Frenchman, and The Female are all expertly introduced, and each feels like a unique character from the get-go. Hughie has defined motivation, and feels like he isn't nearly as much of a badass as the other four. As a point of view character, he's pretty great. Balancing it all out with Annie's induction into The Seven helps with the world building, as well. It's a good opening arc to a much larger story.
That poor hamster.
7. Get Some
(The Boys #7-10)
The Boys is pretty gross most of the time. And extremely juvenile.
No story exemplifies that more than Get Some. In the arc, two concurrent stories are told in relation to the very Batman-like hero Tek-Knight. On one end, Hughie and Butcher investigate the death of a young gay man who may or may not be connected to the hero's former partner (and gay rights icon) Swingwing.
In the B-story, Tek-Knight has become overwhelmed with very poor impulse control that has left him with certain"¦urges. Said urges get him kicked out of the superteam Payback, leaving him alone and miserable. The stories, as you'd expect, interweave very well and create a solid mystery that keeps you guessing right up until the end.
It's one of the only Boys arcs that looks at the story from the point of view of a hero, and therefore gets some great laughs.
6. Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker
(The Boys: Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker #1-6)
Of the three miniseries associated with The Boys (Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker, Highland Laddie, and Herogasm), this one is easily the best.
And its placement in the reading order is perfect. The series spends a ton of time hiding Butcher's backstory, doling it out in fits and spurts. So when it finally pays off, it pays off big. In addition, knowing what makes Butcher tick is absolutely necessary at this point in the story.
After watching him snap at the end of The Big Ride, his internal workings need to be examined, and understanding him is necessary for the last two arcs. The story of a man with a monster inside him is an interesting one. Butcher is a soldier without a war, and god help anyone who gives him one. Seeing what he lost and how he lost it finally gives long-needed context to why he hates super people.
And boy, is it a solid read, even on its own.
5. Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men
(The Boys #60-65)
The big action climax commences.
This one may not be the last arc of the series (we'll get to that) but it’s certainly the fireworks show. The reveal of the true villain is expertly conducted and surprising. And watching Butcher face off with his mortal enemy really gets some catharsis going.
The whole arc is mostly there for big moments of schadenfreude at the expense of the heroes. Honestly nothing made me as happy as watching Archer 1 open fire on the supes over the White House. It's a big fist pump of a moment. And Hughie having his arc naturally tie into Butcher's war and how violent everything could get is tense and horrible. It is bloody as all hell, and gory and vicious and almost exactly what you want.
However, it is a tiiiiiiiny bit lackluster, which is what keeps it below some other stories. I would have preferred to actually see the fight between The Homelander and Black Noir, for example. But as a climax, it's a pretty great one.
4. I Tell You No Lie, G.I.
(The Boys #19-22)
The twisted tale of Vought-American Consolidated.
Vought-American serves as the corporate antagonist of much of The Boys, so when Hughie sits down with The Legend to discuss the secret origin of The Boys, the conversation winds up leaning more toward the history of their foes. This story exemplifies Vought-American as a business that will do anything for a profit, even if it screws over the people it’s selling to. It’s a soulless corporate machine. And that attitude applies to their superhero development most of all.
One of the most effective and horrific scenes in all of The Boys takes place on the day in September when The Seven are deployed to deal with an airplane hijacking. It really goes to show how having powers doesn't necessarily make you good at…well, anything, if you aren't trained for it. And the Seven aren't trained for it. It sets up the stakes for the series very well.
Why are The Boys necessary? Because Superheroes need to be kept in check.
3. The Big Ride
(The Boys #56-59)
After spending some time in Scotland, Wee Hughie is back with The Boys, and they're investigating a dead prostitute.
Seems like it’s connected to Seven team member Jack from Jupiter. But Butcher doesn't think so. He thinks it's too convenient. So Hughie and Butcher head off to investigate the only brothel that caters exclusively to supes: Doctor Peculiar's. Yes, yes, obvious expy is obvious, but the arc isn't really about Peculiar; it's about investigating, and the distinct suspicion that you're being taken for a ride.
It's also about Hughie and Annie trying to fix their relationship after the events of Believe. And it's about Hughie returning to The Boys with a different mindset than he used to have. After his talks with Mallory in the previous arc, Hughie is more than a little suspicious of his fearless leader. A suspicion that isn't entirely invalid. In addition, someone is manipulating The Seven AND The Boys. And both groups want to know who.
Plus, the last scene of the arc is not just horrific, it cements the darkness of the final stretch of the book.
2. The Bloody Doors Off
(The Boys #66-71)
MAJOR EFFING SPOILERS.
I know this whole list is exclusively composed of spoilers, and I said I'd only do one of these. But I am discussing the final arc of the series and just acknowledging what it's about not only ruins its twists, it changes how you will read THE ENTIRE SERIES if you know how it ends going in. So, please skip if you want, no bad feelings.
Okay, so after executing Black Noir and the majority of the superhero population at the end of the previous arc, The Boys seem to have nothing left to do. Except Butcher. Butcher's war isn't over, and it won't be until every single superperson is dead. The second half of the series cements the idea that maybe Butcher isn't all that good a guy. And while Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker does a good job of putting off that realization, The Bloody Doors Off turns Butcher into a full-on villain. And it's painful.
It's a really great finale, showing what makes The Boys who they are, and why Hughie was never really one of them. It's about finding the difference between soldiers and monsters, and what happens when you've mistaken one for the other.
1. We Gotta Go Now
(The Boys #23-30)
This isn't the most meaningful or dramatic or important Boys story. But it is the most The Boys story.
If you need to hand someone a single trade to show them what the book is all about, this is the one to hand them. Gotta Go Now features The Boys looking into Professor Godolkin's G-Men, a school full of various G-teams that is an allegory for…Okay, if you're reading this on a comic book news website, you should really be able to put this together on your own.
Anyway, the plan involves embedding Hughie in with G-Wiz, one of the younger G-Men teams. Meanwhile, Frenchie and The Female keep tabs on him, Butcher runs the whole thing, and Mother's Milk works on investigating the suicide of a former G-Men team member. The bold-faced mocking of the X-Men is pretty funny here. The ridiculous number of teams, Godolkin being a weirdo, a Wolverine parody who's basically mute aside from one vaguely threatening word. It's silly, not all the jokes land, but it's a fun read. And that's The Boys in a nutshell.
And there you go. The Boys. The best of (or worst of). Again, this series is very much not for everyone, and I don't even know how good I think it is as a whole. But it's one hell of a guilty pleasure.