Just as Wee Hughie finds his true love, he finds himself holding nothing but her arms. In that moment, when a careless “superhero” careened through the park to cut off a “supervillain,” he destroyed Hughie’s love in an instant. Overwhelmed with grief and the surrealism of it, Hughie signs away all rights he has to sue, receive compensation, or even emotional assistance when a team of lawyers rush in using intimidation and confusion to pressure him into signing the release form.
Lost in a sea of anguish, the Scotsman meets Billy Butcher, an Australian with a proposition and a dog named Terror which is trained to do some rather interesting stunts. Butcher invites Hughie to join his team known as The Boys, a collection or rogues whose job it is to keep the superhero community in check through whatever means necessary. Others in the group include the Frenchman, Mother’s Milk, and the Female.
This eclectic band of normals may seem rather unthreatening to the super-powered folks, but with the backing of the CIA and some other dirty tricks up their sleeves, they set the super-powered community up for quite the ride. The Boys set their sights on Teenage Kix, the counter-culture teen superheroes who love sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. As Hughie becomes acquainted with the way things are done, he slowly learns to accept his new situation.
Meanwhile, the Seven, the elite among superhero teams, has recruited a new member, Starlight, but her initiation leaves her scarred and disappointed. She has sacrificed herself to join a team of self-righteous, self-centered narcissists. It quickly becomes clear why The Boys are essential. Without someone to provide a swift kick in the rear, superheroes quickly devolve into arrogant, self-idolized, self-serving, self-aggrandizing jerks.
After putting the squeeze on Teenage Kix, the Boys look toward the Seven to consider whether they should be the next team to feel the wrath of reality. However, it remains to be seen if Butcher can keep the team together long enough to accomplish such goals.
Like many of the things Garth Ennis is involved in, this series proves to be provocative as it takes a genre convention and turns it on its head. The idea of outward contempt and disdain both by and for the superheroes is an idea that other writers have played with but that Ennis manages to illustrate in a new manner in this graphic novel. But, like all of Ennis’s work, there stands a gritty and edgy vibe to her stories. While this first graphic novel doesn’t tell a whole lot, Ennis lets you know that these characters have a long history that will reveal itself in the issues to come.
Part super-hero story and part crime story, The Boys spins a compelling tale of the clash between mortals and gods; the powered and (presumed) powerless. With some rather lurid panels to both amuse and provoke readers, this graphic novel will certainly appeal to those who look for both visual and mental stimulation.