Monday, December 21, 2009

The Boys, Volume 1: The Name of the Game

First, let me get this out of the way: There is lots of lurid sex and gory violence in this volume, as well as a liberal dose of black humor, and it is definitely not for children.

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons asked, "Who watches the Watchmen?" Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson answered, "The Boys." This volume collects the first 6 issues of a comic book series about a task force the CIA has commissioned to deal with rogue superheroes.

In this world, superheroes are pretty common. The top dogs are the Seven, an analogue to the Justice League of America. They are corporately sponsored and appear to hold the moral high ground. But behind the scenes they bicker over money and popularity, and they also have seedy habits. Most of the superheroes act like celebrities and party like rock stars, abusing drugs and having exotic kinds of sex. The US government fears what happens when these superbeings forget abut their humanity and begin to abuse their power. So they contract with The Boys to keep the supers in check.

The story revolves around the leader of the group, Butcher, gathering his old mates Mother's Milk, the Frenchman, the Female of the Species (yes, the lone woman) to rejoin his mission to make the worlds safe for humans. A large part of the story also involves him trying to recruit a new member, Wee Hughie, to round out the quintet. The Boys are a motley crew. Butcher is scheming and strategic but not very details oriented. Mother's Milk is the calm center. The Frenchman is alternately loving and volatile. The Female is mysterious, quiet, and perhaps the deadliest of all. Wee Hughie is a pretty average guy, and his look is based on actor Simon Pegg (before he got famous in Shaun of the Dead). All of them can handle themselves well in a fight.

Author Garth Ennis has written a great number of comics, including the Punisher and Preacher. He is not a great fan of superheroes and many of his tales are violent and irreverent toward them. Darick Robertson provides the art for the series. He is most famous as the co-creator of Transmetropolitan, a sci-fi series following the exploits of a futuristic gonzo reporter, but has drawn a great number of superhero comics. He provides a very realistic, detailed style.

The series is currently published by Dynamite Entertainment. It was nominated for an Eisner Award for best continuing series in 2008. Reviews of this volume are largely positive, ranging from calling it a "guilty pleasure" as in this one from Adam McGovern, to calling it a "must read" at the Weekly Crisis, to a more reserved response from Andy at Grovel.

If you are interested to know more about the series, here is an interview with Robertson about it. Also, preview pages are available here.

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