Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Boys Book 1: The Name Of The Game (#1-6) NSFW

NSFW:  Contains very rude words, graphic gore and a bare arse.

"I'm gonna fuckin' have you. You cunt" - Billy Butcher

Well that's Ennis, starting as he means to go on.  Revelling in the freedom he's been given to finally cut loose.  Even the mature readers Vertigo imprint didn't allow him to say "cunt" in Preacher, so of course it would be in the first line of dialogue here.  And so we are dragged into a world where superheroes aren't held back by the morals they have in the DCU and Marvelverse, where supeheroes are merely the creations of an evil multinational company who then exploits them across the media to rake in the dough.  In this world the government of the USA is at war within its ranks over superhuman involvement in political life and the CIA has allowed a small group of superpowered individuals to take on the job of policing them.  Currently the group is non-operative due to events we'll find out about later, but Billy Butcher, - the man on the first page with the fruity language - wants to put the band back together and he's after new recruits as well.  Like Hitman most of the volumes collect two or more arcs, so I will label them accordingly.  Starting us off..

THE NAME OF THE GAME - After the foul mouthed introduction of Billy Butcher and his bulldog Terror, we meet the closest thing the series has to a hero, Simon Pegg lookalike Hughie.  He is walking through a fairground in Glasgow with his girlfriend who tells him she loves him.  They share a kiss, then start spinning each other round.  Suddenly a man travelling at superspeed barrels into her, punching another man right into her, rips her arms off and squashes her into a nearby wall. Leaving a shocked Hughie still clutching her severed arms.
Introducing Hughie.
We then cut to CIA director Ms. Rayner who has a "meeting" with Billy, actually one of their periodic bouts of hatesex.   We're then back with Hughie, unable to let go of his girlfriend's arms.  The culprit who caused this is a US superhero or "supe" as they're more derogatorily known as, called A-Train who can run at superspeed.  As Hughie starts to wail in grief, A-Train departs showing no remorse for what he has done.

Back with Rayner and Billy, Billy wants to reform his gang of superhero policers called "The Boys".

Billy: "Superpower's the most dangerous power on earth. There's more an' more of 'em all the time an' sooner or later they're gonna wise up... one day you might twig that what you're realy invulnerable to is your humanity. An' then God help us all."
Billy Butcher and CIA Director Rayner.
Rayner agrees, Billy says he needs a replacement for Mallory "Right of course.  You got his grandchildren killed" snipes Rayner.

We are then back with Hughie in his bedsit being talked at by some slimy corporate types.  They press him into signing a document absolving them of all responsibility for the accident (we find this out later, but it's useful to know now that the Supes and their activities fall under the purview  of a corrupt coporation called Vought American).

Hughie: "I don't want fuckin' compensation.  I want her back.  That's all."

Back with Billy, he accosts an employee of Rayner's.  He is called Kessler, but mostly referred to as "Monkey" for reasons that won't become clear for many volumes.  He checks a list of people who have had direct negative involvement with supes and alights on Hughie.  The first issue ends with a grief stricken Hughie sat on a park bench and Billy sitting next to him.
Billy gets his prey in sight.
Billy strikes up a conversation with Hughie and cheers him up by sending his dog Terror to fuck a dog that just crapped on the grass.  Then as they talk it's intercut with Billy reforming the rest of The Boys.  The Frenchman is in a cafe, talking poetically to himself.  Some idiots call him a "Surrender monkey" and he beats the shit out of them, then Billy arrives and Frenchie leaves gladly with him.
The somewhat loony Frenchie.
Back with Hughie, Billy expertly manipulates him by saying he knows all about A-Train causing his girlfriends death and would Hughie like to join the team he's putting together.  We then see The Female in action, now working for the mob, this small, Japanese woman is the most violent of all The Boys and Billy watches from across the road as she tears her way through a gangster's safehouse.
The most lethal "Boy".
Billy explains his motivations to Hughie back in Scotland.

Billy: "I wanna stamp on the bastards.  Stop 'em fuckin' things up for everyone."

Hughie is unsure as to why Billy has picked him of all people to join him.  Billy says that after his girlfriend's death the fact Hughie didn't want paying off intrigued him.  We then meet the final member of The Boys, Mother's Milk.  He doesn't need much persuading to rejoin the group.  He also has a bratty teen daughter to contend with, who tells him she should spend more time with her mom.  This causes Billy to go outside and tell her in no uncertain terms that her dad is a good man and her mom a "no good, drunken slag."
Mother's Milk.
Billy: "Now get back in there and show your old dad some bloody respect!"

The issue ends with Billy giving Hughie a wad of cash to come over to the US and see how things go with The Boys. He departs saying, "Nice to meet you Hughie.  See you."

CHERRY -  This four parter dives right into the murky world of company sponsored superheroes and to give some quick background, the supes at the top of the tree are "The Seven".  They are lead by the Trinity - The Homelander (Superman), Black Noir (Batman) and Queen Maeve (Wonder Woman), with Jack From Jupiter (Martain Manhunter), The Deep (Aquaman) and A-Train (The Flash) under them.  The seventh member - The Lamplighter (Green Lantern)  is currently indisposed and a replacement for him - Starlight (Starfire) has been accepted as his replacement.  Basically they're the Grant Morrison era JLA with Starfire replacing Green Lantern as a regular.  Read on to find out what DC found so unacceptable about these broad parodies of the iconic originals.
Starlight and The Homelander.
Annie "Starlight" January is being shown around The Seven's orbiting base by The Homelander.  He is polite, handsome and welcoming. Annie tells him about her time in the Young Americans and her boyfriend there who she met a "Capes For Christ" event.  As Annie tells The Homelander she's reached the peak of superhero achievement she turns to find he's dropped his trousers and is commanding her to suck his cock.
Let's talk about this arse.  You might think a gratuitous arse.  But I say it's a symbolic arse.  This arse says that if you can't take it, you might want to check out from this blog until June.  We'll be doing some 2000AD collections then, no arses there.
Hughie has arrived in New York and is renting a room in a fleabag hotel which he likes due to all the "amazing characters" there.  Billy who has come to pick him up tells him "first flood of... semen under the door, don't come cryin' to me."  Billy then hands Hughie a passport and tells Hughie he's been a citizen of the US for a week now.  As the taxi drives along we get a shot of a collapsed bridge over the river, which will be explained at a later date. 

Back with Annie and she is understandably freaking out.  Black Noir and A-Train arrive and start dropping their trousers as well.  Annie at first refuses and starts to walk away from them, until The Homelander says:

Homelander: "In that case, good luck back in the corn belt.  With whatziname and ah, whatever they're called."

Thankfully the action cuts back to Billy and Hughie as Annie makes her decision to do what's neccessary to stay with The Seven.  Billy introduces Hughie to the rest of The Boys.  Mother's Milk and Frenchie greet him verbally, The Female says nothing (she is not mute, she just doesn't speak) and Billy warns Hughie not to touch her either.  We then return to Annie, vomiting in a toilet.  She comes out to find Queen Maeve who she is starstruck by. She starts to tell Maeve how much of an inspiration she was to her only to be told to "Fuck Off."
In case the arse shot wasn't warning enough. heh heh heh.
Back with The Boys, and Billy has put up photos of a group of supes called Teenage Kix  They are going to announce that The Boys are back in action by digging up the dirt on them.

Billy: "Look at 'em boys.  Teenage Kix.  Fuck me rigid, are they in for a shock."

The Seven have their first meeting with Starlight present.  The Homelander asks her to say a few words to introduce herself and she mumbles about being proud to be there as A-Train mimes a blowjob at her.  Then the rest of them start bickering about licensing and contracts and merchandise rights much to her confusion.

Meanwhile Hughie is watching Teenage Kix who are in a whorehouse.  Billy comments that most supes have "some kink or other."  Billy leaves Hughie doing surveillance.  On The Seven's base, The Homelander is beating down A-Train for messing about during an official meeting.  Those meetings are attended by a representative of Vought-American who are "the money".  The Homelander leaves A-Train grovelling on the floor.

Homelander: "Don't get up until I am long gone."
A-Train feels The Homelander's wrath.
Billy and Rayner have another of their gruesome sexual encounters.  She hands him a box with a small vial of liquid in it which apparently took a forest of paperwork to get a hold of. Meanwhile the rest of The Boys keep up watching Teenage Kix, they are mostly engaged in sexual liasions, in public, with each other, stealing medicine from a childrens hospital and self harm.  Hughie seems happy doing the spy work so his guard is down when Billy injects him with the mystery liquid.
And just like that, Hughie is a superhero.
It's Compound V, the stuff that makes supes, in its purest form.  This way Hughie will be strong enough and tough enough to go toe-to-toe with all but the most powerful superheroes. However Hughie is outraged that Billy would inject him with something that changes him on the DNA level without asking and stalks off, saying he's going home to Glasgow.  Later that night in his hotel room a flood of semen trickles under his door.

The next issue begins with Annie sat in Central Park and Hughie asking if he can sit next to her.  He is quiet and thoughful and she asks him if he is english.  He replies he is scottish and she apologizes, but he says only real "head-the-balls" people care about that sort of thing.  She asks if he is on vacation and he says that he's here about the job which he thinks he'll enjoy but he's not sure about some of the people.  She admits to feeling the same way about her job.  Hughie says if he stays, it'll be because of places like Central Park.  They part, smiling, though Hughie doesn't see her flying away.
Annie and Hughie meet for the first time.
Then we're back with the board of Teenage Kix members who are having an almighty row overheard by the bugs planted in their base.  As the Kix fight, The Boys piss themselves laughing.  They had been mailed evidence of all their misdeeds with an ultimatum: "Someone gets thrown to the wolves.  I decide tommorrow or you decide today."  Hughie arrives at the office and despite himself, it looks like he's made his choice and will be staying.  Billy takes him out for burgers and apologises to him:

Billy: "I'm sorry Hughie.  I was a right arsehole. I thought I was doin' you a favour.  But all I did was freak you out an' piss you off.  I'm sorry."

Hughie: "Just don't do anything like that again."

Billy: "Never."

They chat some more with Billy telling Hughie he's been in New York for twenty years and loves it.  Then we cut to The Seven watching one of Teenage Kix very reluctantly coming out as gay on TV.  He was the sacrifice.  The Homelander quickly realises that this is a declaration of war from Billy.  Later that night Hughie and Billy meet up with the others, they are then accosted by a very angry Teenage Kix.
This will surely end well for Teenage Kix...
Billy: "Ah ha ha ha ha.  Let's give 'em a fuckin' spankin'"

The fight between Teenage Kix and The Boys is extremely one-sided as well as graphically violent.  Hughie is attacked by the member "Blarney Cock".  He begins to panic and lashes out in self defence forgetting he is now superstrong.  He punches his fist right through Blarney, instantly killing him.  As the fight winds up a shaken Hughie contemplates Blarney's body and suddenly a hamster that Blarney had been keeping up his bum crawls out.  Hughie immediately decides to take care of it.  Billy sighs that his death with result in "one of those fuckin' funerals."
... or not.
This involves a lot of blatant lies about how he died "standing up for the cause of freedom"  The cover story being that they were fighting with "Time Terrorists".  Later Billy and Hughie talk in the park, Blarney's death has made Hughie rethink becoming a member of The Boys.  He wants to know why Billy hates them so much.

Billy: "One of 'em raped me wife."

He then elaborates that she became pregnant with a super foetus and one night it burst out from inside her, killing her.  Billy beat it to death with the lampstand and is still scarred from its heat vision.  He knows which one it is, and one day he will have him for it.

The main reason he reformed The Boys though is that the company that controls most of the US supes - Vought-American - have the Vice President in their pocket, which means they are "one bad day away from a supe-friendly president in the Oval Office."  He winds up his sales pitch to Hughie by saying he's "always wanted a little brother."  And Hughie finally makes his decision in favour of The Boys.  Back with the rest of them, Mother's Milk wonders if some supes have got their hearts in the right place and aren't so bad.

Billy: "Heh. Well, if there are.  Fuck 'em."
Starlight in the skimpier costume she's been forced to wear.  To forestall later questions, this footage is not seen by Hughie...
And thus ends the first collection.  In a parallel universe that sucks, these six issues were all that were released in the series as DC took fright and cancelled it.  Thankfully another publisher picked it up and it continued unmolested to the very bitter end.  I would say however that apart from Book Five which is one long orgy, this is probably the most "offensive" of all the collections.  It does a fine job however of introducing an interesting cast, showing us the corruption endemic in the ranks of the Supes as well as setting up plenty of questions that will get answers right up to the end of the series.  Hughie is immediately likeable as the main protagonist and quite unlike Ennis's usual hard man heroes, a role being filled by Billy Butcher already showing himself to be a chessmaster par excellence. It almost goes without saying that Darick Robertson's artwork is a big part of what makes the story so attractive from the word go. It's a pretty horrible world our characters inhabit but soon love and friendship will begin to balance that negativity out, I hope you stick around to see that...

2 comments:

  1. i thought you'd stopped bloggin lol! this is one series i have read myself, it's awesome.

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  2. nah, I just got distracted by the Ultimate Edition of Dragon Age Origins and it took over my life. I've escaped it's grasp mostly now and will be blogging as usual :)

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