Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Boys Book 7: The Innocents (#39-47) NSFW

NSFW:  Depicts Annie in the nuddy of all things!

"Still think I don't trust you no more?" - Billy Butcher

So there's this multinational company called Vought- American who found out how to create supeheroes back in the thirties.  After they came up with "Compound V" it leeched into the enviroment and now there are thousands of "supes" knocking about.  They mainly do very little but indulge themselves, spoilt by the royalties Vought pays them for use of them in comics, films, action figures and so on.  The cream of the crop is The Seven, and the leader of the Seven - The Homelander - is starting to chafe against his corporate paymasters, who in turn want to introduce superheroes into national defence via the installation of the Vice President, who is in their pocket, to the presidency once they "deal" with the current incumbant.  Policing the supes are a CIA backed group of five disparate individuals, super strong and super tough, Billy Butcher, Wee Hughie, Mother's Milk, The Frenchman and The Female aren't afraid to get their hands dirty when supes step out of line.  However currently Hughie is dating a member of The Seven, Annie "Starlight" January.  He doesn't know she is one of The Seven and she doesn't know what he really does either.   This state of affairs has always been in danger of being uncovered by one of the other Boys and this is precisely what happens in the first one-shot of this nine issue volume.

WHAT I KNOW - Billy is going over some files, including Starlight's.  He contemplates the New York Post's coverage of Soldier Boy's death (see Book 5) and he has a photo of Stillwell with a note saying he set the now ex-team Payback on The Boys (see Book 5) and Billy says he's a "dead man."  Elsewhere Hughie is having a nightmare about the girl he was seeing at the start of Book 1 who was killed accidentally by A-Train.  Meanwhile Mother's Milk is with a prostitute but all he wants to do is suck her nipple.
Billy killed him.
Later in the day Annie and Hughie go to a sex shop.  Annie wants to experiment with their sex life and so they buy some hardcore porn.  At Vought HQ, there is a small party celebrating the new boss.  A woman called Jess Bradley introduces herself to Stillwell.  She notes he is not disappointed at not getting the job himself.  She thinks that he prefers to be head of superpower development and if things go wrong the boss can be the fall guy.  She wants to join his yeam.  Stillwell doesn't respond, and excuses himself.

Hughie and Annie are trying out the hardcore porn.  Annie is blowing Hughie while he watches, but he keeps fast-forwarding bits of it.

Hughie: "I can't stand that.  A lassie takin' on two guys.  It's just a real turn-off"
Poor Hughie.
Annie starts to get dressed saying this wasn't one of her better ideas, leaving poor Hughie with a serious case of blue balls.  Frenchie is with the Female and he tells her he has found a way to occupy her time and shows her a big box of 2000ADs, the UK sci-fi comic best known for Judge Dredd.

Frenchie:  "It is nice to have the trades, n'est-ce pas?  But nice also to have les progs."

It's a lovely tribute from Ennis to the comic that helped make his name and to which he contributed a lot to during the 90's.  He leaves her engrossed but tells Billy it's only temporary.  So long as she doesn't lose her edge in a fight, Billy is happy to leave Frenchie trying to control her homicidal impulses.

Billy nips out to the shops and spots Hughie kissing Annie.  At first he is pleased for Hughie then he suddenly realises who he is kissing and goes into shock:

Billy: "Nothin'.  Absolutely nothin'.  That's what I fuckin' know."
Uh-oh...
THE INNOCENTS - I have to say, this arc might be my favourite of the main series.  When I first read it, I found myself doing a complete 180 on my opinion of one of the characters and found myself suddenly questioning eveything he had done up until then.  Anyway it begins with Billy still reeling from finding out Hughie is dating one of the Seven.  We are also introduced to the team Superduper, a group of special needs heroes looked after by the motherly "Auntie Sis" (and seem to be roughly based on The Legion Of Superheroes).  Billy goes to visit The Legend who tells him a prick called Machemical has been assigned Superduper.  Bily quietly tells him he thinks Hughie is with Vought.  "Bullshit" replies The Legend.

Billy tells him about seeing him with Starlight and The Legend wonders if Hughie could geuninely not know who she is.  They then go on to discuss the actions of Stillwell, and Billy wonders why he picked a fight with them, when he knows he could sink the Homelander.  They then go back to Hughie, and The Legend asks what he'll do if Hughie is a Vought spy.  Billy can't even think about it because he doesn't want it to be true.

Back at Boy's HQ, Billy gives Hughie his next assignment, which is to watch Superduper and see what happens when Malchemical shows up.  At Vought HQ, Stillwell has hired Jess Bradley.  He then shows her the photos (we finally get to see them as well) that would disgrace the Homelander, and it's him gorily fucking and ripping apart a family, including a baby.
This is what Billy has over The Homelander...
Hughie grumbles about his assignment, saying he's not prepared to watch them for days then have Billy steam in and kill them all.  Billy says that won't happen and sends him away.  Hughie says goodbye to Annie at the railway station, and tells her that he loves her.  She feels the same and they embrace passionately as a grim Billy watches them from the shadows.

Back with Superduper, one of them called Klanker (who has tourettes), goes on to say about their team:

Klanker: "We might not be the greatest superheroes in the world.  We look a little old fashioned, maybe.  And some of our powers aren't all that cool... But I still wouldn't want to be in any other group than Superduper."
Malchemical joins Superduper.
At Malchemical's welcome party next day he remarks, "what the fuck did I do to desrve this?" He asks what they do all day and Auntie Sis says they go on patrol, help with local matters. Klanker blurts out "fuckingcunt!" which Malchemical finds hilarious.  Auntie Sis scowls at him and says he should come out on patrol with them.  They go outside where Hughie watches them from a car.

Superduper's first job is rescuing a cat from a tree, which is more heroism than you'll see from any of the other supes in this series.  The kitten gets frightened out of the tree by Chamo-Boy and lands hard on Bobby Badoing the pressure makes him accidentally urinate on Auntie Sis.  Malchemical sneers:

Malchemical: "I guess this is where they send the abortions that live."

Back at Superduper's house, Auntie Sis asks Malchemical what he did to get foisted on them.  He says he can change shape to look like anything and he wanted to fuck the team leader's girlfriend.  So he made himself look like the leader and slept with her.  They did anal and she liked it and asked her boyfriend to do it again with her.  This led to his deception being found out.
He is a dick.
Auntie Sis says Superduper shouldn't be exposed to things like that.  He asks if they are retarded.  She says they are "sheltered".  She just wants Vought to let them live the way things are.  She then takes them out for ice-cream, leaving Malchemical behind.

Hughie and Annie chat on the phone.  She says she seriously thinking of giving up her job and is looking for a nice flat.  She also asks Hughie what he would think of her if he found out something he didn't like about her.  He asks if she ever murdered anyone?  Sold anyone into slavery?  Did anything terrible with kids?  Kicked a dog?  She says no, and he says in that case she is "golden" and he is behind her decisions one hundred percent.

Superduper are eating ice-cream at a parlour.  Black Hole swallows a spoon and starts to choke to death.  Hughie immediately blows his cover and rushes to help, performing an emergency tracheotomy on him.  Superduper all praise Hughie and hug him.  The watching Billy looks grimmer than ever.
Not looking good for Hughie...
Mother's Milk is suspicious about Billy's behaviour towards Hughie and manages to trick The Legend into telling him he thinks Hughie might be with Vought.  Hughie meanwhile is sat in his car observing, when Bobby Badoinge bounces on top of his car and crushes it a bit causing Hughie to spill coffee down himself.  More of Superduper appear and invite Hughie in to see their HQ.

Malchemical confronts Auntie Sis about phoning Vought about his behaviour.  He says that complaints will push back his chance of rejoing Team Titanic. Auntie Sis says he better behave himself then and walks off.  Hughie is in the kitchen with the rest of Superduper getting cleaned up.  Malchemical walks in and laughs at Klanker's uncontrollable swearing.  Hughie tells him not to be such a prick.  Auntie Sis offers Hughie more coffee and Malchemical whispers in his ear:

Malchemical: "I can do anything I want in this body, dickhead.  You talk to me like that again, I'll fuck you in both your holes at once.  Maybe make a couple of new ones too."

Then he bids everyone a cheery farewell.  Hughie asks for a tour of the place and starts leaving bugs.  Meanwhile Annie is tearfully writing a letter confessing that she's a supe and that she did a disgusting thing to become part of The Seven (see book one).  But she thinks again, and doesn't save the letter.
Annie writing a letter.
Later that night Bobby Badoinge is up late.  He says he had a nightmare.  Auntie Sis reassures him by telling him of a nightmare she has.  When she was a toddler, she was outside with her aunt who was hanging up washing.  A pair of her knickers blew off the line and landed on her, smothering her.  Ever since she's had a recurring nightmare about being trapped under huge knickers.  She turns away and we see it's Malchemical pretending to be Bobby.

Hughie phones Billy, pleading to be allowed to come home, because there is nothing special about Superduper.  Billy says to give it one more day.  Billy then says to his dog Terror, that if Hughie and Malchemical fight that will prove Hughie doesn't work for Vought.  But will he need to start the fight between them?  Elsewhere Mother's Milk is observing Stillwell getting into a car.  He starts to stride purposefully towards him.
Mother's Milk goes to confront Stillwell.
MM lurches pretend-drunkenly at at Stillwell and accuses him of trying to kill Hughie when he was under cover in the G-Men.  Stillwell's evasion makes MM realise it was true and so Hughie can't work for Vought.  Stillwell then leaves in his car and MM tries to get through to Billy on the phone.

In Superduper's house Malchemical lurks on the ceiling shaped like a giant pair of knickers.  He drops down on Auntie Sis' head with great glee.  When Superduper run in, he tells them not to report his conduct to Vought or he will "rain down shit" upon them.  Outside Hughie hears via the bug that Malchemical wants them all to blow him and he runs in to tell him to "get the fuck away from them."

Billy is lurking nearby and picks up his phone. MM tells him that Stillwell ordered the G-Men to kill Hughie and so he can't be working for Vought.  As Billy and MM argue, Hughie is in a rather onesided fight with Malchemical.  He turn's himself into a gas and lacerates Hughie with bladed tentacles  Billy comes in and using a lighter, ignites the gas Malchemical has become, killing him.
Hamish is what Hughie told them he was called.
An injured Hughie lies on the floor and then Klanker has the misfortune to blurt out "fuckingcunt!".  Billy turns his attention to Superduper, he is very angry (at himself mainly) and that puts him over the edge.  Seeing murder in his eyes, Auntie Sis desperately tells him Klanker can't help it.  Billy is not mollified and it looks like he might attack Superduper when Hughie weakly says:

Hughie: "Don't hurt them.  Just like wee kids."

Billy: "Wash yer mouth out Hughie.  They're supes."

Hughie: "Aw no.  Look at them.  No' doin' anyone any harm."

Billy backs down and picks up Hughie to take him to hospital.  He mutters to himself "won't be long before it makes no difference anyway."  As he leaves, Aunti Sis tells the rest of Superduper they were very lucky today.  Mother's Milk and Billy have another row after Hughie has been hospitalised with broken ribs and lacerations.  Billy admits he panicked when he saw Hughie and Starlight together and he wanted to sort it himself.  Billy says this could be a way to really hurt The Seven and a disgusted MM leaves, telling him to go sit with Hughie.  The arc finished with The Homelander sitting atop The Seven's flying base and saying he can do anything and maybe it's about time he did.
So who's the real villain in this series...?
This arc really changed how I regarded Billy.  When he confronts Superduper at the end I suddenly realised -  this man is a monster.  And that the story for him will not ever have a happy ending while even one supe lives.  We've been conditioned by the plot so far to regard "good" supes like Starlight and Vas as the exception, but here we see the results of Vought's careless use of Compound V can affect anyone, good or bad and thus there must be many more supes outside of The Boy's purveiw who are decent people.

My realisation that Billy is actually in some ways the villain of the piece now, with his secretive and manipulative behaviour and  his placing of Hughie in a risky situation and covering his tracks so Mother's Milk couldn't figure out what was going on, actually made him an even more compelling character than he already was.  Billy at this point is still an unknown quantity, but now he's shown himself willing to sacrifice even Hughie in his crusade against supes he becomes a fascinatingly nasty, and much more dangerous proposition.
A gentlemanly disagreeement.
BELIEVE - The next arc begins with a smiling Homelander telling a gang of starstruck kids to believe in the power of God and Jesus.  We then join Hughie and Annie, snuggled up in bed together.  Hughie is healed up and his cover story for his injuries was an accident at an unsafe property he was investigating (his cover story is he is an insurance investigator).  They both comment that neither of them have seen the others they work with and they feel like each other are a secret only they share.

On The Seven's base, The Homelander tells Stillwell he thinks the coming "Believe" event is "fucking bullshit" and he has better things to do with his time.  Starlight also says no to attending as she isn't a Christian anymore.  Stillwell says tough, she's been promoted to a Minister within Capes for Christ and both of them will be attending or Vought will review their relationship.  They reluctantly agree.
This happiness doesn't last.
At the Believe event set-up, a watching Billy cynically comments:

Billy: "Christ.  Would you look at that shite?  Supes an' religion.  The two worst fuckin' ideas on the planet.  What an absolutely brilliant idea."

He and Hughie then chat about what happened with Superduper.  Hughie said he had to step in, he couldn't stand back and let Malchemical rape them, they were innocent.  Billy says all supes are the same.  Hughie wonders what Billy was doing there and Billy brushes him off by saying he needed to see what Hughie was saying about Superduper and if it was correct.  Billy then tells him all he needs to do at the Believe event is a "little light snoopin'"

On The Seven's base A-Train goes to use the men's toilet and hears The Homelander whimpering to himself.  He goes to look and finds The Homelander in the foetal position with his trousers down muttering:

The Homelander: "Why can't I?  Why can't I do the things I do?"

And A-Train flees the scene as fast as his considerable speed will let him.
The start of The Homelander's breakdown.
Annie and Hughie are walking past the Believe set-up and Hughie admits to Annie the last time he told someone he loved them, something terrible happened, and he tells her about A-Train killing his girlfriend Robin accidentally, way back in Book One.  As he goes on being negative about supes, Annie looks upset, then heartsick and finally she turns to Hughie and says the fateful words.

Annie: "Hughie.  I'm a superhero."

At first Hughie thinks Annie is joking with him, but she uses her flight powers to hover a foot or so in the air in front of him:  "Hughie, I'm so sorry."  As she babbles away about being one of The Seven, and why she didn't want to tell him and how she's going to give it all up and how awful The Seven are, Hughie is just frozen in abject horror.  He flashes back to all the traumatic encounters he's had with supes and suddenly vomits and flees as she calls desperately after him.
Oh Father, a scumbag even by supe standards.
Later, at the Believe event, Frenchie and The Female are prowling the event in disguise.  We're introduced to a religious themed supe called "Oh Father" and his twelve boy disciples.  He's also a paedophile who abuses them so that's nice.  The Homelander appears and says he wants to sound him out about something, then we return to Hughie, curled up on his bed talking to Jamie the hamster:

Hughie: "I'm as big a liar as she is, Jamie. I know I am...I dunno if I'm more scared for her or me."

He then sits up shouting "Butcher" and runs out of the hotel, frantically trying to call Annie and bumps into... Billy.
Garth Ennis is an atheist.
A despondant Starlight is on stage at the Believe event as part of Capes For Christ going through the motions of an inspirational religious speech.  Watching her from the wings are THe Homelander and Oh Father.  The Homelander tells Oh Father about how he got her to blow him and two others of The Seven, the fun being to see Little Miss America with "cum all over her principles."  He says she's a believer in the whole supe myth and wonders how many others are the same.  Oh Father says he thinks that apart from Superduper, probably zero.

The Homelander then goes onto discuss how Vought are pushing for the whole superhero defence plan.  Oh Father doesn't think that'll ever happen, but The Homelander says they could help things along especially if they could act independantly of Vought and force the issue, by giving Vic The Veep all the support he needs.  He then tells a dubious Oh Father to arrange a meeting of like-minded supes later and as they finish talking we see Frenchie and The Female were listening in outside the tent.

A terrified Hughie cowers from Billy.  But Billy gently says he knows Hughie's been having a rough time of it lately and if he has anything he needs to get off his chest they can sort it out together.

Billy: "You can trust me Hughie.  All right?"

In the gap between issues, Hughie tells Billy the truth about Annie.  Billy feigns surprise while Hughie cowers some more:

Hughie: "Oh Jesus.  Even sayin' it sounds bloody mental.  There's no way you could ever believe me..!"

Billy: "Funny thing is mate, actually I think I can."
The body language says it all really.
At Believe, the Homelander and Starlight bond briefly over their mutual dislike of Vought and Stillwell.  She mentions that she wants to leave The Seven.  After all the effort you put into joining, snarks The Homelander.  She responds angrily while he says she had a choice and starts to say he's never forced himself on anyone, before having a mental flash of seeing the photos of him fucking and killing a family.  Discombobulated he says she can have the rest of the evening off on his authority.

Back with Hughie and Billy we get a lengthy recap on Hughie and Annie's relationship as it developed over the previous volumes.  Frenchie then phones Billy to tell him what he and The Female overheard and that The Homelander has sent Starlight away as he doesn't trust her.  Hughie thinks he's off the job for good now, before Bily can respond, Mother's Milk comes raging out of their HQ and demands to know where Billy has put his flask.  Billy denies having touched it and MM goes storming off to his mum's for a "top up".
Time for bitty.
Billy then says they can find out if Annie was a plant to get at The Boys by reviewing the surveillance taps of The Seven's base from when she first started.  Hughie wonders who they have planting the bugs and Billy tells him it's Queen Maeve.  According to Billy she hates The Homelander, possibly something to do with photos of her being screwed by an unknown male with The Homelanders build that got leaked to Vought and which Billy shows to Hughie with glee.

After that which was around ten years ago after the 9/11 debacle, she reached out to The Legend who put her in touch with The Boys version one.  And ever since then she's been bugging The Seven's base whenever needed.  Billy then leaves Hughie watching the tapes of Annie meeting The Homelander for the first time and as he watches in horror as the whole sorry oral sex incident unfolds, outside Billy says to his dog:

Billy: "Cruel to be kind, Terror.  Gotta be cruel to be kind."
The awful truth revealed.
The final issue begins with Hughie throwing up again in the toilet.  A grinning Billy is eating Chinese food, but looks solemn when Hughie comes back in saying he must be "completely gutted."  Hughie wonders if she's been laughing at him this whole time, Billy says she's probably done even worse to get as far as she's come.  Hughie pathetically says, "she said she was in love with me..."  Billy says either she is laughing at him or she's mental.  Hughie then leaves the room to cry for a bit, when he returns he asks Bily what he should do.  Billy says he'll leave it up to him, but not to tell her how he saw her get her "big break."

A lonely and sad Starlight returns to The Seven's base and talks with Queen Maeve, who wonders why Starlight came back.  Starlight said she has nowhere else.

Queen Maeve: "It really is the perfect place to run back to.  Vought says we're The Seven.  Vought says we live here.  The one and only drawback is the inescapable certainty... that all you have are other fucking superheroes."

Then Starlight gets a text from Hughie saying "The Park Now."  She rushes to meet him and before she can say anything he bellows "YOU WHORE!" at her.  Then rages at her about what he saw her doing on the tape.

Hughie: "Is this how you bastards get your kicks?  You do all this Babylonian shite, an' then you find some dickhead like me an' rub it in my fuckin' face?"

She tries to calm him down and explain it was before they met, he snaps "Just fuck off, you cunt."

Meanwhile The Homelander is flying holding a car with a family in it who won it at the Believe event.  He makes some derogatory remarks about religion then lets the car fall back to Earth.  He then arrives at a meeting of supes hovering in the clouds and says, "let's talk".

Back with Hughie and Annie, he turns his back on her and starts to walk away.  She pleads with him saying "you found me!" but he carries on.  And for the second time only we get some third person narration:

Narrator: "Without being exactly sure why, he knew he was making the wrong choice.  But he dredged up what he needed to keep going.  To put one leaden foot in front of the other.  And the words came out like a lament."
Aw, heartbreaking stuff.
And on that highly emotive note, the volume finishes.  Phew, some fantastic stuff in the second arc.  Billy expert manipulation of Hughie and his break up of Hughie and Annie's relationship tips over into evil genius levels of bastardry.  And poor Hughie, made to think  of Annie as not a victim of sexual assault but as a supe as perverted as the rest of the ones he's been exposed to by Billy's devilish whisperings in his ear.  The Homelander's plot to pre-empt Vought's initiation of the superpowered defence plan with one steered by him becomes a much larger driving one as the second half of the series pushes on.  The first arc, The Innocents is also Darick Robertson's last one on the main series, though he returns to draw the last miniseries, the final issue and all the covers.  He's a massively in demand artist and really can't be blamed for wanting to take on higher profile and better paying work for Marvel and Dc.  Thankfully his replacement Russ Braun is an excellent artist as well, and John McCrea also returns to illustrate a couple more arcs too.  Anyway, a volume of massive changes to the status quo and Hughie takes time off to return to his hometown for a while to recover from events.  Join me in a few days for the next miniseries, Highland Laddie as we meet the weird and wonderful folk Hughie grew up with in Scotland.

4 comments:

  1. yeah, Billy Butcher is a bad man, he is so cruel to hughie. and hughie and annies breakup is so sad as well. its a good collection this one, you are right.

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  2. He is a complete bastard, very compelling character though. His miniseries is one of the best six issues of anything I have ever read... but we'll be coming to that soon :)

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  3. I'm pretty sure that actually naked women don't actually look like that.

    Why would the Homelander even do that, to that family?

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  4. I missed this comment before, but I hope you saw the explanation for what The Homelander did in book 11!

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