Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Boys Book 9: The Big Ride (#48-59) PART ONE

"Sir, are you telling me this is for real?" - Greg Mallory.

In a world much like our there is a corrupt multinational corporation called Vought-American who in the 1930's acquired the scientist who invented a serum called Compound V that would give normal humans superpowers.  By refining it into an incredibly pricey substance they were able to create the ultimate superhero "The Homelander" the most powerful on the planet. Vought created more, giving the world "The Seven" all part of their long game plan to get superheroes employed in national defence.  A plan which also involves replacing the President of the USA with his dimwit VP, who will then push the plan through.  Over the years Compound V leaked into the enviroment and more "supes" were born.  One was a woman called Annie January - hero name "Starlight" - who recently became a member of The Seven to replace a dead former member.  She was in a relationship with a man called Hughie Campbell who didn't know she was a supe.  And she didn't know he worked with four other people, Billy Butcher, Mother's Milk, The Frenchman and The Female.  Known collectively as "The Boys", their job is to police the supes and smack them down if they get out of line, as they have superstrength and resiliance too.  When Billy Butcher discovered their relationship he played Hughie the tape of Annie performing a reluctant sex act on three of The Seven to stay in the group and this led to him breaking up with her and fleeing back to his hometown in Scotland.  Annie went after him and they made up. During his time there he also met an a man who turned out to be the mysterious "Mallory" leader of The Boys Mk.1.  This collection contains three four issue arcs, which Billy starts moving the pieces on the board into their endgame positions as well as providing background on the creation of The Boys. 
A very punchable face indeed.
There is an awful lot of dialogue in these three arcs, so I've split it down the middle to keep the post a manageable size.  This part contains "Proper Planning And Preparation" and the first two parts of "Barbary Coast".  In a couple of days I'll post the second part with the rest of "Barbary Coast" and all of "The Big Ride."  The split in "Barbary Coast" works pretty well anyway as the first two parts are set during WW2 and the rest post-war.

PROPER PLANNING AND PREPARATION - So what were the rest of The Boys up to while Hughie was in Scotland?  They're in their operations room discussing how having another go at The Seven.   They agree that the problem is the power wielded by The Homelander, Black Noir and Queen Maeve, the rest aren't in the same league. Frenchie wonders how The Homelander seems to have such restraint when they know he's planning a super-coup, and they've seen the photo's of him killing the family.  Mother's Milk wonders if it's some "bipolar shit" and Billy tells Frenchie to look into it.

On The Seven's base, Vought employee Jess Bradley is being introduced to The Seven.  Black Noir is being taught by an instructor to fly his Noir plane, but he crashes it in the hangar and walks unharmed out of the burning wreck.  He also unleashed a missile which had been left in the plane and splattered his instructor all over Jess.
Black Noir goofs up.
Back with Billy and Mother's Milk, MM asks Billy if they really are going at The Seven again.  Billys says that with what the Homelander is planning he can't see how they can't.  Before they can discuss it further, Monkey comes in, grinning his head off.  CIA Director Rayner is planning on resigning and taking up the offer of a Senate seat in the coming election.  Monkey is here in a caretaker role and he wants to see The Boys' accounts.  Backdated of course.  He leaves them with many forms to fill in.  "I am a broken fucking man" laments Billy.

On The Seven's base, a cleaned up Jess Bradley says to Stillwell that maybe Black Noir is unteachable and they are just going to waste resources on him.  Stillwell agrees and cancels the order for another plane.  Meanwhile Frenchie and The Female are in a cafe, Frenchie says he worries that the violence that comes with being one of The Boys is bad for her.

Frenchie: "You are a human being.  Not a weapon.  And you are not being respected as you should be."
Frenchie and The Female have a very strong bond.
He wonders if they should go somewhere "far and honest" and if her violent urges overtake her, she could take it out on him.  The Female looks distressed and shakes her head vigourously. Frenchie smiles and says "Merci Mam'selle. Merci".

The Homelander is talking to himself in the mirror:

The Homelander: "People are toys.  They're toys and they're there for my amusement, and there's not a thing more to them than that."

He argues that he sounds like he's trying to convince himself and why does he feel the need to declare it to a mirror?  Well he shot down the plane and dropped the family in the car, but he thinks maybe he's scared?  Because he's set in motion something catastrophic?  He then posits the theory that he's doing all this to "impress daddy" ie: Stillwell.  This gets him angry.  He then asks himself why he can't remember doing the things he did in the photos and what he must have done to Butcher's wife.  He wonders what will happen when Butcher shows the pictures to the world.

The Homelander: "Well, at that point he'll be too late, won't he?  I'll be king of hell."
Is he a loony?  Maybe...
Frenchie and The Female who were watching this via the bugs report back to Billy.  Mother's Milk is investigating Black Noir who has got him interested, and a mysterious code he found in the Vought database and what it is supposed to mean. Billy is off to Washington DC.  At the same time, Stillwell is handing over much of his day to day responsibilities over to Jess Bradley who is very pleased with her promotion.

Billy and Terror eat lunch on the train and Billy has a flashback to when he convinced Mallory to have a run at The Seven.  He says they should be blackmailed over the 9/11 debacle. They should tell them to choose one of them to publically take responsibility or The Boys will choose for them.  Billy thought that the photos would mean they'd pick The Homelander.  They met with The Seven and gave them their terms.  The Lamplighter flew into a rage but the rest of The Seven told him to shut up and they flew away.  But an angry Lamplighter blinded them temporarily with a flash from his lamp and flew back to follow The Boys, choosing Mallory as a target.
The Lamplighter when he was less... dead.
The flashback then cuts to Mallory punching Billy yelling: "They were twelve!!".  The Lamplighter followed him to his hotel and killed his grandaughters.

Mallory: "That animal just slaughtered them.  And all you can say is now I know how high the stakes are?!"

Mallory tells the others to leave, but Billy says they should stay, find out if he's still "fit for command."  Mallory asks what he knows of command, Billy was just a private.  Billy says if it comes to it, "I'm a fuckin' general mate."  Before things can escalate further, The Legend calls them and summons them to a meeting with Queen Maeve.  She says none of them knew what The Lamplighter was planning and since he did it Vought have been very hands on.  They want to make it up to them and establish a status quo.  She's very depressed about the whole situation since 9/11 several months ago.

Queen Maeve: "...I hate this shit.  I just wanna live inside myself."

The Boys then travel to an aircraft hangar to meet with The Seven.  A Delta Force team was supposed to be with them, but when they get inside they find it soaked in their blood as The Homelander killed them all, to make a point.
Bad memories for Billy.
He says if The Boys pull back, Vought will suspend their program of superpower in national defence - temporarily. They also hand over a bound and gagged Lamplighter.  A grim Billy scowls at The Homelander who says, "problem?".  Billy recalls his wife's death, then looks away.  Later on the plane back, Mallory shoots The Lamplighter in the head.

Next day Mallory tells Billy The Boys are being shut down.  Pressure is being bought to bear on the President, most likely from the V.P's office and they are seen as a potential embarrassment.  Bitterly Billy says, "I was never gonna get a go at him was I?"  And that all Mallory wanted from him was to be his pitbull.  He then tells Mallory to "fuck off" and he'll bury him with his daughters if he sees him again.  And we return to the present as he and Terror get in a taxi and Billy suddenly realises Mother's Milk has been in touch with Mallory.

There's a party going on at The Whitehouse.  Attending is a wheelchairbound woman and she is targetted by Monkey who is also there.  He follows her back to her hotel room and barges in.  He begins waving a dildo around saying they are destined to be together.  She punches the shit out him and knocks him out.  Before she can call security, Billy arrives on the scene.
Monkey, will you never learn not piss Billy off?
Jess Bradley at Vought has had an idea which she puts to Stillwell.  As The Seven won't be any use once the superpower defence plan is put into action, why not use them and The Boys on each other?  She then starts a simulation up to see what the results would be if they fought.  Back with Monkey, he has been tied naked to the bed with the dildo shoved up his arse.  Bily tells him he placated the woman, and now Monkey will be a good little director of the CIA and not come and piss him off again.

Billy then goes to see Rayner, who pulls a gun on him saying last time he was there he said he'd kill her kids (see book four).  Billy says not to be silly, he wouldn't do that.  He says he knows Vought have got men in the security detail and he knows The Homelander is stirring shit, maybe it's about time she and the President "face facts".

He then hands her a sheaf of papers, research on how Compound V boosts brain chemistry to the point that the firing neurons can be homed in on.  By a radar guided missile if you adapated it properly.  Jonah Vogelbaum, the inventor of Compound V noticed it first and a lot of research has been done since.  If she passes it on to the airforce they should get tooled up in time for "whatever."  After a conversation about the CIA's activities in Afghanistan, Billy goes to leave.

Rayner: "You.. once told me we deserved each other."

Billy: "No one deserves me, luv."
Rayner makes a bad career move.
She asks if he won't stay a little while longer for some, you know what.  He agrees, but secretly starts up a recording device.  The arc comes to an end with Jess Bradley looking at the results of the simulation.  For all five of The Boys to be killed they would lose every member of The Seven bar The Homelander, Black Noir and possibly Queen Maeve.

BARBARY COAST [part one] - The arc kicks off with Hughie arriving at Mallory's home on the west coast of America.  He'd come to take a look at Hughie after Mother's Milk contacted him. He set him up to confront the drug smugglers to see how he'd perform.  He says Hughie could have done better.  Hughie says he doesn't want to get better at killing people.  Mallory says he played the nice guy so Hughie would open up to him and all he saw were people who loved him and him still not pulling his head out of his ass.

We then get a brief flashback to Hughie and Annie just outside the San Francisco.  She says how frustrated she is with all the secrets he is keeping from her, but she won't leave him alone because he's the "only human being I've ever known."

Back with Mallory, he muses that he likes living out where he is, "you look the past in the eye, and feel clean."  He then tells Hughie he's ninety-one years old.  Compound V slows the aging process right down.

Mallory: "Don't get too excited.  It's not eternal life.  Feels more like taxidermy, if truth be told...pickled was the word Vogelbaum used."
Greg Mallory and Hughie.
He says he went to Scotland to see why Billy chose Hughie, "I'm still none the wiser".  He says getting involved with The Boy's again is not something he does lightly.  He's come back because he's afraid of what Billy might do.  When he recruited him he was after muscle - "but he was that plus brains, and he spent the next fifteen years getting much, much smarter."  Mallory tells Hughie he'll tell him how he got the whole thing rolling and he watched it turn into something else.

It started in the last winter of World War 2.  He was a Captain in the sixth battalion, thirty second armoured regiment, third armoured division. They were inside the German border and everything was quiet.  They had a chance to re-equip and train replacements.  One morning his COlonel brought him to meet two civilians, Senator Sheldon Bush and Henry K. Neuman from Vought-American Consolidated (Neuman is the surname of Vic The Veep incidentally).  They have bought some special soldiers to test out and they turn out to be the first supes. Hughie says he remembers The Legend telling him about this.  Mallory says they couldn't have come at a worse time.  It was the start of Operation Autumn Mist, the Battle Of The Bulge was on its way.
Back in World War 2.
Mallory demands to know what the hell this is all about from the COlonel, who says there is nothing he can do, they have a signed letter from Eisenhower saying they have to give them all the help they want.  Mallory reluctantly goes to meet with the supes.  Soldier Boy salutes him and introduces his "Avenging Squad".  Neuman says they are the result five years work by research scientists:

Neuman: "Human beings adapted by science to be stronger, smarter and faster than any other soldier on the battlefield.  This is the future Captain Mallory.  You would do well to embrace it."

Soldier Boy and Tek-Knight show off their strength by lifting a tank. A dubious Mallory says they'd still have to reach the tank through gunfire.  But the Crimson Countess can melt tanks with her powerblasts.  Mallory tries to explain that they don't have the time or the resources to deal with this new complication.

The Avenging Squad. Derps.
Bush says that's why they came to a quiet part of the line, and Soldier Boy says he had Man-bot, Buzzer and The Eagle fly around earlier scouting and they saw no one.  The Colonel asks on whose authority they did that, "do you know what you could have bought down on us?" he yells.  Mallory meanwhile is running back to his men ordering them to "Start up!  Mount up!"  And then the gunfire starts as the Germans start firing on them.  Bush, Neuman and all of the Avenging Squad bar The Eagle are shredded in a hail of bullets.  The Eagle tries to escape by flying above it all, but collides with a US plane and gets mangled in it's propellor.

A huge full on tank battle erupts and the US forces are crushed.  Only Mallory was left alive amongst the corpses of his dead soldiers.

Mallory: "And these were real men, don't forget.  Real flesh and blood.  Not multi-coloured shit dreamed up by overgrown kids.  Who's going to tell the world about them?  Who's going to make sure their stories live on?"

The rest of the history of The Battle Of The Bulge was the US forces holding through overwhelming odds.  The line wasn't broken, they kept pricking the German forces, wearing them down until the sun came out and the airforce could go back to work.
Garth Ennis really does hate Captain America you know.
His war was over that day though.  The Wehrmacht came through and picked him up and he was put in a P.O.W camp.  Before they arrived he found a dying Soldier Boy pleading for help and he lit a grenade and dropped it on him.  When the German's found him he was sat, dazed, holding a scrap of fabric with Vought-American Consolidated on it.

Mallory: "And I thought then, like I think now, how could they put that word in the middle of something so disgusting?  But I guess that's an old trick right?

[end of part one]

The first arc of the book is the series entering it's endgame phase with several plans being put into motion.  The Homelander is becoming increasingly unstable, his plan seemingly to be nothing more than trying to live up to the evil deeds he knows he seems to have done but just can't remember.  After spending the rest of the series in the background, questions are finally being raised about Black Noir.  Just how powerful is he that he can walk away from an explosion unharmed and be one of only two of The Seven to definitely survive a full on encounter with The Boys.  Jess Bradley's plan is to somehow engineer a confrontation between The Seven and The Boys and it remains to be seen how she'll do that.  And Billy has a plan involving anti-supe guided missiles for the super-coup he knows The Homelander is planning, while Vought work on their own coup of getting Vic The Veep into the Oval Office. 

"Barbary Coast" (part one) shows just how much Vought have been fucking things up with their superpowered defence plans.  While the history of superheroes in our world have been tied to WW2 due mainly to when they were "born" as a genre, Garth Ennis, a WW2 scholar shows just how desperately ineffectual they would actually be in the theatre of war. Join me in a couple of days for the rest of "Barbary Coast" and then "The Big Ride" finishing this volume off with both The Boys and The Seven suffering their first losses.


  1. ya it's a big book, no wonder u split it. that tdkr parody cover is the coolest!

  2. It is a cool cover yes. My copy of TDKR trade is so old it has it as the front cover of the whole thing (and an Alan Moore intro!), it's much cooler than that visual fart Miller has done for the current TDKR trade. And I used to be such a fan.