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.|
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.|
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.|
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...|
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.|
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.|
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?|
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.|
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.|
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.|
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.|
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.|
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.