Saturday, May 21, 2011

31 Days of Comics #21

The Boys #54
By Garth Ennis and John McCrea

There has been some criticism that the most recent issues of The Boys have been nothing but an info-dump, as Garth Ennis sidelines the main action in favour of filling in the background.

These criticisms are half-right. There is a massive amount of info getting dumped on the reader, but there is more to it than that. This comic is not just preoccupied with peeling away the layers of The Boys’ world, it’s a comic that is showing its anger at the short-sightedness and greed of those with unmitigated power, and the poor fucker who has to pay the price.

The last issue before this one saw Ennis in familiar territory, both as an sad ode to the efforts of the ordinary fighting man of WW2, and as a sharp indictment of the use of superhumans in this most human of conflicts.

But in #54, the most recent issue, Ennis goes beyond the end of the war, and starts looking at the gruesome mess that makes up its aftermath, and the birth of the modern spy network.

James Bond has ruined the idea of spies for most of us, but as Ennis reminds us in The Boys, a spy is not “impeccably dressed assassins in an Aston martin,” he’s more likely a “seedy little man you wouldn’t like at twice”, who is also a spiteful, bitter malcontent.

In this issue of The Boys, it’s genuinely fascinating to see Ennis move into this new post-war world, and point out that the post-war years were a messy confusion that saw a brash war-winning America run up against an ages-old enemy that had several hundred years of clandestine experience to draw upon.

An examination of the horrors or war is almost adolescent when compared to the dark games that took place in its aftermath, and this is where Ennis goes with his latest dig into The Boys’ history. This is a secret history that is painfully familiar, even our real world history doesn’t haven’t Men in Tights.

It’s a good sign for the (admittedly short) future of The Boys, and there is some suitably craggy artwork from the mighty John McCrea in this issue. The artist started with some watercolored bleh-ness in Troubled Souls, moved into some sharp and fluid characterization in Hitman (thanks largely to some sterling efforts from the criminally underrated Gary Leach) and is now in a whole new world with a craggy line on recent comics that looks rushed, but conceals hidden depths.

The Boys is coming up strong on its end, but gets even more mighty with every issue, and it’s a tale of corrupting power that is always worth reading.

(Sorry if this one was a bit vague, but it's 11.53pm on a Saturday night and I'm DRUNK as FUCK, and rocking out to some Ennio Morricone with some clearskin red wine, so this is as good as it gets...)

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