Review by Will Morgan
An earlier critic of The Boys in general, not this specific volume, once observed that watching the dark parodies of classic super heroes behaving in this twisted thriller was “Raping my childhood”.
Well, if you feel like that, Silver Agers, get ready to have your childhood spit-roasted in the prison showers, because this time around, Garth Ennis has in his sights one of the most fiercely beloved teams of all – the Legion of Super-Heroes!
With suspicions arising about Hughie’s loyalties, Butcher diverts him with a nothing-much assignment – surveilling ‘Superduper’, described as “Eternal teenagers from the future, kept around strictly for the nostalgia market”. Superduper, who would charitably struggle to qualify as C-List, have recently been assigned a new leader, Malchemical, one of the most twisted known “supes”, and Butcher’s ostensible reason for the gig is to see if Vought-American are beefing up Superduper to become a serious threat.
With abilities that straddle the line between powers and handicaps, the genuinely well-meaning likes of Bobby Badoing, Black Hole, and Kid Camo are baffled and terrified by their new ‘Leader’, whose tenure turns out to be a punishment for him, rather than any attempt to ‘darken’ the team. The rare innocents and idealists in the Vought-American pantheon, they’re on the verge of being injured by a resentful Malchemical when Hughie intervenes, having, predictably, become fiercely protective of the Superduper folks.
Darick Robertson, always adept at capturing the abruptly shifting moods of the series, excels in this story, portraying the idealistic but maladroit Superduper crowd with a genuine warmth and affection despite the gross comedy and all-out mockery asserted by the script. Granted, it’s not difficult to parody the likes of Bouncing Boy and Matter-Eater Lad, but to do so in such a light-hearted manner without malice is rare, and pleasing.
The ‘Innocents’ in the second story are the public, particularly the devout Christian sector of it who are prime contributors to the Vought-American coffers. A faith-based convention in New York’s Central Park is marked by the fruition of the Homelander’s plan, and the enlisting of all the ‘supes’ for a revolutionary movement. Traditionally, the Grand Prize winners get dinner with the A-list superhero, but this year, something less pleasant is on the menu – and they’re only the tip of the iceberg. Ennis manages to push even further in the selection of taboos the ostensible ‘heroes’ violate, but the shudders are leavened by Frenchie and the Female’s risible undercover masquerade as doting parent and precocious child. That said, the sequence with Oh Father and the Sidekicks Twelve will make most folks cringe.
Mid-story, Darick Robertson departed as the series’ artist, though he continued to provide covers for the regular title. His replacement was Russ Braun, who proves an admirable stand-in, infusing a more heroic appearance to most of the characters (and thus making their heinous acts more vivid), while retaining the scruffy, kinetic energy of Robertson’s work.
There are several unpleasant revelations both for and concerning Hughie. Among these dramas, the revelation of who the Boys’ mole in the Seven is comes almost as a sidebar. The infuriated and sickened Hughie storms off home to Scotland, which is the setting for the next volume, Highland Laddie.