Review by Will Morgan
Spoilers in review
By this final volume of The Boys, their mission – to keep the undisciplined superhumans in check – is virtually redundant.
But Billy Butcher isn’t done. Having avenged his wife’s death, he has a further agenda: to ensure that the Supes’ threat can’t return, leaving the world safe for untainted humanity. And since ‘V’s been around since the 1930’s, seeping into the food chain of the planet, that’s a lot of people.
Butcher’s goal of a ‘V’-free planet will of course include his own destruction, a prospect he’s faced with indifference since his wife’s death, but in this final stretch, Butcher must eliminate any potential opposition. Last man standing is Hughie, who’s come closest to serving as a conscience to Butcher, and the only person who’s scratched a niche into Butcher’s long-dead heart.
The final confrontation takes place on one of the iconic New York landmarks glowingly portrayed throughout the series. Garth Ennis’ love of Manhattan is so manifest from the beginning that the city becomes effectively another player in the saga.
The review of the first volume stated that, despite appearances, The Boys was a love story. It’s actually two. One between Hughie and Annie January; the other, non-romantic one, between Hughie and Butcher. Two men who have come to love each other are brought to the point where one must die at the other’s hand.
There’s a final chapter, set months later. Founding artist Darick Robertson returned for this, which many thought appropriate. No slight on Robertson’s work, but Russ Braun, since taking over the art, had made the series his, and Braun’s finest moments are in this final volume. Mother’s Milk has a conversation with his errant daughter, where he learns the extent of Butcher’s machinations; MM’s heartrending showdown with Butcher; the point at which Frenchie and the Female shake off cliché plot devices and become people; the chilling epiphany of Vought-American executive Jess Bradley, when she realises exactly what her intended role has been all along; these are delivered in Braun’s deceptively clear, almost-bigfoot style, and would be so easy to overdo, given the physical horrors involved, yet their emotional nuance hits harder than all the viscera. The coda should have been left for Braun.
Nevertheless, what we have is satisfactory. We discover the fates of a couple of long-standing characters unmentioned in the main narrative’s finale, and Hughie is reunited with Annie, the ‘Supe’ who stole his heart. Two people, at least, get a hard-earned happy ending.
Garth Ennis is a hugely inconsistent writer. On form, he’s the best in the business, but much of his work reads like it’s been plonked out to pay the gas bill. The wobbles and dips in The Boys, though, have been few and minor. It’s a hell of a ride, held by many to be his finest work to date.