So, I didn't love The Boys #1
But I'm really not bothered by it, not that much.
'Cause, see, I was describing the book to a buddy of mine at work today, and I figured out why my read wasn't as good as it could've, should've, would've been.
I expected the wrong thing.
Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not taking the blame, not entirely
. I expected the wrong thing largely because of Garth Ennis. After all, essentially the only
's done for this book is to quote ol' Garth saying this is the book that will "out-Preacher Preacher
Which not only seems impossible, given the scope and complexity and grandeur that was Preacher
(still among my two or three favorite comics ever, so don't take me for an Ennis-basher), but seems a bit crass, a bit self-effacing and cheap; you'd hardly expect Neil Gaiman to say his new book would "out-Sandman Sandman
," would you?
Here's the thing; Ennis has never written characters of the same depth as he wrote in Preacher
, and it's that element that separates it from the rest of his body of work. He's written effective, often incredibly powerful stuff (my favorites including the first run of War Stories
and the recent "The Slavers" arc in Punisher MAX
), but the sense of intimacy between writer and character hasn't been the same; Ennis really seemed to have his heart in Jesse and Cass, and it's dumb for us to expect he'd treat any other characters the same way. You wouldn't treat your wife the same way you treated your first girlfriend, after all. (Unless they were one and the same, but that's clouding the metaphor, unless you want to bring in a parallel like, say, Stan Sakai and Usagi Yojimbo
.) It'd be nice if Ennis could approach some characters in the future with the same loving hand, and I'm counting on the mythologized City Lights
collaboration with Steve Dillon to answer my prayers, but in the meantime I've got to take Ennis for what he's currently
trying to do, or I'm just gonna get myself frustrated and fuck up my own reading experience.
Anyway, here's the thing: The Boys
doesn't look, on the face of it, like it's going to try to replicate the emotional character depth of Preacher
; right out of the gate, it's looking like a much colder, crueler animal. Little Huey's "origin", brutally and breathlessly covered in the opening issue (and spoiled in one of Zilla's panel-du-jour posts
) isn't really meant to make us identify with the character; it's meant to make us do a double-take at the page and, probably, give a nasty little laugh at his misfortune. So, for me, that means taking the whole "outdoing Preacher
" expectation and dumps it in the trash.
And replacing it with a new expectation. One that actually makes me a lot more comfortable and confident being excited about this book.
I think we might be looking at a series that out-punishes Punisher
Not in terms of human darkness, which is the most recent strength Ennis has shown on that character. I'm thinking more of Ennis' Marvel Knights run on the book, which was often shaky, but when it was strong, was a gripping, exciting, entertaining read like nothing else on the stands. Why? Strategy
. Frank Castle's interior monologue and battle planning, under Ennis' pen, were great reading. There was a giddy thrill to reading how Castle had planned out every aspect of an encounter with his enemy, how he'd scoped out the site, set up the traps, prepared for every possibility, and - in a pinch - improvised with canny battle prowess. Made for a really fun time.
So, now, we're looking at a book in which ordinary people decide they've had enough of the super-powered heroes' bullshit and sets out to take them down. Which means that, even more than in Punisher MK
(which at its best set Castle mostly
against drug dealers and street gangs), we're looking at a team that's gonna have to use their heads and come up with really innovative, entertaining ways to kick the shit out of some super-heroes. The stakes are, I'll bet, raised as high as Ennis can imagine raising them. Remember how exciting it was when you first read Dark Knight Returns
and realized that normal(ish) human being Bruce Wayne had figured out how to whup Superman's ass?
I think, once we get past the formalities and have the book firmly on its way (that is, somewhere between issues 4 and 7), we're going to be getting something like that.
And a book like that just might have some legs.
Especially if it looks like this:
So, yeah, now that I've adjusted my own approach to reading this, I think it's gonna be pretty damn good.
IGN, incidentally, has several preview pages of the issue right here
. Please note that the preview includes the Little Huey origin spoiler I mentioned above, and it's probably more fun to just read the fucking thing.