Contrary to what is probably believed about me, considering the length of the articles I write here, I hate talking. That’s not to say that I don’t like a good conversation. Quite the contrary; give me an interesting subject with at least one knowledgeable participant, and a lengthy discussion becomes an exercise in great, dramatic fun. Still, one of the biggest problems with knowledge is that some of the magic is taken away. Houdini is, suddenly, not as impressive when you know that mirrors made things appear to disappear and he had keys in hidden pockets to aid his death-defying escapes. And let’s not even BEGIN with my dismay at discovering that my favorite pro-wrestler, Sting, wasn’t trying to kill his opponent when he slapped on the Scorpion Deathlock. Sometimes I sigh and wish for the more innocent days when I could believe everything I see/saw.
Published in 2007, written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Darick Robertson, The Boys vol. 01: The Name of the Game is a very interesting story that explores a subject which I, honestly, had never considered: What if our superheroes weren’t really all that heroic in private?
By now, most people who have read my work know that I am an avid fan of the “Big Blue Boy Scout,” Superman, but if you weren’t aware of that, you are now. I love the story of the alien who’s a better human than any of us and who is trying to show us the way. Superman is the heroic ideal; he makes mistakes sometimes, but his fight has always been right and just, and his decisions have always been to sacrifice for the greater good. But, what if that was only hid public face? What if, in his private times, Superman was a sex-crazed, narcissistic misogynist who didn’t need delusions of grandeur, because he was basically a demi-god? What if Thor used his powers haphazardly and the people he was, supposedly, protecting were constant, collateral-damage? What if the Hulk…? Ok, bad example. But, what if our heroes weren’t quite so heroic? That’s where The Boys come in.
Led by Butcher, The Boys are a team, backed by the US government, whose only purpose is to reign in super-powered “heroes” and to do so by any means necessary. And while that’s an interesting story in its own right, it’s the reasons that motivate this group that give this story its life. From one of the team watching as a “super” killed his new fiancé, albeit accidentally- but with little remorse, to another living with the nightmare of knowing that one of the “heroes” raped his wife and she died when the super-powered fetus emerged from her womb, this team is bent on keeping the supers in check. Of course, there are some catches. The biggest catch being: you have to be a super to control the supers. Now, I don’t want to spoil it too much for you, but let’s just say that, in the world The Boys live in, there are no aliens or accidental radioactive insect accidents, there is simply The Blue- a drug that can grant powers either temporarily or permanently depending upon the purity.
So, how do you control the supers once you have a motivated team of capable people waiting to take on the ones with the power? Espionage, of course. You record a manly hero in his less-than, acceptably, manly moments. Or you record them doing things the public would never believe or accept that those with powers might do, like steal drugs from a children’s hospital. Basically, you show the world that the super-humans are far too human, because the thing the supers most fear is not the authorities; it’s bad public relations.
The Boys is a great read. It is much less a comic book or comic book collection and much more a graphic novel, but if you want some escapist entertainment, it is an incredible ride. It’s sort of a James bond meets the Justice league or the Avengers adventure and what an adventure. One of the most telling signs of a good read is when you need to put it down, whether to eat or sleep or work, you find that you can’t do anything until you pick this book up and read just a little more, and that’s what I found here. This story was outstanding and the artwork was superb. The plot was clear and the graphic novel was well-written. Suffice it to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Now, if you’re not a fan of good writing or good stories, then this is not for you. However, for those of us looking to be entertained, The Boys have the right stuff. Read it, you’ll love it. One word of caution: this story is written- and drawn- with adults in mind, so please, keep out of the reach of children. Until next time.