The Boys is a comic book written by Garth Ennis, the author Preacher, and drawn by Darick Robertson, who is most notable for his work on Transmetropolitan.
The book follows the adventures of the CIA backed team: The Boys. In a world where superheros have no morals and are only in the hero business for the fame and royalties from their action figures. The group is formed to keep an eye on them and stop them from going too far in their ignorant and half-hearted attempts at heroism.
The book is notable for its extreme violence and sexuality, which has lead to criticism and even its cancellation by DC. Luckily it was soon picked up by Dynamite Entertainment. In my opinion, the book benefits from the extreme violence. It presents a more realistic, if satirical, picture of what happens when you get punched in the face by someone with super-strength. Your nose explodes into a bloody mess.
Though it seems to be a satirical take on the superhero genre at first, it soon becomes clear, through Ennis' excellent storytelling, that it is much deeper and more complex then that. It is the tale of some pretty messed up people trying to protect their world from reckless and amoral "heroes". The Boys are a team of five, with the focus placed on two key members, Billy Butcher, the leader, and Wee Hughie, a Scottish conspiracy buff and the newest recruit.
The five main characters all have their own problems to deal with; from Butcher's resentment of the "heroes" for the raping and subsequent death of his wife as a super powered baby burst out of her womb, to the Female, who cannot even be touched by another person save for the Frenchman because of the trauma she suffered. They realise that the "heroes" cannot be allowed free reign over the world and they direct all their anger and resentment towards this goal. If this means a few super powered throwdowns along the way then all the better for us.
The art of the book is incredible, Robertson provides vibrant and well paced artwork that compliment the story and characters perfectly. His panel placement is spot on and his art tells us as much about the characters as any conversation. He expertly conveys the characters emotions and mood. He and Ennis play off of each other incredibly well, and it's easy to tell they have worked together before and understand each other's styles.
The writing is typical Ennis. It's at times juvenile and at times touching and poignant, but he ties it all together amazingly with his trademark humor. He opens the first issue with the line "I'm gunna fucking have you. You cunts." and provides some truly memorable one liners throughout.
Ennis has a knack for crafting complex and emotionally damaged characters. He blends the satire and adolescent humor together with poignancy, complex character development and high-octane visceral action sequences. Though, some individual issues can move along slowly, when taken as part of the overall story-arc it becomes clear that they were written with the trade paperbacks in mind.
The only complaint I have about the series is the misogynystic undertones. There are three prominent female characters and they are the most damaged and hurt. This is highlighted by the CIA director, who is portrayed as little more then Butcher's booty call rather then the independant and forceful woman you would assume she would be.
There are several scenes of graphic sex throughout the series, during which, the Director is shown to be self loathing. It's revealed that she has a husband and children, but has no problem sleeping with Butcher regularly. She seems to be more of Butchers "bitch" then she is a family woman, however, this supposed theme of misogyny is contrasted by the character of Starlight. Though at first she seems ready to abandon her beliefs to get ahead in life she later comes to greatly regret her actions and we are shown how vulnerable and unsure she is.
My other complaint is that every storyline is fundamentally the same. They have a target, they go after them, and there is a massive fight with copious amounts of blood, then they all go home happy. This outline is rarely varied from and though initially exciting and fresh, I quickly wished for a bit more variation. Thankfully the supporting characters, such as former Russian superhero Love Sausage and aged comic book creator The Legend, help to make the stories fresh and provide some truly laugh out loud moments.
All in all, The Boys is a series well worth getting into if you can look past the initial adolescent humor and extreme violence. The characters, artwork, and overall story telling make this a remarkable series that has only gotten better as it has gone on, and it looks as though the series will continue to progress and develop as one of the best comics currently available.