Born #4 (of 4)

Born does not end well. #4 might have the most consistent look for Frank, but only because his face is in shadow most of the time. There’s some okay action gore, but it’s not the point of the issue. Ennis and Robertson spend about as much time resolving Stevie’s story as they do showing The Punisher being “born.” It’s way too much on the former, probably just right on the latter; because unless they were going to go symphony of violence, there’s no point.

Ennis is outside the historical Vietnam War here—the issue, along with Frank’s “transformation” (into a shockingly bad reveal panel which would be better suited setting up a Punisher zombie comic), is firmly Marvel comic book. Sure, it’s violent, sure, there’s swearing, but it’s “just” a comic. It’s “just” the Punisher’s origin reveal. What defines the finale—and, I guess, the series (though not really)—is what Ennis and Robertson don’t achieve, not what they do.

They do not achieve a great symbiosis of realistic war comics with super-anti-hero comics. They do not deliver a good war comic at all. Ennis gives up on Stevie’s narration; the opening page is it and it’s bad. Well, it’s trite and obvious but not bad as war comic narration. It’s just not Stevie. No way that dude would expound this narration. Doesn’t matter because there’s only a page of it. A page and a panel. Then it’s all action until the Voice comes back. And, wow, is the Voice stuff not written anywhere near well enough. All that mystery, all that lack of personality, it bits Ennis right on the ass.

There’s a “sort of” answer to the question about Frank’s experience of the voice, but the answer quickly proves to be a fake. Series editors Nick Lowe and Joe Quesada do an exceptionally bad job on Born. Its failings are comically editorial. No pun intended. Ennis also takes the time to resolve some of the other open “subplots,” but really just a check-in on the characters we’ve met and not cared about during the series. It’s weird; it’s a weird, weird failure. It’s cheesy. Three-ish times. Sure, it’s violent and cheesy one of those times, but Robertson’s good at the gore, not really the action. And it’s hard to see where Ennis is interested. The Stevie third of the comic—unless you count when he’s in the background and you can’t recognize him and it doesn’t matter anyway—is particularly rote.

The issue’s acceptably competent, technically speaking, but it’s not even a cop out. Instead of calling it The Final Day, they just should have done The Final Issue because it’s so imaginatively inert… it’s nothing but that.

And did Paul Gulacy do the last page? Because definitely looks like a Gulacy eye.

Born #3 (of 4)

Well, the Voice is back. And Ennis tries to do something really ambitious with Stevie, which has nothing to do with the Voice, nothing to do with Frank, nothing to do with Born really, and literally gets cut-off because there’s not enough room for it. Not with the Voice stuff, not with the conclusion.

But first there’s the opening, which is some very purple exposition set to images of the war, specifically how American soldiers conducted themselves in Vietnam. It’s too well-written and too effective to be believable from Stevie, who has a scene following where he’s musing about American Imperialism to a disinterested Angel has Stevie has none of that vocabulary.

So, follow that grandiose opening, it’s pretty clear #3 isn’t going to be an uptick from #2 like #2 was an uptick from #1. And not in the art department either. Robertson has to do this scene where Frank thinks about killing someone before committing; he reflects on it, turns it over in his head. Robertson can’t keep his facial features the same from panel to panel, much less show a thought process on his face. It’d be a bad scene anyway, especially since it kicks off the reappearance of the Voice.

The Voice has two big problems at this point. First, it’s still not clear Frank’s hearing the Voice. Not like Robertson’s going to be able to show it (probably not even if it was obvious versus nuanced). Second, given how much work Ennis put into Stevie’s narration, shouldn’t he have put in equal time on the Voice. Because the Voice could be the reader. The Voice could be Ennis. The Voice could be anyone. And it’s not. It’s no one. It just blathers on ominously.

Then there’s Stevie and Angel getting into it about Stevie being an oblivious white dude. Angel knows there’s nothing waiting at home, so why not at least get high in ‘Nam where it’s not your federal government trying to kill you with the same drugs. That bit’s implied but it’s definitely implied. Like, Angel knows what’s up. To a shocking degree.

He’d have made a much better narrator.

The conflict of ideals—Stevie’s dumb white boy liberal ones versus Angel’s reality based Black guy ones—never goes anywhere because it’s time for the enemy to invade, leading to some Punisher money shots. The two-page spread showing the enemies attacking falls a little short. Robertson’s not going to wow with the art, no matter what he shows. It’s too far gone for that.

It’s a strange issue. There’s some really good writing from Ennis, but never when it counts. And his attempt at the race subplot plays way too slight. If he’s not going to take it seriously, why should the reader?

Born #2 (of 4)

This issue—titled The Second Day, so we can guess what the next two issue’s titles are going to be—focuses more on Stevie. Or at least, it’s always from Stevie’s perspective. Frank has a big money shot action sequence, but it’s still Stevie seeing (and reacting). Ennis also reveals a bit more about Stevie’s experience in Vietnam; turns out Angel saved his life so now where Angel goes, Stevie goes. Even when Angel goes to get his fix and Stevie has to drag him out to go on patrol and the racist smack dealer threatens them.

If Stevie and Frank are the leads, Angel is the main supporting cast member, just because he’s still taking care of Stevie; getting him to think less about the terrible things they see, terrible things they may do. One could be overly complimentary and say Ennis is subtle about Angel’s character development. Thin would probably be more accurate. Because even though Born is a comic about the Vietnam War, but it’s also a Punisher comic. So there’s a big Frank action sequence with a very big gun. But then there’s a couple quiet, shocking scenes, which Ennis doesn’t seem to have thought through entirely. But when Stevie muses about “American through the looking-glass, lost in Vietnam” early in the issue (and you want to smack Stevie—and Ennis—for the purpleness but then high five Ennis for the period appropriate vernacular), it isn’t until after Frank gets through his quiet moments that line truly resonates. But then it comes apart a bit when Ennis can’t wrap it all up. And Robertson changes what Stevie looks like six times in two pages, which is actually worse than his seemingly randomly selected Frank faces.

With Born, Ennis avoids various project-related pitfalls. He doesn’t get overtly symbolic or make protracted comparisons; in fact, he avoids them. But it leaves him with two narratives, one of the internal Frank Castle, one of the external. This issue has zip on the internal. There’s Frank’s awkward attempt at bonding with Stevie, which seems like it gets a scene because it’d been a while since Frank had been in the issue and Ennis wanted to send things out not just with him but also with a minor, but pointless reveal.

Ennis really doesn’t seem comfortable trying to figure out the series’s potential. When he and Robertson do a gory action sequence—there are a couple great ones—or when Ennis does a shock twist or plot development, there’s enthusiasm to be sure. But there’s not a lot of ambition. Ennis’s ambition for Born seems to be in selling Stevie’s narration of the experience, particularly when he (Ennis) gets to be wordy about it.

Despite being more obvious in its Punisher-related money shots, the issue’s stronger than the first. Ennis is focused on Stevie’s experience of the day; Frank plays his part, but the structure is all about making Stevie the protagonist now. Especially the ending.

Where it seems like the Voice should or would make an appearance, but does not.

Frank’s kill count is something like seven this issue, six of them enemy combatants, one of them not. It’s where Ennis loses track of Frank… on the photo-Punisher stuff. It’s like he can’t pretend it’s not a stretch so he doesn’t even want to address it.

Born #1 (of 4)

Born is, twenty-nine years after his first appearance, the secret origin of The Punisher. How did Frank Castle go from being a regular Marine to being an unstoppable, relentless killing machine. Only, as the narrator explains, Frank was never a regular Marine. The narrator’s name is Stevie Goodwin, which seems like it’s got to be an homage to Punisher writer Archie Goodwin. I was never a big fan of Punisher comics before Garth Ennis, so I’m not sure if there are other references. Maybe it’s coincidental. I don’t know anything about Archie Goodwin’s Punisher other than it’s extant.

After some “Welcome to Vietnam” material, both with and without narration, Stevie (and Ennis) lay out the ground situation as it relates to Frank. Stevie’s got a ground situation too, but it’s going to have to sit.

Frank is on his third tour. It’s October 1971. The war is winding down. Frank’s first tour was for Tet, his second tour had him an assassin (or so the rumors go), his third tour he’s the only officer who cares at an almost forgotten outpost near the Cambodian border. The base is in disarray; half-manned, Frank’s platoon the only guys not strung out on heroin or stoned. The CO is a mess, hiding in his office until the war is over. But Frank knows something is coming, he’s got his platoon out every day and they’re intercepting a lot of weapons.

Oh. Frank also has never had a man killed since he’s gotten to the base (Valley Forge).

The issue starts with Stevie, narrating about the base, about going home (he’s thirty-nine days short), about his imagined future, about Frank. The imagined future stuff, where Stevie thinks about how proud he’ll be of his wonderful future sons who will never know about Vietnam, where the rivers ran red with blood; he will never tell them.

Born #1 is full of great lines. Even when they’re totally wrong, they’re great (not historically wrong, or out of character, but the character is making an incorrect assertion).

Frank doesn’t get any great lines. He’s purely functional. In fact, his first scene to himself—reporting to his CO about the patrol, which has a bunch of action—ends with writer Ennis and penciller Darick Robertson having a non sequitur, partly due to Robertson’s inability to keep characters looking consistent. Frank never seems to look the same, not even on the same page; his head changes size and shape, features become more and less pronounced. Is it supposed to be intentional, like you can’t ever truly see him? Probably not, as Robertson has the same problem with Stevie and the CO.

About the only guy he keeps consistent is the visiting general who Frank gets killed. Intentionally. And gets away with it. Because Frank’s got to keep his war going, or so, at the end of the issue, the voice tells him. The voice appears in black word balloons, white text. Frank doesn’t react in anyway to the voice. Is it his voice? If so, then why’s it got a separate first person perspective. Is the voice the Devil. Is it Mephisto (no, it’s not, spoiler time). Is it… The Punisher? How deep is Ennis going to go with this?

The issue ends on that question. Where’s Born going; Frank’s set up, the base is set up, the narrator is set up. The story title is The First Day… which doesn't refer to anything special for the characters. It’s not even the first time the Voice has shown up. It’s an effective story title, just maybe not an accurate or relevant one.

Ennis’s writing is mostly strong, always solid. Goodwin’s narration is long-winded but excellent. It’s a war story narration, it’s supposed to be purple. Goodwin never says what he’s going to do with himself, but Great American Novelist seems like a goal. He’s a white guy, after all, smart, thoughtful. The Frank-led scenes are fine. They’re well-written exposition, dumping a lot of information and context on the reader. Frank’s a man of few worlds, luckily everyone else likes to monologue to him.

Robertson’s art is… uneven. At least on things like characters’ heads and faces. It’s not just Frank he slips on. He handles the gore–Born is very bloody, which is part of the point; it’s the first Punisher MAX series, so even though the comic was able to get violent before, not exploding brains violent. I don’t think. They definitely weren’t saying “Fuck” all the time in the old War Journals though. Characters say it occasionally in Born #1, Ennis and Robertson both have showcase moments for it being “unrated.”

Robertson has some good panel layouts, some really good composition, but problematic detail. The weirdest thing about the art is the inker… it’s experienced, awesome Marvel inker Tom Palmer (who’d been inking comics back when The Punisher first appeared). You’d think he’d have… made the heads the same size, if not the faces similar. Frank does look the same a few times in the issue, it’s just they’re never in the same scene, much less same page.

But it’s okay. It’s all right. At the end of Born #1, it seems like Ennis has got things well in hand. Even if the Voice scene at the end is ominous for the wrong reasons.

The Incredible Hulk 75 (October 2004)

The Incredible Hulk #75

Here I thought Darick Robertson and Tom Palmer on the art would help….

It does help for a while. But the issue’s double-sized and once Doc Samson shows up, maybe a quarter of the way in, the art starts sliding.

Jones reveals the mastermind behind all of Bruce Banner’s troubles. It gets sillier when the villain explains all of it; the ludicrousness of Jones’s conspiracy doesn’t hold up well under examination.

There’s a slightly interesting gimmick, which Jones shuts down so he can bring back the supporting cast. I’m not sure how Nadia–just a regular small business owner in Nevada or somewhere–can get to L.A. in a matter of hours to help save the day. Worse, Tony Stark is around to hang out with Doc Samson. Wouldn’t it make more sense for Tony to help as Iron Man? Or maybe call the Avengers.

It’s a lousy comic.

D- 

CREDITS

Wake To Nightmare; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Darick Robertson; inker, Tom Palmer; colorist, Raul Trevino; letterer, Randy Gentile; editors, John Miesegaes and Axel Alonso; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Boys 72 (November 2012)

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And what does Ennis do for the finish? Pretty much exactly what I figured he’d do.

There’s nothing really new to it, except maybe some gesture of humanity from the corporate jerk, which makes one wonder why Ennis bothered. Darick Robertson comes back (with assists from Richard P. Clark). It makes sense, since Robertson created the series with Ennis, only Russ Braun’s been doing the book for ages….

Having Robertson back doesn’t remind of the good times. For better or worse, Ennis broke the comic to the point nothing could fix it. The new and improved Hughie is a laughable creation. I don’t think Ennis could get one natural scene out of him–first thing, he tries (and fails) to show the old Hughie shining through.

After not even faking caring for dozens of issues, Ennis attempts to put on a sincere face. It doesn’t work… but could be worse.

CREDITS

You Found Me; writer, Garth Ennis; artists, Darick Robertson and Richard P. Clark; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker 6 (December 2011)

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Ennis ends the series, his summing up of Butcher, with a quote from Unforgiven. He also includes a reference to himself in the comic, apparently when he was trying to get work at the superhero companies back in the eighties.

Anyway, ending on a quote from Unforgiven just shows how little Ennis cares about this comic. I knew he didn’t care when he totally skipped over a Boys version of Spider-Man, which would have been awesome… at least if Ennis had been doing it towards the beginning of the run, before he’d lost interest.

What’s so amazing about the quote–I had other complaints, but it really overshadows them–is how it forces a comparison between the work Ennis has done and the work the movie’s done. And Ennis hasn’t done any work.

It’s easily the lamest thing I’ve ever seen him do. It’s stunningly incompetent, desperate and unprofessional.

CREDITS

Everyone of You Sons of Bitches; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker 5 (November 2011)

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Mallory shows up–the first time Robertson has drawn him–and the series becomes about what I expected in the second half. Sadly the first half mostly consists of Butcher reading his wife’s diary where she talks about the Homelander attacking her.

The diary goes on and on for pages. Not sure why Ennis thinks anyone would believe Mrs. Butcher had no idea what Butcher saw in her, which is how he ends the diary reading. It’s like he had the diary as one thing and then the character in two issues of the comic as someone else entirely. It’s weak writing.

The finish, with Butcher on his first mission for Mallory, is pretty good stuff. It’s Robertson doing something more akin to regular Boys, which is nice. Candlestickmaker hadn’t been giving him exercise lately. This issue lets him shine.

Still, it’s unclear why Ennis needed more than two issues.

CREDITS

Here Comes a Candle to Light You to Bed; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker 4 (October 2011)

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I have to give it to Ennis, he does come up with one hectic of a death scene for Butcher’s wife. I always assumed it was something similar to Hughie’s but no. Ennis and Robertson pace that sequence beautifully. The way Ennis gets there though, it has some problems.

One of the things Butcher does, regardless of its problems, is bring the reader out of the Boys universe. It’s Margaret Thatcher, it’s Falklands War, it’s real. Bringing in the superheroes at the end without any context… it’s jarring and it reminds the reader Ennis is just doing this series to cash in. It also appears the two things can’t exist at once; Ennis has never textured his scenes in the the regular series like he does here.

There’s not much else to say about the issue. The death of the brother is really contrived. It’s a cheap, somewhat effective issue.

CREDITS

The Last Time to Look On This World of Lies; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker 3 (September 2011)

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Why am I reading this comic? It’s a family drama this issue–oh, wait, Butcher meets the greatest woman in the world and she totally changes his life with her patience and inner beauty. Of course her death would send him over the cliff–she doesn’t die here, it’s way too soon, but I do think Ennis has established she does die.

It’s like a happy scene in a soap opera, page after page, over and over again. Ennis is completely incapable of writing these scenes honestly. I wonder if he had someone give him a list of trite romantic blather for them to recite.

Even Robertson has checked out a little. Drawing talking heads for terrible dialogue must have been annoying.

There’s not a good or honest moment in the entire issue. I kind of don’t want to read any more of it. I’ve entirely lost interest in Butcher.

CREDITS

It Must Be Love, Love, Love; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker 2 (August 2011)

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This issue is a bit of a summary nightmare. The opening stuff with the Falklands is okay, though Ennis has covered a lot of the same territory with Born. Butcher turns out to be a natural born killer, which should get him in more trouble than it does–and it might even do so, but Ennis falls back on summary for the last half of the issue.

When his family–not the dad though–shows up in the last few pages, I’d forgotten they were still around, like maybe they’d died at some point between the first and second issues and Ennis just forgot to cover it.

As always, the war history stuff is decent. It’s not great because it does center around Butcher and Ennis is trying to make it all fit together, but it’s decent.

With the Robertson art, the issue’s rather digestible, just not filling at all.

CREDITS

Harriet; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker 1 (July 2011)

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Besides the vaguely obviously device of Butcher narrating his tale to his dead father (in his casket, no less), Garth Ennis does a fairly decent job with this issue. In some ways, leaving Butcher a mystery–instead of giving him Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker (way too cute)–would have been better. However, given Ennis opens with Falklands War and then goes back to Butcher’s childhood in the seventies? It works.

Ennis’s big problem with The Boys is his lack of interest. He had a gimmick, he got tired of it, but he didn’t create characters strong enough to support a series without continuously imaginative plotting. Butcher, for example, is a caricature. Ennis hasn’t even given him generic details. So Candlestickmaker is actually something entirely new.

Darick Robertson (late of the regular series) returns; he does an outstanding job doing domestic turmoil and urban squalor.

It’s good, with no right to be.

CREDITS

Bomb Alley; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Maze Agency 17 (December 1990)

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It’s a religious cult mystery, along with some teenage lovers–one being the daughter of Jennifer’s friend. Barr doesn’t pause on his contrivances (it’s not just the daughter, but also Gabe’s religious history), just moves full steam ahead.

Only the setting is terrible and the characters all act really dumb. Maybe not Gabe and Jennifer, but the daughter gets busted running around with her boyfriend and her parents stay in the woods, which causes the rest of the issue’s events. It’s way too easy.

There’s a little character stuff between Gabe and Jennifer, only their romance has become boring. Barr doesn’t seem to have any long-term plots for them anymore. They’re boring.

Darick Robertson–a young Darick Robertson–does the art. He’s got ambitious panel composition, but no level of detail. With better art, the issue might pass easier, but it’s still not much good.

Maze’s on the skids.

CREDITS

Terrible Swift Sword; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Darick Robertson; inkers, Jim Sinclair and Keith Aiken; colorist, Susan Glod; letterer, Vickie Williams; editor, David Campiti; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

The Boys 42 (May 2010)

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Robertson has help on the art from Richard P. Clark. Not sure it’s actually help, given there are some really weak panels. Especially towards the end.

Yeah, so… the end of Super Duper arc. Ennis introduces the ultra violence of The Boys into the Super Duper household and it terrifies the kids. Butcher terrifies the kids, almost as much as the villain does.

And it might show the problem with this approach in the series. Ennis never really spends time with real people–at least not ones with real emotions–and so, when he does, it breaks the way the comic works.

There’s some ominous stuff and the end and a big internal argument over the way the Boys work, but it’s not enough to make the arc seem worthwhile. Ennis just had to resolve Butcher’s suspicions about Hughie; he came up with a lame way to play it out.

CREDITS

The Innocents, Part Three; writer, Garth Ennis; artists, Darick Robertson and Richard P. Clark; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 41 (April 2010)

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Butcher’s suspicions–instead of him just resolving them–play out with spying and so on. It makes him less of a character. Ennis is now playing him for laughs. It’s a very strange misfire.

The best scene in the comic isn’t actually with any of the Boys. Well, except a funny flashback. Otherwise, the best scene is when the sincere den mother of Super Duper talks down the team’s new leader. Ennis is actually really good at sincerity, though he seems embarrassed about it.

Also trying is all the dating stuff with Annie and Hughie. Way to suck the life out of the characters. She’s thinking of quitting and is now boring. Hughie’s just his regular wholesome self, which is similarly boring.

The arc isn’t shaping up well. Ennis would have done better with just a Super Duper limited series. They’re a whole lot more interesting than a suspicious Butcher.

CREDITS

The Innocents, Part Two; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 40 (March 2010)

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Ennis takes the Butcher finding out about Hughie and Annie thing in an unexpected direction. It makes Butcher suspicious Hughie’s a double agent, which leads to a couple lengthy talking heads scenes of Hughie being normal and Butcher being suspicious.

The first such scene is fine. The second’s practically unbearable. It just goes on and on.

There’s also some stuff with the bad corporate guys talking about the Homelander. Ennis is setting up for something big down the line and not being coy about it.

And he introduces another super team–Super Duper. They’re his riff on the original Legion of Super-Heroes. Lame powers, innocent minds.

There’s not much to the issue. The Super Duper heroes are apparently sweet, Butcher is suspicious–he talks to the Legend about it for another lengthy talking heads scene–and so on… but Ennis really doesn’t do anything.

His plotting seems checked out.

CREDITS

The Innocents, Part One; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Maze Agency Annual 1 (August 1990)

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The annual has three stories. The first has Rick Magyar, Darick Robertson and William Messner-Loebs illustrating a Spirit homage. It’s a lot of fun; Barr’s script for it is very fast. Gabe’s on a mission, runs into Jennifer, both having Spirit references in their appearance. It’d be impossible to tell the story without the art angle. Very nice opening.

Sadly, the second story just goes on and on. Allen Curtis is a mediocre artist and Barr asks him to do a lot. The mystery involves a corpse in a moving box. It takes forever to get going, then Barr rushes the big finale. Curtis doesn’t draw characters distinctly enough; two suspects look exactly the same, making the end confusing.

The last story–with Adam Hughes pencils and Magyar inks–is a reprint of a convention special. The mystery’s solution is confounding, but the excellent art makes up for it.

B- 

CREDITS

A Night at the Rose Petal; artists, Rick Magyar, Darick Robertson and William Messner-Loebs; colorists, Michelle Basil and Susan Glod; letterer, Vickie Williams. Moving Stiffs; penciller, Allen Curtis; inkers, Keith Aiken and Jim Sinclair; colorists, Basil and Glod; letterer, Williams; Murder in Mint Condition; penciller, Adam Hughes; inker, Magyar; colorist, Glod; letterer, Bob Pinaha. Writer, Mike W. Barr; editors, Michael Eury and David Campiti; publisher, Innovation Publishing.

The Boys 38 (January 2010)

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Lots of jokes for the Female’s origin too. Frenchie has to tell it to Hughie, but there’re a few implications it’s an accurate retelling.

Ennis plays it for violence and for laughs. The Female ingests the superhero juice as a baby, which leads to her being a caged killing machine from birth. She escapes, learns of the world, gets recaptured. During one of those outings, Ennis does an homage to Aliens with one of the fire team repeating all of Bill Paxton’s memorable lines.

Very funny.

He opens the issue with humor too, about the Female’s family history. Those parts are probably the best, as Ennis is examining the nature of the origin story and its uses. It gets one in the right mindset to digest the issue.

There’s some great gross art from Robertson–I don’t think the Female’s methods have been visualized before–and an unexpected, solid ending.

CREDITS

The Instant White-Hot Wild; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 37 (December 2009)

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Ennis tells Frenchie’s story, which he does mostly for laughs. Robertson gets the humor well–the setting, a tranquil French village, helps a lot.

There aren’t any surprises–Hughie even goes so far as to doubt its veracity–and only a couple real standouts. The first is short but awesome. As Frenchie recounts a touching summer love affair, Robertson’s art shows its baser reality. Might also be funnier because Frenchie’s mom and dad are in the room.

The second bit comes at the end, a little in-joke for Ennis readers. He repeats a moment from “Preacher,” only this time the Frenchman is the good guy and the American is the bad.

It’s a cute little done-in-one but there’s really nothing to it. Frenchie’s comic relief and Ennis doesn’t try to stretch him into something else. Ennis doesn’t even take the time to properly wrap up the flashback.

CREDITS

La Plume De Ma Tante Est Sue La Table; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 36 (November 2009)

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Once again, Ennis avoids the big question the flashback raises. Hughie and Mother’s Milk are still talking–I think Hughie went for coffee–and there’s a bit more back story. Not a lot. Ennis skips about fourteen years. He does get in a big fight scene, which Robertson draws quite well.

But the issue–as none of the Mother’s Milk stuff really matters–is about the plans to put up the Freedom Tower in New York. Or whatever it’s going to be called. Ennis is using The Boys to talk about it being a dumb idea; given the last page, one would assume he’d go for rebuilding the World Trade Center.

As Brad Pitt once put it… “But you make it one floor taller.”

It’s an interesting use of a periodical and a love letter to New York City from an aficionado. Shame there isn’t a compelling story too.

CREDITS

Nothing Like It In The World, Part Two; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 35 (October 2009)

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Ennis gets to Mother’s Milk’s story–and hints at something to do with the Female’s. M.M.’s story is a doozy. Ennis takes a somewhat traditional story–the giant corporation knowingly poisoning people with toxic waste–and adds the superhuman element.

It’s devastating at times, even with some of the more amusing visuals. It’s like Ennis and Robertson are setting up jokes, then knocking the reader for being shallow enough to prepare for them.

The only real problem is how Mother’s Milk tells the story. He just tells Hughie. It’s not just without prompting, Hughie’s busy asking about other things. M.M. just ignores those questions. The lack of a good delivery system is what hurts the story–especially since there’s no resolution to the big question the story raises.

Still, it’s a darn good issue. Robertson does some outstanding art; additionally, Ennis’s thoughtful 9/11 observations need airing.

CREDITS

Nothing Like It In The World, Part One; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 30 (May 2009)

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Ennis brings back a little of the series’s jovial spirit (jovial in a disturbed sense, of course), but not much of it.

He splits the issue between the Boys as they recover from the events of the previous issue and the evil company guys. The issue starts with an entirely unexpected, awful moment, but Ennis eases his way into it; he removes the shock value.

But he does get that shock value for the finish. There’s a lot of possible foreshadowing, a bit with Hughie’s emotional trauma; Mother’s Milk has the best scene in the issue. Until the shock finish, Butcher’s got about the weakest. Ennis gives Butcher a functional subplot, while everyone else just gets some time and space.

The end’s a surprise and a scary one.

It’s a fine issue; Ennis smartly gives the series a breather. Robertson handles the seven or eight changes in tone quite well.

CREDITS

Rodeo Fuck; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Avina; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 29 (April 2009)

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I think I reread the finish to this issue five times. You want to go through and pick out the people dying so you can enjoy it.

Ennis never did find a story for this arc. It’s seven issues to have a brief conversation between Butcher and the evil corporate. The whole G-Men thing is something of a red herring; Ennis even finds a way to make the reader feel bad for enjoying it.

His ability to suck the humor out of the situation–and even the memory of the previous issues’ humor–is astounding.

Robertson’s art is great. He’s got a big sequence at the end, but the whole issue is a very difficult talking heads scene. He nails it.

There’s not much to say… It’s an excellently produced comic book; Ennis and Robertson know what they’re doing. The Boys has been serious before, but never this serious.

CREDITS

We Gotta Go Now, Conclusion; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Avina; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 27 (February 2009)

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Yeah, once again… not entirely sure why Ennis is dragging out this arc. Mother’s Milk’s investigation is downright interesting–the G-Men kidnap kids and shoot them up with the compound to turn them into G-kids or whatever–but there’s nothing else in the issue.

Butcher and Hughie both have Saint Patrick’s Day adventures. Hughie’s with the G-Wiz guys for a while; he comes up with an interesting explanation for their behavior. Ennis is branching out from X-Men jokes this issue, really considering things, but it’s unclear why. The G-Men seem like an aside.

Butcher’s Saint Patrick’s Day–Hughie eventually joins him–is basically jokes about people who get hammered on Saint Patrick’s Day. Then, later on, Ennis has some observations on American ethnic identity. It’s interesting stuff to talk about… in a bar maybe, but not necessarily to read about in a comic.

It’s filler.

CREDITS

We Gotta Go Now, Part Five; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Avina; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 25 (December 2008)

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There have been insightful parodies of Superman and Batman before–Ennis has done them in The Boys–but his take on Professor X is something unexpected. This whole “G-Men” arc is unexpected, but Ennis has an observation about Professor G I didn’t see coming. X-Men keep resurrecting because Professor X is a nut. Obviously, that observation isn’t accurate (comic publishing realities), but it does say something about the end product.

Besides that moment–and some amusing stuff at the G-Mansion where Ennis gets to make fun of the X-Men a little–there’s not much to Hughie’s plot in this issue. Sure, it’s funny, but Ennis’s subplot with Mother’s Milk investigating is much better.

The Frenchman and the Female both get some page time, but neither has anything to do. Butcher’s barely around, but his moment’s a funny one.

It’s okay. Robertson’s a little lazy. It’s fine.

CREDITS

We Gotta Go Now, Part Three; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Avina; letterer, Simon Bowland; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 24 (November 2008)

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At first, I was going to concentrate on Ennis using Animal House as the model for his X-Men teenage team knock-off. I haven’t read a teen X-Men book in a while, but I can’t believe Marvel would ever have the stones to do it so honestly. The knockoff scenes are funny enough (and very self-aware), but Ennis uses them to lead into Hughie and Annie’s romance subplot.

But then I realized this issue of The Boys might be the first where Ennis evenly distributes time between the cast. Hughie’s undercover, Butcher is hanging out with the Legend (they’re talking in foreshadowing), Mother’s Milk is investigating, the Frenchman and the Female are playing board games… It’s a very full issue.

Ennis doesn’t end on any kind of a cliffhanger, which leaves the finish dry, but it’s a solid issue. M.M.’s investigation is probably the best thing.

CREDITS

We Gotta Go Now, Part Two; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Avina; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 23 (October 2008)

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Well, Ennis gets to ripping on Marvel and, wow, does it ever go well for him. He goes for the X-Men, which I didn’t expect. There’s a lot about their popularity and the number of teams and so on. It’s all quite well-done.

There’s a definite change in tone (from DC to Marvel)–the Boys have a different kind of target. It’s nice Ennis is able to toggle between the two companies. I hadn’t expected him to cover the X-Men at all, much less so deftly.

There are a couple good subplot starts–these scenes are the issue’s more seriously–but the last page is simply amazing and makes one forget about everything else. Ennis goes for a big laugh and gets it; the rest of the issue just has smiles. Maybe he was building up.

Robertson’s art’s good. He gets to do both funny and gross.

CREDITS

We Gotta Go Now, Part One; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Avina; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 22 (August 2008)

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I’m not sure I get the point of Annie having to fend off a rape attempt from one of her teammates. Sure, it makes her closer to Hughie–and the Wonder Woman chick–but Ennis cliffhangs with Butcher finding video of her first assault. It feels more like he’s trying to fill pages, especially since there’s very little with the history lesson.

Hughie’s still with the Legend, still hearing the stories, but they’re not interesting stories. The Legend’s final comment is the biggest surprise in the issue, but it’s still just Ennis going for a cheap surprise.

Speaking of cheap, Matt Jacobs’s inks on Robertson are terrible. The first page looks Todd McFarlane, but it gets even worse. There are a few pages where characters don’t even look the same between panels. Robertson was clearly rushed and Jacobs really couldn’t handle the job.

The issue’s okay enough, but definitely lacking.

CREDITS

I Tell You No Lie, G.I., Conclusion; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Darick Robertson; inker, Matt Jacobs; colorist, Tony Avina; letterer, Simon Bowland; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 21 (August 2008)

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The Boys has been gross, it’s been mean, it’s been disturbing, but Ennis is at his most relentlessly depressing here. The superhero team tries to stop the last plane on 9/11 to disastrous results. There’s not even humor to the “funny” parts, because it’s just too much.

Ennis apparently set out to make an event worse than the actual one.

Robertson does well on the art. There’s implied conflict for the Wonder Woman analog and most of it comes from the art.

Ennis–possibly unintentionally–moves the series into a new position. Before, it was funny (clean or dirty) send-ups of familiar–DC–superheroes. But after this issue, featuring the incredible actions of the superhero team… it’s a condemnation of the genre. But a measured one, I suppose. The superheroes get their powers “realistically,” which might be an out. It’s a qualified condemnation.

It’s a bloody disturbing issue.

CREDITS

I Tell You No Lie, G.I., Part Three; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Avina; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 20 (July 2008)

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Ennis continues his recounting of superheroes in Boys world. It goes reasonably well–Butcher gets laugh during his chat with the Superman guy–but Ennis is too obvious with some of the other stuff.

He’s got Annie in trouble with one of her teammates, only she doesn’t know it yet. Foreshadowing! Maybe it’s Robertson. His quality is up and down this issue. At one point I thought he was doing an homage to young John Byrne, but after a few more awkward panels, I realized he’s just rushing.

The exposition still works, but the story’s not compelling enough. Ennis needs real wow moments to make the Boys superhero origin special and he doesn’t have any. Especially since he’s taking the time to explain the 9/11 reference. It worked better as a surprise versus a plot point.

It’s a pleasant enough read, but Ennis is dragging it on too long.

CREDITS

I Tell You No Lie, G.I., Part Two; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Darick Robertson; colorist, Tony Avina; letterer, Simon Bowland; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

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