The Boys 65 (April 2012)

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And Ennis comes up with a huge surprise reveal–before teasing a surprise in the next issue. He doesn’t go as far with it as he could; he basically does a Brubaker. He reveals something in the characters’ history to change everything they knew and so on. He doesn’t do a full Brubaker though. I was worried he’d go too far… instead, he goes just far enough. It’s an awesome twist.

It just doesn’t make for an awesome finish. Seeing the Air Force take out the superheroes probably ought to be cooler but it’s just an expository moment. Ennis doesn’t worry about giving the reader anything to care about. It’s an odd misstep, given his experience writing war comics.

But the finish, with Butcher, isn’t particularly good either. It’s a little bit of too much in one issue and too many tricks in one issue.

Still, the big twist rocks.

CREDITS

Over the Hills With the Swords of a Thousand Men, Conclusion; writer, Garth Ennis; artists, Russ Braun, John McCrea and Keith Burns; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 55 (June 2011)

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I guess I shouldn’t be surprised Ennis, McCrea and Burns screwed up the finish. Ennis has had problems wrapping up arcs before (though he’s also had some awesome wrap-ups). The real surprise should be reserved for how much everyone screws up, each one of them.

Ennis wraps up Mallory’s story, which gets a whole lot less interesting when it becomes all about Butcher. Ennis is trying to turn Butcher into the villain of the series, at least for now; it has the awkward added value of making the reader feel bad for liking Butcher. Readers should have seen through him, even if Hughie didn’t.

McCrea and Burns get progressively worse throughout. The Mallory stuff is almost okay but then there’s a lot of gag shots. They go for humor, the script doesn’t. The ending with Annie’s incompetent though. Awful art.

Ennis should stick to limited series at this point.

CREDITS

Barbary Coast, Conclusion; writer, Garth Ennis; artists, John McCrea and Keith Burns; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 54 (May 2011)

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Letting Mallory talk so much has an odd effect on The Boys. This issue is another long read, just because there’s so much information; Ennis covers from the end of World War II to 1985 in Mallory’s life. There are also the hints of Butcher’s deceptions, things Ennis and Mallory are both promising to reveal.

The additional effect is more delicate. Ennis sets up Butcher and Mallory on different ends of a spectrum, but not just as characters, as his creations. Butcher is the expected Ennis protagonist–head-strong, funny, stand up guy to his friends. Mallory is the one who can sit back and think, who is old enough to consider. It’s like Butcher’s the character Ennis is expected to write and Mallory’s the one he wants to write.

It’s a good one. The war art from McCrea and Burns continues to impress, as does Ennis’s narration for Mallory.

CREDITS

Barbary Coast, Part Three; writer, Garth Ennis; artists, John McCrea and Keith Burns; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 53 (April 2011)

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It’s another war issue and it’s a good one. Burns and McCrea continue to do excellent work; one knows Ennis can handle a good war comic, but the artists stepping up is nice to see. He wasted them on the goofy Boys stuff.

Hughie is still listening to Mallory tell his story, only there’s nothing for Hughie in this issue. You can always tells what subject Ennis actually wants to explore and here it’s World War II. There are the superheroes, and they’re analogues of a lot of the Golden Age guys, but Ennis doesn’t really spend any time with them. He doesn’t even go for jokes because the comic’s too serious for them.

Except for one Hawkman joke. But its punch line isn’t funny.

Ennis’s plotting is so strong, his narration for Mallory so good, it takes until after the issue’s over to realize it’s such a fast read.

CREDITS

Barbary Coast, Part Two; writer, Garth Ennis; artists, John McCrea and Keith Burns; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 52 (March 2011)

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Ennis finally gets to do not just an Invaders story, he also gets to do a war story in The Boys. It’s Mallory’s story, which he’s telling Hughie after Highland Laddie. Oh, and Annie’s around. She and Hughie still aren’t getting along, which is strange because I thought they were after Laddie.

It’s a lot of talking. On and on with the talking, whether it’s Mallory recapping Laddie and telling Hughie about Mother’s Milk and Butcher or if it’s Annie’s rather expository explanation of she and Hughie’s troubles… It feels like Ennis thinks he’s at a jumping on point or something. It’s very strange; I don’t think he’s ever gone so expository before. Maybe it’s because of Laddie.

Until the war stuff, it’s kind of boring. The dialogue’s well-written, just pointless.

McCrea and Burns do a pretty good job. They’ve gotten a lot tougher, less cartoony.

It’s okay enough.

CREDITS

Barbary Coast, Part One; writer, Garth Ennis; artists, John McCrea and Keith Burns; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Highland Laddie 6 (January 2011)

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Ennis doesn’t pull it off. There’s a huge connection to the regular Boys series, which seems rather forced, and the artists screw up the final shot of Annie so it’s unclear what’s going on with her and Hughie.

Highland Laddie ought to be amazing. It ought to be Local Hero as a comic book, with some superhero details and so on, but it’s just a mess instead. McCrea and Burns do an amazing disservice to the great parts of Ennis’s script.

Still, Ennis does a lot of the disservice himself. He’s got to know the good stuff–he filled the first few issues with it–but he doesn’t stick to it. He rushes again here, not even able to do a good reveal with Hughie’s friends’ resolutions.

And the intentional lack of resolution with the parents? It could have worked, but it doesn’t. Just like Hughie’s apologies.

It’s incredibly disappointing.

CREDITS

Made From Girders; writer, Garth Ennis; artists, John McCrea and Keith Burns; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Highland Laddie 5 (December 2010)

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Yeah, Ennis’s rehabilitation of Annie continues big time. So does McCrea and Burns’s terrible rendition of her–at one point her eye is in front of her hair. Very creepy.

After going too slow the last issue, Ennis goes too fast this time. There’s the whole English guy who hangs out with Hughie, there’s stuff with his parents, there’s a lot with Annie… not to mention the smuggling subplot coming to a head. Or starting to come to a head, just in time for a cliffhanger.

It’s just too much and it hurts some of the better moments in the book. Ennis doesn’t pull off whatever he’s trying. The bad art has a lot to do with the failings, but he’s also got too many pots on.

His attempts to resolve the various subplots doesn’t leave enough time for any of them. Hopefully he’s got a good finish planned. Hopefully.

CREDITS

Wisdom of the Ages; writer, Garth Ennis; artists, John McCrea and Keith Burns; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Highland Laddie 4 (November 2010)

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Ennis backtracks on quite a bit here with Annie. It appears she was never really the good Christian superhero Ennis wrote her being. Instead, she’s always been aware she’s a corporate product and a successful one.

If he always meant to do this revelation, he sure didn’t write for it. There were a lot of times Annie had her own story arcs in the main series and things don’t fit anymore.

Besides her telling Hughie all about herself, there’s a little with the bad guys. Those scenes are kind of pointless, especially since Ennis is working on the flunkies being unreliable. The flunkies aren’t characters, so they give them a subplot all their own?

All of a sudden Highland Laddie has become a Boys arc. Not a bad thing to be, but very unfortunate since the series started out as something completely different.

The weak art continues to hurt it.

CREDITS

A Young Man’s Fancy; writer, Garth Ennis; artists, John McCrea and Keith Burns; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Highland Laddie 3 (October 2010)

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Another excellent issue, save the art. When Annie shows up at the end, I didn’t even recognize her. I thought for a minute Ennis was bringing in one of Hughie’s childhood crushes.

Otherwise, like I said, excellent. Even with the flashes to Boys events, the series feels completely removed from it. If Highland Laddie does actually exit Hughie from the main series, it’d be kind of perfect. Ennis built up a character in a fantastical world, only to send him off into reality.

But I doubt Hughie’s going anywhere.

There are a couple really nice flashback scenes, if occasionally disgusting. Ennis does try a little hard to show Hughie’s awareness at his demeanor and what he blames for that situation; the nice relationships with friends and family make up for the obviousness though.

It’s a shame Ennis doesn’t have a better artist. McCrea doesn’t begin to convey the script’s depth.

CREDITS

Beware the Jabberwock, My Son; writer, Garth Ennis; artists, John McCrea and Keith Burns; colorist, Tony Aviña; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

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