The Boys #71 is here, and with it comes the end of one of the best series in comics. I know, I know, there’s still another issue left, but that’s just the aftermath. For all intents and purposes, this is the last issue of “The Boys” as we know them, and it delivers in spades. HEAVY spoilers follow, so if you’re reading this to figure out if you should buy this issue, or start this series, do yourself a favor: close your browser and go grab every issue. Thank me later.
WRITTEN BY: Garth Ennis
ART BY: Russ Braun
PUBLISHER: Dynamite Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 3rd, 2012
There isn’t much to say about the art in this one. Russ Braun, as always, does a phenomenal job. Since this issue is, basically, a conversation between two people – and a brief aside to a slowly unraveling woman watching a television screen – there isn’t much to analyze beyond Braun’s character work, and he nails everything. Butcher coming to terms with the situation and his failure, Hughie panicking from his own blood loss, Ms. Bradley clawing her hair out; all of it is conveyed beautifully. I doubted Braun when he replaced Darick Robertson on this series, and I was completely wrong. He’s proven more than capable of replacing Robertson, and – dare I say – has surpassed him on this series. It’s his last issue though, as Robertson makes his long awaited return for the finale next month.
As for the story, well, it’s just a conversation between Wee Hughie and Billy Butcher, both crippled from their fall from the top of the Empire State Building all the way down to… well, a few stories below. What, you didn’t think they’d fall all the way down, did you? Hughie’s femoral artery has been punctured, and Butcher’s neck is broken, and now they’ve got nothing left to do but resolve what differences they have in the time they have left together. It’s revealed that Butcher had half-heartedly intended to give Hughie the chance to talk him out of it, like his little brother had stopped him from killing his dad. While Hughie wasn’t able to talk Butcher out of his actions, Butcher’s sympathy for Hughie and his “moral streak” stayed his hand long enough for Butcher’s plans to come to an inadvertent stop.
Fans can be forgiven for getting annoyed with Hughie over the course of the series for never really progressing as a facilitator of violence. Despite the people he’s surrounded with and the ample motivation he’s given, Hughie never becomes the blood-thirsty, vengeance-obsessed killer comic fans are conditioned to their protagonists becoming. But as it turns out, this quality in Hughie is what ultimately saves the day just by being “a decent fuckin’ bloke.”
In addition to all this, we see the – rather predictable, but no less satisfying – betrayal of Ms. Bradley by Stillwell, who places all the blame of the entire superhero fiasco squarely on her shoulders. Bradley, realizing her entire ascent to power in Vought was part of a contingency strategy on Stillwell’s part, proceeds to lose it, tearing her hair out. We’ll hopefully see how that plays out in the next issue.
Butcher offers some last advice to Hughie – to get back together with his girlfriend and find happiness in that. He denounces “all that macho shit,” and, in one of the few moments of happiness we see Butcher have, confesses that “men are only so much use. Men are boys.” Which, in many ways, gets to the heart of what the series has been about. It’s an indictment of the machismo culture that surrounds mainstream comics – even as The Boys reveled in it –as much as it is about the self-destructive militaristic, gung-ho attitudes of American foreign policy and the rise of the highly unethical, dangerous military-industrial complex. It critiques the adolescent desire to fight and dominate and failing to consider the consequences of the destructive actions that follow.
As the police approach the two, Butcher is forced to use Hughie for one last task. Going from calm to professional to downright sinister in the span of 3 pages, Butcher manipulates Hughie into doing something neither Hughie or anyone else would think him capable of. “The Boys” #71 may not be a perfect issue – it is, after all, essentially all dialogue. But it also represents a highpoint of of one of the best series in modern comics, and one of the best characters as well. It packs an emotional weight with readers that few other comics can equal, and enunciates the themes of the series in a manner that feels completely organic to the story. And most importantly, it’s a fitting end for Butcher and “The Boys.”
Reviewed by – GeorgeShunick