If you need an explanation of what The Boys has been about going into the big 50th issue, here it is, straight from The Homelander: “People are toys. They’re toys and they’re there for my amusement.”
The Boys began foremost as a humorous take on the superhero genre and, secondly, as a platform for disgusting visual gags and ultraviolence. And like so many other ambitious Ennis projects, it has long since devolved into a whole lot of the latter with very little of the former.
The penultimate issue to the big 50 doesn’t offer many surprises, outside of the continuing surprise of Russ Braun’s crystal clear pencils, which are far more effective than the inconsistent mess Darick Robertson’s had mutated into. Ennis moves pieces into place for the conclusion to the storyline he’s been building up since the debut, giving further glimpses into the history between Butcher’s team and the Seven. The book ends more or less exactly where you’d expect it to if you’ve been reading closely. What’s in between that and the opening is a whole lot of cliched filler, all of it disappointing and all of it obvious.
Because, you see, Ennis’ perspective has turned into something not all that far removed from the Homelander’s–they both seem to hate humanity. In Preacher, it was filtered through an Old Testament take on vengeance and righteousness. Punisher was sort of a parody of such single-minded pursuits. Both had extremely bleak views of humanity and they were only saved by the idea that their protagonists were taking extreme measures because the forces they were up against not only deserved it but offered them no other options.
But a few issues back, in a conversation between Butcher and Hughie, Ennis himself seemed to acknowledge that there was no such thing going on in the universe of The Boys. Hughie was the lone character who seemed to get that The Boys are only creating an infinite loop of violence. Yet when he voiced this to Butcher he was punished for it. Not by Butcher, mind you, but by Ennis. After Hughie’s revelation, his life was basically unravelled, with some patent Ennis misogyny painting an especially dark cloud over Hughie’s exit.
With Hughie out of the picture, the Boys’ big second move on the Seven no longer has any real emotional weight. The characters are just toys to Ennis, toys for his amusement. And like a kid wrecking G.I. Joes with mindless abandon, Ennis doesn’t seem to care if the mayhem has any overarching point. He just likes taking the heads off the soldiers.