Well, we knew it wasn’t going to end well. Not for the Boys. Not for the Seven. And especially not for Jack From Jupiter. All that depravity, all that resentment, all the levels of lies and clandestine plotting, it wasn’t going to add up to anything good.
This issue in a way is a crossroads for the series. Or maybe the apex between what has come before and what’s coming soon. It’s that point between which the two vectors collide, inevitably. On one level, we’ve got an echo of what happened with the Lamplighter situation. Pissed at having their outright dominance questioned by the Boys (really at losing face), Lamplighter murdered Mallory’s two daughters. So the Boys took care of him, in a final situation kind of way.
On the other level, as the two major powers meet in their tense summit at the beginning of the issue, and decide that this is not the day, we all know that day is coming, and this issue is the first presentiment of how it might play out. It’s not pretty, it’s painful and tragic and sad. But inevitable? Yep, feeling that way.
On a smaller scale, we have many subtle character moments that relate to ongoing subplots. Butcher gives Maeve the stink eye over taking out all the hidden bugs last month. Hughie gives A-Train the stink eye over having tried to rape Starlight. The Deep suggests a team up to ferret out their mutual enemy, and Butcher doesn’t know whether to spit or laugh in his diving helmet. Instead the Boys, lucky to have survived the WMD-level threat, treat themselves to a big meal, a consolation prize to regain their equilibrium after the adrenalin rush of preparing for battle.
And Hughie picks that moment to stand up for himself against what he perceives as Butcher’s relentless bullying and demeaning attitude. His intensity makes the Frenchman uncomfortable and shocks even Mother’s Milk. We’ve seen this resentment build up over the whole series; but is Hughie capable of realizing (with all that he has come to so slowly about the ways of this world) that his personality type will never get the better of someone like Butcher?
It doesn’t mean he can’t have his way sometimes or make his own choices. It just means that Billy Butcher is never ever going to pat him on the back for it. I don’t know if these are father issues or macho issues or insecurity issues, but it ruins the buzz of their celebratory dinner, and show’s that someone among them has lost the plot. That it’s not clear who is a good moment of understatement before Ennis unveils the final act of the issue, which is simultaneously operatic and mundane. If it had happened to anyone else, it would reveal they’d lost their grip. That it happens to Butcher reveals just how long ago he lost his.
Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.