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The Boys #16

Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2008
By: Paul Brian McCoy

Garth Ennis
Darick Robertson
Dynamite Entertainment
"Good for the Soul" (part 2)

This series just keeps getting better and better. There's a lot more going on here than just piss takes and insults, and the latest storyline, "Good for the Soul," is slowing things down to let some relationships breathe and develop. This month we get a little insight into the friendship between The Female and The Frenchman, and Hughie takes a break from his mission to "take care of" the "hero" he'd killed (but who is now back from the dead), Blarney Cock, to actually go on a date with Annie.

It's easy to forget sometimes just how good a writer Ennis is when he sets his mind to it. I mean, Punisher is maybe the most consistently good comic being published today, but it has a very distinct approach and there are certain emotional areas that just don't play well in the harshness of that world. His war comics are always good and Dan Dare proves that he doesn't just write about vicious bastards, but still actually cares about telling stories that revolve around friendship and honor. Sometimes it seems like the Garth Ennis that wrote Preacher has divided up all the different elements that made that series so great and keeps them isolated into separate projects. It's been a while since the heart of Preacher has been on display, but lately The Boys has started to let it show.

The developing relationship between Hughie and Annie is sweet and satisfying, making a very nice contrast to the grim violence and over-the-top shock value of most of the storylines to date. I'm a little worried about their well-being, to be quite honest. This is a brutal world Ennis has constructed here, and Hughie and Annie are both innocents being thrown into the deep end of corruption and hostility. I really don't want them to lose that innocence, since it's really what makes this book more than just another rip on superhero comics.

We also see this month that while The Frenchman and The Female are two of the most dangerous characters in the book, they actually have a bit more depth and complexity than we've been shown before. Whether or not The Frenchman's words will really help The Female in the long run, we'll have to wait and see, but it was another nice moment of connection in a series that too often gets dismissed as broad stroke cynicism.

Darick Robertson's art on this title is perfect. As great as he was at the craziness and sensory overload that was Transmetropolitan, he is just as great here when presenting realistic settings and believable violence. The facial expressions do a fantastic job selling the dialogue and his use of layout and body language tells the story with a subtlety that is missing from many mainstream comics. This issue is almost entirely centered on conversations between characters but it doesn't get dull or repetitive. If anything, Robertson's work here really brings the almost desperate-to-emotionally-connect dramatic tension to the surface, and helps make the Hughie/Annie romance even better.

I know some people have given up on this series because it seemed to be just gross-out humor and hostility toward the super hero genre, but it really is much more than that. If Wildstorm wasn't a good home for this book, Vertigo should have been. This is the type of book that the Vertigo line would have made a flagship title back in the day. That DC let it go says volumes about the vacuous creative landscape at that company. And I don't care what anyone else says, there are only two or three Vertigo titles that are worth a damn, and DC was foolish and childish to let this title go. Dynamite has something special on their hands now, and it continues to get stronger and more emotionally complex and satisfying with every new issue.



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