The Boys, Vol 1: The Name of the Game, by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson — a comic book review

This trade paperback collects issues #1 through 6 of The Boys, by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson. These were the first six issues published by Wildstorm, a DC imprint, prior to the series being cancelled by DC. Ennis and Robertson would move the series over to Dynamite Comics. The series would continue through seventy-two issues, as well as at least one spinoff and a mini-series, published over the course of six years. It has now been adapted as an Amazon Prime television series and has two seasons already under its belt.

I was familiar with Garth Ennis’s writing through his graphic novel Preacher, which I have no problems recommending in the same breath as Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man or Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. Good stories are good stories.

Ennis’s plan seemed to be to take all the sexual content and ultraviolence of Preacher and turn the dial up to eleven in The Boys.

I bought this trade collection a while back, probably when I was still reading Preacher. I didn’t read it until after I watched the first season of The Boys on Amazon Prime. The streaming series served to remind me that I owned the first volume. Oh, I had flipped through a few pages at the time I purchased it, and didn’t really connect with the material. Having watched the excellent Amazon series, I had some context the next time I began reading it.

I liked it.

This may be considered blasphemy in some circles, but, so far, I’ve preferred the Amazon series over the source material. That’s not so surprising. Because I read Preacher prior to watching the AMC series, I liked the graphic novel just a little more than I did the series. If I thought about it, I’d probably find a direct correlation between the medium in which I experienced anything first and my overall preference of said medium.

This may apply only to the graphic medium, now that I think about it. I watched the first season of The Expanse prior to reading Leviathan Wakes, the first novel in the Expanse series by James S. A. Corey. While I like both the television and novel versions, the edge still has to go to the written word. How often have you said, or thought, The book was better than the movie?

This first volume of the graphic novel includes the story arcs “The Name of the Game” and “Cherry,” which also happen to be the titles of the first two episodes of the series. A lot of the main story threads looping through these arcs are also reproduced on the Amazon series. I won’t say faithfully reproduced: There are differences.

In the graphic novel, Annie January AKA Starlight, is sexually harassed by more members of The Seven than just The Deep. Homelander is definitely involved. Also, The Boys know about Serum V and even use it to become Supes themselves when they are fighting Vought’s champions.

I’m sure that there are other major variations as the comic book series continued, but I have no intentions of reading those other volumes, at least until after the Amazon series runs its course. The streaming series and the graphic novel are two different things, and I endeavor to keep them that way in my brain.

Wee Hughie’s character design was based on the actor Simon Pegg, who also writes the foreward in this volume. In the television series, Pegg plays Hughie’s father, so there’s a bit of symmetry there.

I wasn’t initially a fan of Darick Robertson’s artwork, but it grew on me as I turned the pages. The art is as dark as the subject matter, with heavy blacks and shadows. At times it is a bit too cartoonish for my taste, but Robertson does not shy away from the graphically violent or perversely sexual scenes. Though adolescents probably enjoy the series, it was created with a more mature audience in mind. Even so, some of the appropriately “more mature” comic book readers may find this series a bit excessive.

The writing is recognizably Garth Ennis. In its way, it is a brilliant work of art. It furthers the deconstructionist trend in superhero comic books while creating something new and different at the same time. How would people with real superhuman powers react in the real world? How would the corporate world capitalize on superhero popularity, and how similar would it look to what Disney has actually done? What, in fact, is the definition of the word hero?

Pretty heady stuff for a story about people in flashy costumes attempting (or pretending) to save the world, one crime at a time.

As I said before, I liked this. Not as much as the Amazon series, but I liked it.

Firewater’s Heroes-or-Villains-Saints-or-Sinners Report Card: B

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