Michael Hitchcock's Reviews > The Boys, Volume 4: We Gotta Go Now

The Boys, Volume 4 by Garth Ennis
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it was amazing

** spoiler alert ** It's easy to miss all the sublime complexity and order in this book behind the mountains of shit, piss, vomit, hatefucking, murder, and other generally disgusting things, but it's right there- some sublime complexity and order. Now I know that Ennis can be really crass in his other work (I think the word crass is actually in his letterhead?), and that can work for or against the work in question. But for the Boys it works so well and ties in so completely with the themes of the story, that I actually couldn't imagine the story to be as effective without the ugliness.

Unfortunately for Ennis, this ugliness can turn away a wider, more sophisticated audience who could really appreciate his work. Fortunately for Ennis, it seems that his audience is pretty wide anyway.

This installment begins with a mysterious prologue. Someone has ordered a great deal of firepower for some purpose. We find out why towards the end and it is not mentioned again, but Vought-American's logo is clearly printed on the box, so we know it's going to come back to our boys.

In this short scene, Ennis plays on one of his favorite themes in the series- having the two soldiers moving depleted uranium as they talk about how dnagerous their job is and how little they know about the ultimate purpose of what they're doing. They're just cogs in the machine. So whatever else is or is not different since the WWII flashbacks in volume 3, for the common soldier little has changed.

The story opens with Hughie and Annie in bed expressing love to one another. Then it goes directly to Butcher and Rayner having a meeting which ends in some hate-filled bathroom sex. The story ends with Hughie and Annie in bed sharing an emotional, post coital moment which directly cuts to Butcher and Rayner having another spirited hate-fuck in the middle of which Butcher threatens to kill her family before killing her if she puts his team in danger again.

But it's not just a cheap comparison- through the series and in this book, Hughie's main role is of the good-hearted new guy whom Butcher is training up to be him. One of the driving forces of their relationship is the way this continuously fails to work. Hughie kind of keeps screwing up his harsh orders because of his moral compass. So showing the difference in their sex life doesn't only advance the relationships of the characters in the sex scenes, but it also highlights the ways in which Hughie is failing to be Butcher; or the ways in which Hughie has already surpassed Butcher, depending on your point of view.

Butcher and Rayner's meeting concerns a strange suicide from a prominent member of the G-Men, Earth's most profitable heroes. At this point the story spreads itself out beautifully into several character appropriate strands which unite again at the end. I can't stress enough about how good Ennis is at this.

Wee Hughie is sent to bumble around and plant bugs and gather information- too much of a good-hearted sweetheart to ever be suspected. The Frenchman and The Female are sent as backup and observation, in case he needs extraction. Mother's Milk is sent to work the case and see if he can figure out what happened. Meanwhile Butcher is using his brutally intelligent violent streak to figure out why any of these developments are surprising him. (He plays dumb, but he always stresses planning and intelligence.) A final strand is added when we see Vought-American is having their mystery executive who so troubles Butcher investigate the G-Men as well.

Each of these strands maintains its strength as a complete story, but by the finale, the different stories these strands told, added into something better than their sum. It was a detective story, a political thriller, a re-imagining of Animal House, a story of dedication, and a story of consequences that ended on a chilling note of escalation.

But these threads don't just move the plot along better, nor do they only fill in backstory and context. In each of these threads we get to know the characters better as human beings; the things they care about and what actions they'll take... How they feel to know. It's rare for something to be so plot-heavy, yet still be so character driven.

The whole story in this volume also reflects the general structure of the series in that it begins very light-hearted and comically and descends into brutality and murder. The foreshadowing within and between volumes continues to be so heavy in hindsight even though it's almost invisible on a first read through. It's just good writing is all I want you to know.

So yeah, I left out all the face pissing jerk off humor, and a lot of the interesting meta statement on the comics industry, but, I mean, if I was going to tell you everything, I might as well just read the whole thing aloud and punch you everytime I want you to notice something. Which, now I think of it, is kinda what Ennis and Robertson do a lot of anyway.
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Reading Progress

October 27, 2015 – Started Reading
October 27, 2015 – Shelved
October 28, 2015 – Finished Reading

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