Eight years after their final issue and in the context of their successful Amazon TV adaptation, which sanitized this superhero satire for a broad audience, The Boys is back from writer/co-creator Garth Ennis, artist Russ Braun (Who drew 24 issues of the original series, and colorist Tony Aviña. The Boys: Dear Becky #1 is concerned with the future of the relationship between Wee Hughie and Annie January, but also the past relationship between Billy Butcher and his wife Becky, who was one of the few people that saw beneath his violent, hateful, asshole self. And it’s sad to say that the scenes set in the present come across as a tone-deaf Scottish boomer ranting on Facebook while the past scenes actually do hold up with poignant narration from Ennis paired with his usual dark humor and gruesome visuals from Braun and Aviña, who unleashes an abattoir of a color palette.
The Boys: Dear Becky #1 is truly a half good, half bad comic. The first half is Wee Hughie moaning at a pub about the state of the world to his friend Bobbi, who is trans and misgendered immediately. Paired with Russ Braun’s stereotypical art that is reminiscent of Howard Chaykin’s recent, hateful work on Divided States of Hysteria, it’s not a great way to start the story. But it is par for the course for the “Everyone’s bastards, especially superheroes.” sensibility of Ennis’ writing on The Boys. It seems like the goal of the pub scene is to reintroduce readers to Wee Hughie and his post-Boys life, but it’s all overwhelmed by tone deaf takes on everything from white male privilege to affirmative action. However, it’s not all punching down with (In true Scottish manner.) Wee Hughie and Bobbi taking the piss out of Brexit with the loss of the E.U. safety net negatively impacting rural Scotland and also wondering why so many of their fellow citizens are afraid of immigrants in such a racially homogenous area.
All in all, this scene that definitely needed a spot of editing (Although Ennis’ dialogue is still entertaining and colorful, if a bit cringeworthy.) shows that The Boys along with South Park and most of Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy’s oeuvre have outstayed their welcome in 2020. At its finest, The Boys was a darkly hilarious satire of fanboy culture and American foreign policy with a dash of coming to terms with the effects of violence. Now, it’s just cynical for the sake of being cynical. Bright eyed, optimistic Wee Hughie is now just another middle aged libertarian moaning about keyboard warriors and safe spaces. And to add insult upon injury, Russ Braun uses his skill to makes jokes at the expense of aka pot shots at one of the most marginalized groups in 21st century society.
However, to look at the issue and Hughie from another perspective, not giving a shit could definitely be an after effect of the trauma he went through in The Boys. When Ennis and Braun aren’t trying to be edgy, middle-aged white male commentators on society, they do a good job of showing of how Hughie is unable to move on with his life, including several panels of him lying in the bathroom looking at a letter from Butcher that brings his past all the way back. The letters adds depth to the now-dead Butcher, who could take a step back and see that maybe pulling the tongue out of a ten year old copyright-friendly version of Shazam is not a good idea. Braun and Aviña’s art is definitely representative of The Boys’ cartoonish ultraviolence towards superheroes, but Garth Ennis adds an air of conscience in both Butcher’s dialogue and narrative captions that are Hughie reading his letter. He thinks about how the effects of his actions will have both on himself and on Becky and comes across like Wee Hughie when he first joined the team.
If The Boys: Dear Becky #1 was just the Butcher flashback with a bit of a Wee Hughie framing device to see what he’s been up to 12 years after the original series, then it would definitely be worth picking up. However, the new effort from Garth Ennis, Russ Braun, and Tony Aviña gets a pass thanks to half the comic being a privileged white man punching down and a woeful mishandling of a trans character, especially on the art side. It speaks to the conflict in The Boys comic, which could be both a funny, if over the top satire of the comics industry and power structures with surprisingly deep character studies, and a tasteless, stereotyped-filled book that didn’t meet a female character that ended up raped or murdered in a macabre manner. This comic reminded me of my days as a closeted, libertarian teenage edgelord reading The Boys, and why I shudder at them.
Story: Garth Ennis Art: Russ Braun
Colors: Tony Aviña Letters: Simon Bowland
Story: 6.0 Art: 4.0 Overall: 5.0 Recommendation: Pass
Dynamite Entertainment provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review