Graphic Novel Review: The Boys: The Big Ride

(Titan Books �14.99)

IS The Boys running out of steam? There’s certainly a lot of procrastination in this ninth volume, with writer Garth Ennis putting off the inevitable confrontation between the superhero-bashing Boys and their costumed opponents in The Seven.

We know that everything is going to come to a conclusion in the next book, but that seems to be more because series publishers Dynamite allegedly wanted to reach 10 volumes rather than the story dictating it should last this long.

The Boys – Billy Butcher, Wee Hughie, Mother’s Milk, The Frenchman and The Female – are a CIA-sponsored team called in to keep costumed crimefighters in line, by any means necessary. Over the course of this series they have bloodily torn their way through the world’s vigilantes, leaving a trail of dismembered corpses and extreme chaos in their wake.

This volume not only reveals the secret story behind the team’s first clash with superpowered league The Seven, but Hughie also learns about more than 60 years of brutal black ops by The Boys and their predecessors thanks to original leader Colonel Greg Mallory.

Ennis’ obvious hatred of superheroes is just as evident here as it was in the previous books, and he doesn’t really seem to be saying anything new about the subject. Where he does show signs of his old creative flair are in the sequences involving Mallory, as they allow him to immerse himself in the old war stories he loves so much.

Whether Ennis is really running out of ideas, or if he’s been cleverly setting things up for a slow build-up towards a spectacular finale will only be truly appreciated when we can sit back and enjoy the entire series in one go. There’s an obvious sense of approaching menace, but the predictable clash between our heroes and their archenemies has been telegraphed for a long time already, so the point didn’t really need to be hammered home any further.

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A shocking death at the book’s conclusion sets things up nicely for the final volume, and to give Ennis his due, you can’t help but want to know what happens in the end, if only it hadn’t taken quite so long to get there.