The Boys #1 (DC Comics/Wildstorm)

How does the famed British scribe's attempt to, as he put it, "out-Preacher Preacher" stand up to the challenge?

DC Comics/Wildstorm; 32 pgs FC; $2.99; 2006
(W: Garth Ennis; A: Darick Robertson)

Yeah, we know, another comic about policing the superhero community. How original. On the heels of such runs as Brian Michael Bendis's Eisner-winning Powers and Alan Moore's Hugo-awarded Watchmen, Garth Ennis' The Boys seeks to carve out a place in the hall of motley-crowds-gone-superhero-slayers, attempting, as Ennis put it, to "out-Preacher Preacher." But how will Ennis make readers love essentially the same ideas warmed over?

The cover to The Boys #1 by Darick RobertsonThrough characterization and the raunchy, gut-punch black humor readers have come to expect from his knockout Preacher series, Ennis creates a memorable beginning to this fellowship of superhero wranglers. Once again, Ennis hinges his cynical world on vendettas, providing readers with characters who are questionably good; superheroes, from a distance, are the standard fly-and-fetch, pose-and-pounce, but as readers get closer, Ennis points out the collateral damage. The death of a cooing lovebird is perhaps the strongest illustration of both Ennis's humor and the callousness of the superhero community. Like Greek gods and goddesses, the heroes bicker and tangle the mortal world up in their schemes, but what becomes truly heroic, and what Ennis reveals, is the story of some mortals who, in the face of such violence, choose to fight back.

Enter the Butcher, disgruntled hard-ass with a hard-on for bending conservative secretaries over their desks, filth-ing up rooms, and most importantly, killing superheroes. No in medias res for Ennis this time. Readers get the Butcher from the formation of the team, which ought to prove engrossing for subsequent issues that boast the introduction of characters like the Frenchman, the Female, and the man called Mother's Milk. Considering Ennis's past with fascinating characters, these should be no less impressive.

So, yes, Ennis is crude (that's sort of a given), and, like many of the ultra-masculine writers, he also struggles with the portrayal of women. Perhaps when the Female enters into the picture readers will get the chance to see just how much Ennis has grown as a writer. Definitely another reason to keep reading, and with high hopes that Ennis will not disappoint. He hasn't in the past.

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