The origins of Butcher from The Boys are revealed, and Darick Robertson is back. Oh yes.
Credits & Solicit Info:
The Boys: Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker #1(of 5)
Written by Garth Ennis
Illustrated by Darick Robertson and Tony Avina
With the ongoing The Boys title rapidly heading for it's epic conclusion, there's hardly any time for the reader to catch their breath, so luckily, Dynamite have launched one more spin-off mini-series, and one that fans have been eagerly awaiting for years now. Yes, it's the origins of Billy Butcher, the hardest bastard on the planet, and it's all that you'd expect, and more.
For one of the main characters of The Boys, Butcher is remarkably mysterious. We the readers know the full back-stories of Wee Hughie, Mother's Milk and The Female. We know a frankly bizarre take on the Frenchman's origins, but Billy Butcher... he's an enigma. We know he hates super-heroes, we know he used to be in the Army, and we know he had a wife who was raped and killed by the Superman analogue the Homelander. And we know he's not to be trusted.
This mini begins to fill us in on who Billy Butcher is and how he came to be. The story kicks off during the Falklands War, which is one of those unpopular wars that comics rarely cover. Ennis is obviously a master at War comics, and this sequence is brilliantly done, and serves to show just how hard Butcher is, even before he got powered-up, he shot down an Argie plane all on his own! Hard as nails.
The action picks up in the present, as Butcher returns home to London to attend his father's funeral. Butcher talks to the corpse, and we are treated to scenes from his childhood. This whole bit is classic Ennis. There's humour, like Butcher's family business being a bakery, and a hilariously foul-mouthed scene of the young Billy at school. There's pathos and sadness. Butcher's dad was a violent cunt who beat and cheated on his wife, Billy himself was starting to succumb to violence. The scene where Billy accidentally breaks his brother's nose was shocking. Ellis also drops in some social commentary, with his take on the old East End of London, and what it means to be part of such a close-knit 'community'.
This issue marks the return to the world of The Boys of co-creator Darick Robertson, who's been absent for about a year now. Whilst John McCrea and Russ Braun are able fill-ins, Robertson is the perfect artist for this book, and it's wonderful to have him back, he just knocks it out of the park every time.
This was a really well-done comic, there's a long way to go before we get the full picture on Butcher, but it's a start. One of Ennis' strengths is taking characters which seem kind of ridiculous at first, and fill their histories with amazing depth. I mean, who would have thought that Arseface could have such a wonderful story behind him? Not me, but then I read 'The Story of You-Know-Who', and a man with an arse for a face became a tragic character. This is the same thing. Seeing Billy Butcher, the scary cockney killer as a terrified child? It's this depth which marks Ennis out as more than just a shock and violence-peddlar. But there's still plenty of shock and violence here too. It's the dichotomy of The Boys, it has it's cake and eats it too, and man, it's fucking brilliant cake.
Review by: Niam Suggitt