Since its debut, Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's Dynamite Entertainment series "The Boys" has been beating up its version of the world's greatest superheroes in shocking and degrading ways. But as the book crashes through to its next story arc as well as its next spinoff miniseries, the writer has been putting his core cast members through an emotional wringer complete with shame, paranoia and of course anger.
As the latest arc, "The Innocents," wraps in next months issue #43, team leader Butcher struggles with growing doubts of Wee Hughie's loyalty while Mother's Milk doubts Butcher's own sanity all the while Annie January is crippled with her inability to tell Hughie about her past. "'The Innocents' sets up a number of threads that carry on into the next arc, 'Believe,' in which events very definitely come to a head. All three of the conflicts you mention will get a proper airing there," Ennis explained of the story running from #44 to 48. There, the eponymous superhero religious festival takes center stage, casting the crude, amoral protectors of earth in a Godlike role, even to their detriment.
"Believe is very much a Vought-sponsored event, much to the chagrin of the Homelander - who's getting more and more sick of his public role and wants nothing to do with it - and Annie - for whom the very idea of a public role could jeopardize her relationship with Hughie. Religion is, in a way, the perfect 'product' for a company like Vought-American; it's exploitative to begin with, and that's very much their forte."
Meanwhile, the Boys team looks for more internal conflict on several fronts as the writer promised "Hughie's going to be a little too tied up with his convalescence to worry about the bigger picture" however the Butcher and Mother's Milk argument comes into fuller light all the while "I'm currently working on Butcher's own miniseries, which won't see print until summer of 2011. In that you'll see that he very definitely does have a plan, and has had for some time. He has a very specific role in mind for Hughie - the full details of which won't become clear until the end of the book - but his recent suspicions have cast that role into doubt. Of course, Butcher is something of an expert at thinking on his feet, and tends to adapt his plans as circumstance arise."
But before all those events can come to a head, Wee Hughie prepares for his own spotlight in the August-shipping "The Boys: Highland Laddie" miniseries by Ennis and artist John McCrea. There, the hero returns to his home village of Auchterladle in Scotland - a once calm countryside hamlet now twisted by the arrival of strange visitors. "There's no direct connection to Vought-American, but one of their products - or perhaps byproducts - is definitely having an effect on the good folk of Auchterladle. As to how the town's changed for Hughie, his problem might actually be that it hasn't changed enough; and that, once again, comes down to the people he knows."
"I knew it was going to happen from the get-go," Ennis said of the home tour mini, adding that the book will explore "further ramifications of Annie's past actions" as well as dig into the writer's ongoing dialogue about the differences between the U.S. and U.K. "I should point out that I've always used Hughie (and Butcher) to present a degree of commentary on the contrasts between the two nations, and some of it even reflects my own opinions. But in this instance, not so much. I suppose there is one bit, where Hughie discusses the correct pronunciation of 'scone.'
"Hughie's thoughts on his old and new homes are pretty much universal for anyone in his situation," the writer noted, saying the series is more relatable and less a commentary of his personal beliefs as an Irish ex-pat living in America. "If you've travelled for any length of time, or lived in a different country or even city, you'll be familiar with some of the things he finds irking him. This is particularly true of his feelings towards his various groups of friends, which in turn form one of the central themes of the story. So while there are aspects of 'Highland Laddie' for which I drew on my own experiences, they're not really specific to my being a Brit in the States."
Aside from reteaming with McCrea for a second "Boys" spinoff after the recent "Herogasm," Ennis is welcoming his "Battlefields: The Night Witches" collaborator Russ Braun into "The Boys" for "Believe." "The most important thing when it comes to artists on a monthly, I think, is to have one really good guy doing as long a stretch as possible on his own, ideally a whole arc. Chopping and changing between artists, issue by issue, doesn't help either the writer or the readers. Although I must say, we've had some damn good people filling in on this book over the last year or so."
As for where all this leads the full scope of the series, Ennis concluded. "I'll put it this way: things are going to get very bad for the Boys, even downright catastrophic for one of them. But once the dust settles, we'll be taking a look at events pre-Hughie, starting to draw the threads together for the final year of the book. And don't worry, that doesn't mean Hughie won't be involved - he's the guy doing the looking.
"I recently did what I usually do around this stage in a 5-6 year project, which is to take stock, re-examine the timeline, work out who's still alive and who has a part to play in the last 20-something issues. The latter part means making a list of characters, seeing how they relate to each other (or not). So I made my list and, on a whim, put a dot beside everyone who makes it right to the end of #70. Out of several dozen names, I have to say that there weren't too many dots at all."