SPOILER WARNING: The following story contains MAJOR spoilers for "The Boys" #71, on sale today.
Last month when CBR News caught up with writer Garth Ennis to discuss his plans for the finale of his Dynamite Entertainment series "The Boys," we asked about the philosophical battle boiling between series leads Butcher and Wee Hughie and how their personality conflicts would drive the book's end. Ennis simply answered, "#71 will answer that much better than I can here."
He wasn't joking.
Today, that very penultimate issue of the long-running series created with Darick Robertson and drawn by Russ Braun hit the stands, and the comic ended in the spectacularly gory fashion "The Boys" has been known for, with Wee Hughie killing Butcher. The shocking end came after an entire issue (or 71 issues, depending how you look at it) of Butcher manipulating his young recruit to behave the way he wanted. Though even in that, Hughie defies expectations in the story.
"I loved writing this issue. It came out exactly as I'd hoped. Butcher went out the way I'd always intended. Russ Braun's finest hour, I think I'd have to say," the writer said of the final product.
Ennis explained that the way this death played out wasn't planned from day one, but grew naturally out of the story he's been crafting. "I knew how Butcher was going to involve Hughie, but I originally had a different last scene in mind: wherein the two would fight each other to a standstill, and then have the conversation they do this issue. But I realized as the series progressed that it would be entirely wrong for 'The Boys,' which is not about violent conflict between Butcher and Hughie at all. Instead, the ending should reflect their actual relationship, which means Butcher being one step ahead always, manipulating and cajoling, with Hughie running to catch up and succeeding only by accident. The vestiges of the original ending are there in Hughie's drinking MM's Mother's milk, which in itself led to the slight left turn into slapstick as he fell out the window. Hughie blunders on, and on -- and saves the day."
Of course, in saving New Yok City, a whole new slew of problems awaits Hughie as he approaches the final issue of the series as the "last Boy standing." "Hughie's real triumph comes next issue, along with his final word on the world he's had to inhabit for the last few years," Ennis said. "As I say, he's running to catch up. He has just enough insight to understand the part he's been playing, which comes just in time for Butcher to pull yet another fast one on him."
But for now, readers will have a month to savor Butcher's fare thee well as it plays out in #71. "The whole thing, it's his issue, his story. Hughie provides a nice epitaph for Butcher in #72."
Readers can look forward to a resolution of Hughie and Annie's romance in the final issue as well, which welcomes back co-creator Robertson on art, but the writer teased a few other superheroic twists to his final word on the capes and tights set. "There's the question of Rayner's political career, as well as Vought-American's future. And Hughie gains some insight into who the real enemy might have been all along."
Stay tuned to CBR over the next month for more on the finale of "The Boys" including more complete issues from the run and artist interviews!