Despite being viewed by many as a comedy book, “The Boys” has usually worked the jokes in amongst the more serious, larger story of each arc, never devoting a single issue to one funny story until this one, the origin of the Frenchman. It is an absurd and hilarious story where even the ‘serious bits’ can’t help but produce a chuckle. Even from the get-go when Hughie sarcastically wonders if everyone is going to begin telling their origins, nothing about this comic is meant to be taken too seriously.
The Frenchman, or Frenchie as everyone from his home village of Franglais calls him, returns from war to settle down with his one true love, Marie, only to find her now with his hated childhood rival Black Pierre. This causes Frenchie much pain and sorrow, but he will do nothing to win Marie back for he has returned from war and will not allow himself to raise his hand in anger again. Not even during Les Saintes de Haw-Haw, the village festival that features jousting on bicycles with baguettes, a contest that members of Frenchie’s family are masters at. Instead, his elderly father challenges Black Pierre for family honor and things do not go well.
The telling of the story is where the humor lies. The Frenchman tells it with such earnest sincerity and sentiment, but what we see are absurd and, dare I say, stupid events. Jousting on bicycles with baguettes while wearing cloves of garlic? He returns to town with his friend behind him playing a concertina. The images Robertson draws for his remembrances to his summer of love with Marie and his childhood feud with Black Pierre are so graphic that they subvert the expectation of innocence that’s in the Frenchman’s words.
There’s also an element of satirizing the French, but it’s mixed with an utter glorification in the stereotypes attributed to the French. The Frenchman is so proud of his homeland that reclaims all of the so-called negatives or clichés as parts of his heritage, perhaps? It’s all so over-the-top that one can’t help but laugh at something on every page.
After a long string of serious stories with a joke thrown in here or there, “The Boys” #37 a good break issue where the Frenchman tells Hughie a possibly true, possibly false story of his past that is sweet, sad, and very funny. It plays to the comedic strengths of both Ennis and Robertson, giving a full-on showing of how funny they can be, which we’ve gotten tastes of throughout the series, but, finally, a full issue devoted to it.