I’m pretty sure that, right now, ‘Wee’ Hughie is my favorite superhero. Though his superpowers are only some advanced strength/durability as part of his job with the Boys, he’s definitely got the makings of a top-rate hero, something he demonstrates in “The Boys” #43. Hughie has always been the point-of-view character with a strong conscious and sense of right and wrong, but, in this issue, he takes things a little further, acting in a manner that could not only piss off his boss, Butcher, but also get him killed. But, that’s what makes Hughie so great: he does it anyway.
Concluding “The Innocents,” this issue brings about a number of confrontations, including one between Hughie and the utterly despicable Malchemical. Hughie has been watching a low-level group of superheroes that are the first we’ve seen that are genuinely good, decent people. They’re not very powerful and have few social skills, but they do try their best to help out. In a previous issue, Hughie even became their friend by saving one of them from choking on a spoon at an ice cream parlor. Here, he steps between them and Malchemical, a typical (for “The Boys”) super forced to spend time with the group until a scandal blows over. While noble, taking on Malchemical is stupid and almost gets him killed because of the supe’s ability to become any chemical compound he wishes to be.
The conflict between Hughie and Butcher (which Hughie was unaware of) reaches a new level when Mother’s Milk gets involved to clear Hughie’s name, while Butcher is even more upset that Hughie would risk his life for a group of supers. What really stands out here, though, is, after Butcher deals with Malchemical, he turns his attention to the innocent superheroes, seeing them as responsible for Hughie and Hughie, badly beaten and bruised, crawls up to Butcher and demands that he leave them alone. No matter what, Hughie stands up for the people that need protection, even the few supes that don’t deserve Butcher’s anger.
As this arc progressed, Darick Robertson’s work grew somewhat strained with help from Richard P. Clark. Despite this, his work on this issue is still strong with the emphasis on the emotion of scenes rather than superb line work. Things are a little rough in places, but the sheer emotion that Robertson communicates in Mother’s Milk’s frustration at what’s going on or the horribly beaten Hughie standing up for Super-Duper is astounding. Ennis’s writing provides the base of these scenes, but Robertson’s art is what sells them.
“The Innocents” has been a mostly jokey arc with Super-Duper as the team of naïve superheroes that are fun to laugh at, but it also highlights the heart of “The Boys” in Hughie, a sweet, caring guy that isn’t out to hurt superheroes, but is really out to punish those that aren’t doing the job they’re supposed to. As the series progresses, it’s clear that Hughie is Ennis’s ideal of a superhero: someone who does the right thing no matter what. It happens to be mine as well.