"Highland Laddie" meandered through the past of Wee Hughie for three issues before finally converging with his present: Annie has followed him home. She wants to confront him about what he found out about her. She wants to do whatever it is they’re going to do properly, and this issue spends most of its time dealing with that. This is a welcome relief. Finally, this tie-in miniseries means something to the series proper.
“The Boys” was a title that was sold on the premise of how adult and off-the-wall it was going to be. Ennis famously said it was going to ‘out-Preacher Preacher.’ And it has, but that’s not been its best parts. The sublime moments come when Ennis lets his characters interact and a complete scene emerges. It’s the pages of talking heads that have resonated as more mature; This issue -- one very large discussion between Hughie and Annie -- is extremely adult. There’s real dialogue springing off the page as two people who both love, and lied to, each other work through their many problems.
For a guy who has written some of the most outlandish moments in four color history, and many of them in this title itself, it comes as a pleasant shock that he’s able to write relationships, and females, quite well. Annie isn’t some stereotype. She doesn’t fit the Madonna or the whore category. She’s just a girl standing in front of a guy and trying to tell him why she did some very bad things (things I will not mention here). The flow and pace between the two will show as very real for anyone who has remotely been in a similar situation. If only Ennis would write more like this, but then the comic would not be inherently what it is and the juxtaposition would not show an issue like this as the masterful quiet moment that he paints it.
I do wish this whole mini had been solely focused on the build up to this moment and then the exploration of it. If Hughie had come back to discuss the world as he sees it with an ex-girlfriend, instead of his two moronic high school buddies, this could have been a perfect examination of a character. Instead, you’ll have to settle for just this issue as it is pretty damn good. The tangent of Annie’s back story is something different and yet keeping in the tone of the greater tale at play here.
Ennis is able to sneak in plenty more exposition about the whole Vought-American angle on supers, and Annie’s specific travels through it all. It’s a bit more Ennis like and ties this mini back into the whole tale being woven. The subplot of the smugglers in this small town continues to underwhelm and feels completely superfluous. It’s neither interesting nor engaging. It’s forgettable enough but still annoying that it’s taking up page space where Ennis could be doing many other better things.
This title started off pretty rough but has finally built to a crescendo pitch. Things are obviously never going to be the same between Hughie and Annie but at least it’ll all be finished the right way. They’re going to handle it like adults and it’s going to be satisfying. This comic drags you through the special place in your heart reserved for bad break ups and has you cheering that maybe Hughie can do it better than the rest of us. Ennis has built a brilliant relationship here that easily holds its own on the page.