The Boys #41

Posted by on April 26th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

©2010 Spitfire Productions, Ltd. and Darick Robertson

Dynamite. Written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Darick Robertson; colored by Tony Aviña, cover by Robertson; $2.99

Years ago people thought they were smart if they could make Dan Quayle jokes — “potato” vs. “potatoe.” Instead of Quayle, Garth Ennis has superheroes. He’s there wearing his “I’m With Stupid” T-shirt and they’re standing at the other end of the finger.

Ennis really looks like an idiot in that T-shirt. Yes, superheroes are dumb, and that is essential to their being. But they aren’t just dumb, and their dumbness isn’t even that despicable. There are worse things than simple dumbness. There’s lowness, being stunted, choosing to stoop down and scrounge like an animal instead of standing like a person.

Ennis always looks for petty advantage, petty superiority. I heard Jonathan Miller, a very distinguished Englishman, deplore the factitious sort of “humor” in which the favored laugh at the afflicted. He took as his example a Nazi soldier laughing at a peasant woman who has just been kicked in the ass. For Miller, that sort of humor was right out. For Ennis it’s the point.

At his very best, he manages Arseface. The rest of the time you get the inferior being pushed around by the superior, or shown up by the superior, or ground down in humiliation by the superior. He swaps back and forth some of the traditional high vs. low identifying marks. But always there’s one side, the Great Ennis Upper Hand, with a smirk and a scar or a regular-guy receding hairline, and there’s the other side, the Concave Dimwitted Submissives, with the rolling eyeballs or drool or floppy, useless prettyboy hair or dumb outfit.

“Sheltered, understand? In The Boys #41 Ennis hits on a miracle connection. “Are you telling me they’re retarded …?” a character asks. He means the hero team on view in that issue, a bunch of losers called Superduper. Their den mother, a normally-abled superheroine, answers testily: “No. That is not the word I used. I said sheltered, understand?”

“Oh-kay …,” the fellow answers, dry. Because one of the team members has Tourette’s, another would appear to be mentally defective and incontinent, and overall the group is lame, a bunch of dim, lost Bambis. They get led around and humored, taken on outings. They think they’re heroes because they’re allowed to wear costumes. They’re short-bus superheroes.

The group is the main attraction in this issue. We watch them fall into odd, clucking behavior with outcomes that are unsanitary and degrading. Take the capes out, and Superduper’s scenes would be some unsympathetic wise guy’s idea of what goes on in the church rec room during the specials’ class. Put the capes in and you’ve got Boys #41.

The fellow mentioned above, the “Oh-kay …” guy, Mr. “Oh, man” in the picture, he does the issue’s up-camera mocking. He’s the one who points and laughs at the poor, challenged supergroup. But Ennis is the one who displays them, and he does it because that’s his idea of fun.

The “Oh-kay …” guy will eventually find various contents of the fat-boy superhero’s body deposited on himself, or his face will be in dire contact with wrinkled portions of the fat-boy superhero’s body, or else his something will be painfully and disturbingly involved with a something else that is humiliating. So, justice.

Themes and Topics. Garth Ennis has the purest instinct for bullying of anyone in comics. He likes to show characters being broken. They never had a chance, and they never deserved a chance. They’re weak, and if they pretend to be strong, that just makes them weaker, more absurd.

Weakness is all-encompassing for Ennis: If you’ve got it, that’s all you’ve got. He doesn’t think about much else. OK, strength, because being as strong as an Ennis hero calls for a lot of strength. But it’s needed just so you can escape being an Ennis fall guy. Why else would you bother?

God, Ennis. Year after year and he’s doing the upper-hand/lower-hand gloat scenes, decade after decade. And then there’s the heart-to-hearts, the serious panels. “All this stuff I’m talking about doing,” the girl says, “it’s a pretty major change for me. I might kind of need you to be there for me while I’m doing it.” Miss, come on, I can’t hear my refrigerator.

I don’t know. I liked Arseface, and Preacher had some other good bits, some good issues. But there’s talent and there’s proclivity, and Ennis has a lot more of the second than the first. It’s not my proclivity, so I say the hell with it.

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3 Responses to “The Boys #41”

  1. Scyzoryk says:

    WORD!

    I’ve been waiting for someone to verbalize what bothers me about Ennis’ work, both in and outside the superhero genre, for… man, YEARS. Thanks for saying it better than I could have imagined it being said.

  2. Tom Crippen says:

    Chief, you’re okay in my book.

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