This volume is subtitled the Highland Laddie miniseries and rightly so as it is the polar opposite of everything that has gone before. It seems very out of place set against the sickening majesty of the previous Boys offerings. This is a quiet and subtle tale of introspection, nostalgia and masculinity. Garth Ennis is notably typecast into telling – and telling very well – a particular type of tale. It is so good to see him taking bold steps to showcase the full breadth of his literary range. This story wouldn’t look out of place being discussed some BBC2 arts program.
Wee Hughie goes back to Scotland to deal with the fallout of the previous volume. But it’s not all profound navel gazing and ethereal commentary on childhood. There are flashbacks to his last discussions with The Boys before he leaves and the arrival of a future plot thread. And there is a little mini adventure too. This is a nice diversion on the whole but a very jarring contrast. The change of pace really allows the art to shine as it isn’t smothered by speech bubbles. The character’s expressions, their body language and even the landscapes all play a much greater part in emoting the story as opposed to being decoration around the vast exposition.
As Hughie is in Scotland there is an awful lot of dialect, which is always a tricky area, but you manage to understand most of the colloquialisms. As with all of The Boys there are frequent hidden references to comics, culture and life in general. That is the same here but most of them are British in origin. As such I found them more noticeable and consequently more intrusive. Maybe the faster pace of previous volumes means you don’t get time to notice the pop culture nuggets or maybe Ennis likes shouting about the Dandy.
The art is great as always with a wonderfully captured rural village with fantastic attention to detail. Everything from the cars to the road signs feels authentic, which might be because Belfast born John McCrea takes over the pencils on this volume. There is only one shade of green however which does seem a little drab for the Highlands. There are a lot of flashbacks to childhood which use a partial black and white and partial colour palette which is both original and incredibly effective.
This is great volume; and necessary to heal the emotional wounds of the previous one. But you can’t wait to get back to New York and start kicking arse. I have to say that the Hughie and Anne love story is one of the most profound I have ever experienced. The only other one that comes close is the one in the Preacher, also by Garth Ennis. The man has a gift. Double Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: The Boys: Volume 9 – The Big Ride – Garth Ennis