I’ve been meaning to write about The Boys again for a while. Readers of Best Shots know that I’m a die-hard Garth Ennis fan, and it’s not just because I too have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old. That helps, but the difference that I see between Ennis’s over-the-top physical humor (and the artists who take it to the next level, particularly Steve Dillon and Darick Robertson) and some other writers is that it’s almost always gross-out humor as parody. There’s a point to be made with it.
Someday I’m going to write about THAT issue of The Boys, bust out some academic theory, and send it off to a journal or something. For today, I’m here to introduce you to Herogasm, the first Boys spin-off miniseries. It comes out tomorrow, and you won’t want to miss it.
Readers of The Boys know the story already–the superheroes in this world are (very) thinly veiled parodies of known and loved Marvel and DC heroes, and Ennis has peeled back any layers of civility to show them as depraved, selfish wankers who do what they do just to get recognition in the pages of comics. The superheroes are all property of a faceless corporation who just keep them around to make money. It’s metafiction and a statement against corporatism and a poke in the eye of overzealous superhero fans and a laugh at military spending and dick jokes–lots of dick jokes–all at once. No wonder I love it.
Herogasm is what happens when all the superheroes team up to fight a massive enemy–except they don’t actually team up, that’s just a gimmick to sell comics. Instead, they fly off to a hidden island somewhere for some rest, relaxation, and, well, you can figure out the rest from the title, even if you haven’t gotten the pattern by now.
Ennis spoofs all the big-named crossover events in Marvel and DC history and sets new artists John McCrea and Keith Burns up with some expansive sex scenes to draw–this book is in no way safe for work–but underneath it we get some good old-fashioned intrigue, introducing a new bad guy to the scene. The superheroes, for all their powers, are just pawns being shuffled around by corporate entities. A commentary on the comic book industry, or the world at large? It’s probably both.
Slow scenes of a one-sided telephone conversation aboard Air Force Two are intercut with epic splash pages of poolside, er, relaxation, and as usual, Annie is out of her depth but playing along to keep her job. Meanwhile, the Boys are up to no good in their own way, doing surveillance, but this time their eyes are on the real superpowers. And the Homelander has a rather big secret to keep.
Ennis is setting up something big and potentially explosive here. Strangely, you can feel the tension because for all the debauchery in these pages, it’s rather tame. It’s par for the course perversion that we’ve grown used to over thirty issues of Ennis and Robertson set free to try anything. I suppose that can be the problem with a book built on taking that joke just too far, skating the line between alienating and fascinating readers. You’ve got to keep coming up with something new, something crazier.
It’s not immediately clear why this is a spinoff and not just an arc of The Boys, and that’s the other reason I know something huge must be coming. After all, we can trust these guys not to give us a spinoff just to sell comics, right? That’s exactly what they’re parodying here.
Either way, you know you want to read it, even if it’s just for the…art! That’s it.
(Don’t worry, I won’t tell.)