The second volume of The Boys sits at the same low-level of humour as the original (namely, the gutter) but, as often happens with the second book in a series like this, it loses some of its spark through familiarity. This leaves us with a bunch of guys in leather trench coats investigating the seedy side of superheroes. But without the relative originality of the first book, it all feels a bit shallow.
There are two stories in this volume. The first is a sort of detective piece: a young man has been murdered, the police are ignoring the case and The Boys get a tip off that superheroes might be involved. Top of the list of suspects is a superhero called Tek-Knight, who has recently been finding it tricky to keep his hands and other body parts to himself, and can barely get through a few minutes without succumbing to the overwhelming urge to have sex with someone or something.
The second story features a typical Ennis style villain – a diminutive, evil but deeply intelligent young woman with a plan to take over the world, using unwitting superheroes to help. Oh, and guess what, she can’t make it very far through the day before she too has to succumb pleasures of the flesh.
In contrast, the background arc is quite tame. Ennis uses these situations for a bit of adult-oriented comedy and to further integrate Wee Hughie into the team. However, you can’t help but feel the whole thing could have been better served without the pervy twists. This necessity to insert dirty jokes seems to stand in the way of the over-arching plot actually going anywhere interesting.
The art is pleasing but, despite what we’ve said about the nature of the content, circles around its extremities. Although the language and intent is crude, the actual drawn content barely flips into the overtly graphic – there’s a little nudity and a smattering of blood-shed, but it’s not nearly as over-the-top as the script. It tends to be more about the implications than the deeds themselves – a fair bit is left to the imagination which, in retrospect, is probably no bad thing.
The other issue is that Peter Snejbjerg lifts some of the art duties from Darick Robertson towards the second half of the book. This just doesn’t sit right, jarring against the flow and continuity of the story.
Longer series like this can often feel like they go through something of a lull, particularly after an intense start. However, knowing what Ennis is capable of at his best, this is a disappointing second volume. Hopefully he’ll pull something more out of the bag for the third book.