As Wee Hughie grapples with the bombshells left to him in Butcher's diary, he starts to realize he's less intact than he thought after the events of The Boys...
But perhaps more importantly to current events, Hughie's keeping Butcher's diary a secret from Annie. As he reads its contents in secret, hiding behind a ruse of irritated bowels, he dives into a previously-undisclosed chapter of the Boys' history...
In the late '90s, there was a rift forming in Vought-American between their supe development and media divisions. Mallory wants to exploit that rift, but in his private thoughts, Butcher has other notions... and an ominous warning of what's ultimately to come.
The Boys: Dear Becky improves considerably in its second outing, (mostly) eschewing its over-the-top sadism in favor for intrigue and introspection. Sure, there’s a scene where Billy Butcher holds Thor – I mean, Vikor – in an oven and roasts him, but that’s primarily there so we can get to the sort-of revelation that he knows exactly what he’s doing is wrong, but he can’t seem to stop himself. That part of Butcher died with his wife, and although he knows he’s dishonoring her memory with his violence, that side of him continues to win out.
Hughie, for his part, seems to be struggling with some form of PTSD from his time with the Boys, triggered by the untimely arrival of Butcher’s diary. It’s an angle that makes this sequel feel far more necessary than it might have otherwise; after all, Hughie was party to some truly horrific things throughout the ninety issues of the original series. It only makes sense that there’d be some psychological fallout. That Ennis realizes that as well gives me hope that there’s more to this series than nostalgia for the sake of it. Hughie has always had a lot of nuance to him, acting more than once as the team’s conscience even as he indulges in their violent ways. Ultimately, he’s a pacifist at heart, but now he’s one with blood on his hands. That internal conflict has always been what drives him as a character and makes him stand out among the manly-men that typically populate Ennis stories.
The flashback scenes with the Skorchers are interesting, but I’m not entirely certain where Ennis is going with this yet. The idea of an internal schism at Vought-American between their media and supe development divisions would be a lot more intriguing if we weren’t already aware of subsequent events from the original series. True, for amusement-in-the-moment it gives us the utterly ridiculous Skorchers team (Sex Vicar is my personal favorite), but to what end remains to be seen. Its ultimate existence seems to be to expose the rift within the Boys themselves between Mallory’s and Butcher’s approaches to their job, one that will ultimately end in tragedy. But again – it’s hard to feel truly invested when we already knows how it will turn out.
And that’s the trouble with writing prequels (even if Dear Becky has a dual function as both a prequel and a sequel): it’s hard to generate a feeling of stakes when the outcome is already well-documented. The trick is in making the journey one of interest; thus far, Dear Becky has given us the bare bones of that journey but has yet to connect the dots in such a way to make it feel truly compelling or necessary. It’s a little unfair, though, to detract point s from the series for this a mere two issues in, so further thoughts on this will have to wait for a future issue’s review.
Artistically, Russ Braun does his usual capable job, but in the final analysis he’s a poor substitute for original series artist Darick Robertson (whose art graces the sublime cover). Braun was originally brought in about 2/3 the way through the original series’ run when Robertson had to bow out due to personal issues; it’s noteworthy that the series became far more about people standing around talking than many major action beats in the latter stretch of his run. Part of that is because Ennis indulged his own sense of exposition far too much, but I’ve always felt like it was also because Braun isn’t terribly good at drawing people in motion. His characters are stiff in their movements and unconvincing in their action. This unfortunately is still true in Dear Becky; Braun delivers very flat renderings of action beats that lack power or dynamism. His scenes where characters are talking or standing around are more his speed; it makes me think he’d be better suited to a quieter, more introspective title. It’s not that he’s necessarily a bad artist, just not great at conveying action. That said, it’s nice to have his artistic continuity from the original title.
The Boys: Dear Becky #2 starts getting down to business after last issue's table-setting, and is all the stronger for it. Less knee-jerk over-the-top violence, and more intrigue and introspection make for a comic that, while not yet at can't-miss status, definitely stands out on the shelves.
The Boys: Dear Becky #2: Ouch
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 7/107/10
- Art - 6/106/10
- Color - 7/107/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10
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