Page 45 Review by Stephen
In which we finally learn why Billy Butcher wants to end all superhuman activity on Earth. Finally, violently, and in public. Adults only, please.
You might want to start at the beginning with THE BOYS VOL 1. It's certainly a lot funnier, but this isn't a bad place to start, either, since it goes right back to Billy's childhood in the East End as the man we know today travels home for a heart-to-heart with his father. Who's dead. And never had a heart in the first place.
It's a brutal story of horrific violence as Billy and brother Lenny struggle with their father constantly beating the living snot out of their mother, and if you wonder why she stays with him then you really need to read DRAGONSLIPPERS: THIS IS WHAT AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP LOOKS LIKE. Ennis understands perfectly, and it's eloquently expressed by young Becky. Becky is the woman who saves Billy from himself: from becoming just like his Dad. He's inherited his father's volcanic temper which the stupid man only encourages. And, as happens, it grows even more explosive when soaked in alcohol. Billy's service in the Falklands War provides a temporary release but on his return he's just seen too much, done too much and... oh, I've seen this documented in real life, especially after some soldiers are released. He's angry - angry at himself and everyone around him until the day he meets Becky, a woman of extraordinary compassion, unafraid either of Billy or of asking him gently to stop.
What's so perfect about this chronicle is that there isn't even a mention of superhumans existing for the first four chapters. Billy's life was like anyone else's in the '70s and '80s in the east End of London. It was all school yard fights then the cold practicalities of harsh economics, whether it be earning a living for a family to subsist on, or Thatcherite politics jettisoning those the state is supposed to care for into a community it had already demolished. There's even a scene at the dinner table where Ennis explores the chasm between those middle class liberals condemning the destruction of the working class's sense of community and the working class's perspective and insight into it, as sat right in front of him in the form of Billy Butcher. Extraordinarily well written. My point is this: it could all have been so different. Against all odds Billy had found happiness with a woman in a part of the world superhumans had not impacted one single jot.
Then, towards the end of the book, something happens. Something so ghastly it actually makes Jessica Jones' story in ALIAS VOLUMES ONE then TWO look lightweight. Some of you have pretty vivid imaginations. I like to think I do too. I never saw this coming.
Best book so far by a very wide margin. Now I'm really looking forward to the finale.