It's not often that an episode of The Boys goes by without some kind of horrific physical mutilation or sexual abuse. It's even more unexpected that an extra-long anniversary issue by Garth Ennis and Russ Braun wouldn't do that either. But that's the case in The Boys #50. Anything really gross happens off panel, and the real violations happen inside people's heads instead. This is a comic full of subressed violence, and people trying to find a way through a minefield of mutaully assured destruction.
The comic has a reputation for the juvenile, the broad, the overblown and the purely sadistic. So when it drops the superfart gags, suddenly the serious aspects are much more gripping. And that's the sensation left by The Boys #50, the reader kept on the edge of his seat waiting for an explosion that doesn't come. Or at least, not then, when this book is set. Before The Boys series started and all the cards began to fall.
The art is strong and hard. This is mostly about men, facing off against men, lots of angulary jaws and shoulders and furrows of brows. The only punch is thrown at the very beginning, Mallory against Butcher, and the lack of response is echoed in the rest of the book. Even a scene of mass slaughter happens well before we arrive, leaving a pristine Highlander. And yet we know that all this will change…
Memoir #1 by Ben McCool and Nikki Cook also deals in restraint, but its a very different form of horror. This is the kind of comic that will be described as David Lynchian, what with its small town weiord inhabitant, but it has more in common with the modern high concerpt genre series in that we have a town that, ten years ago, lost their memory. And an idealistic journalist from out of town, coming to break the story open to find himself sucked into its maw.
And a maw it is, just willing to suck in his obnoxious, over confident nosiness. This is a comic full of unlikeable characters with the hope that they will all die in some horribly sickening fashion. And McCool is the kind of person who should never disappoint on that level.
And Nikki's art really does intentionally make each and every character unpleasant to look at – but seen in contrast to the discovered secret in the town, they're all cherubic. The small panels of much of the book also help create a claustrophobic, unescapable place that echoes what attracts the journalist, that people aren;t leaving this place. From what we've seen, it's not because of the local beach..