Heh. Even better than the obvious gag here is that the costume designs Darick Robertson tossed off for this joke cover are better than most of what we've seen in the DC Reboot and Marvel NOW combined. Seriously. Embiggen that thing and check 'em out before flushing.
It's nice to have Robertson back for this final issue, by the way. Russ Braun was an able replacement who really made the book his own the last few years. But Robertson's departure due to contractual issues with DC was the sort of sad professional circumstance you most hate to see, so I'm glad he got to draw the finale.
Alright. So we've had our joke and we've had our weepy farewell. Now it's down to the questions that matter: Was this finale any good? Did any remaining loose ends get tied up? Did the series' themes dovetail together, or just slap flaccidly into each other? To answer briefly: yes, yes, and... uhm... not... flaccidly... at all? Hrm.
Never mind. It was good.
Ennis does spend most of the issue tying things up. There's a long-time-coming revenge scene, for instance, and it features the trademark Boys filth. But in a surprise move, the filth is not visual but verbal, with some of the foulest language I've ever read in a funnybook. Mostly, though, this issue features a surprisingly confident Hughie wrapping up The Boys' business, and--
Actually, let me back up. I don't think Hughie's confidence is really very surprising at all. When you look back over the series, what you see is a shell-shocked Hughie not being given a chance to truly grieve for his murdered girlfriend, getting pulled into a life he never knew, and from that point on being constantly kept off-balance by a deceptively subtle manipulator. But outside Butcher's sphere of influence, Hughie is something of a dominant personality. He's the leader of his gang of childhood friends back home, and takes on something of a big brother role with more than one hapless young supe. So it seems kind of natural that he'd grow into a confident player once Butcher was out of the way.
The best example of this is in Hughie's meeting this issue with The Man From Vought. I won't spoil the details of their encounter, but Hughie holds his own against the scariest character in the series, and even asks the question we've all wanted to hear from day one:
I'm still torn on whether I like that answer or not. I mean... It's the only answer that matters, really. Who The Man From Vought is and where he came from is irrelevant. It's what he represents that's important, and Ennis certainly tells us that as plainly as he possibly could. It's just maybe a little too plain for my taste. A little too on-the-nose. Theme made flesh.
Of course, Ennis does put the lie to this confrontation later in the issue, as The Man From Vought suffers a very quiet corporate breakdown due to this next scene. Vought-American was disgraced by the meltdown of the Seven, but they've regrouped and rebranded, and The Man From Vought is now The Man From American Consolidated. Their days of military contracts are over, but there's still supes, and still money to be made off them. Returning to headquarters after his encounter with Hughie, The Man meets with his development team, who present him with an all-new group of supes who aren't exactly new and clearly aren't up to snuff. Which leads to the following exchange, and Ennis' real final word on super heroes:
"The same old shit dressed up." Ouch. It's like DC and Marvel did their respective reboots just to give Ennis a slam-dunk finish...
Of course, the real heart of The Boys doesn't lie with the satire, but with the characters. And Ennis delivers on that front, too. The key relationship in the series, for me, was the one between Hughie and Annie January. And to discuss this any further would be the kind of SPOILER I prefer to avoid, so I'm putting the rest of this discussion behind the jump. Seriously, I'll be posting the series' final page on the other side of this break, so only keep going if you really wanna see...
Okay, so: Hughie and Annie. Garth Ennis can sometimes conjure devastatingly real relationships, and this was one of them: a perfect (and thus hopelessly impossible) love affair between two of the most likeable fictional characters you could ever want. They had their flaws and made their mistakes, of course, and Ennis long ago drove a wedge between them that he spent months tapping slowly into place until the relationship broke. But if you weren’t still rooting for them… I’m sorry, but you have no soul.
Anyway. To my mind, the salvation of The Boys’ fallen world has always rested in this relationship. If Hughie and Annie couldn’t make things work in the end, then the series would be a very dark statement indeed. But considering that it ends with this…
…I think you can guess where it all came down.