Wee Hughie is, for all intents and purposes, the protagonist for the comic book version of The Boys (possibly the TV version too, but that remains to be seen). However, he is also a problematic and flawed protagonist. However, the series doesn’t shy away from pointing out his flaws as flaws. That sort of thing comes to a head in the fourth Omnibus.
Yes, despite the cover showing the Female, this one is more about Hugie, Annie, and what happens when Billy Butcher realizes who Hugie is dating. The thing is, Annie doesn’t know Hughie is one of the Boys, and Hughie doesn’t know Annie is one of the Seven. Butcher, being Butcher, assumes the worst and that Hughie must be a spy for Vought-American. As such, he sets up a loyalty test for Hughie that could get him killed, namely monitoring the most harmless supes on the planet, the young heroes of SuperDuper, stand-ins for the Legion of Superheroes, but all of them having mental disorders, powers that don’t work quite right, and generally very positive attitudes as they wander the suburban neighborhood they call home and try to do good deeds for the residents. No, the real problem is Vought stuck Metamorpho expy Malchemical on the team, and that guy is bad news.
And Hughie can’t stand bullies, especially ones that try to get away with some rape.
Worth noting: Butcher kept all this from the others, and Mother’s Milk figured out what was going on. M.M. has a conscience that Butcher lacks and completely believes Hughie is innocent because everything they’d seen involving Hughie so far shows a man who really could be that oblivious to who his girlfriend really is.
Naturally, the biggest issue is Annie comes clean to Hughie just as she finds out what happened to Hughie’s previous girlfriend. Hughie goes to Butcher, not knowing Butcher knew before Hughie did, and from there, Butcher basically sets up Hughie to believe what Butcher already believes: that there’s no such thing as a good superhero.
See, the major flaw for Hughie, all told, is he’s a bit of a prude. He has shown homophobic tendencies, but the series did call him out for it. He has acknowledged that he needs to do better. But seeing Annie being sexually harassed into giving blowjobs to Homelander, A-Train, and Black Noir in order to stay on the Seven, and Hughie’s response, initially, is to blame the victim in the harshest language possible. Annie, for her part, refuses to believe Hughie meant what he said, but it does end with Hughie going home to Scotland for a mini-series that more or less tells the reader how Hughie was molded into who he was in a small town in Scotland.
John McCrea drew the mini-series. I…didn’t care for it.
Now, the thing is, the writing does eventually have Hughie admit the real problem isn’t what Annie did but how his own mind won’t let it go. There’s some reconciliation, the kind that won’t make Butcher happy, but Butcher did this clearly on purpose, even setting it up so M.M. wouldn’t be around to maybe stop it. Between that and and a comment he made after Hughie stopped him from assaulting SuperDuper when one of their members blurted out a strong swear word due to Tourette’s Syndrome, really, Butcher is looking more and more like the true villain of the series, and this comes after Homelander used a religious festival as cover to plot with other superhumans to do…something.
Ennis’s sense of humor hasn’t always aged well, seeing as one of Hughie’s childhood friends is transgender and the idea seems to be held up for laughs, but he does still do good character work. Hughie and Annie may be flawed people, and they may not have aged well in certain respects, but they’re still pretty vivid characters with distinctive personalities, and that’s more than anything else why I keep coming back to The Boys.
8 out of 10 wee dug stories.