Years ago, legendary comic writer, Garth Ennis, decided to team up with the equally as legendary artist, Darick Robertson to create a little known comic series simply titled, The Boys. The comic was a far from subtle satirized looked at the heroes that we’ve grown up with as a group of government operatives kept a check on them. The first issue was released in October 2006.
And it was bloody insane.
It was everything you would expect from the team that brought you the ultra-violent Punisher Max series. The Boys was rife with incredibly graphic violence, sex, and graphic language. So much violence in fact that fans have long speculated if the comic series would ever be properly adapted after both Columbia and Paramount tried and failed throughout the years since the comic ended its run in 2012.
In July 2019, Amazon Prime would debut the first season of their adaptation of The Boys.
And it was every bit as bloody insane as the books.
This was absolutely thanks to the creative team behind the show, Seth Rogan, Evan Goldberg, and showrunner, Eric Kripke, creator of one of the most successful shows in television history, Supernatural (going into its 15th season this fall).
Throughout the eight-episode first season, Kripke manages to balance and ground a story about humanity to the backdrop of superheroes by focusing on Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid). A mild-mannered nobody who sees his girlfriend killed right in front of by one of the superheroes we’re told to worship. His girlfriend, Robin, has her death written off by Vought International. The massive corporation that markets and sells superheroes that’s led by the ruthless Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue). Enter Billy Butcher. Ex CIA operative that’s putting together his old unit to pull the blindfold off of our eyes to who the supers actually are. And we’re brought into this insane world through Hughie’s eyes.
It’s a smart move as Hughie’s reactions to the extremes this show brings in its storytelling as Butcher brings together the boys, Mother’s Milk (Laz Alnzo) and Frenchie (Tomer Kapon). Kripke, Rogan, and Goldberg manage to succeed where a lot far more famous directors fail with managing these 4 personalities. Urban has proven time and again his talent as an actor as he effortlessly transforms into the scoundrel that is Butcher. He revels in being an asshole and pulls it off so well that he makes bad look good. Jack Quaid brings an honesty to the Boys that creates a dynamic off Butcher that builds so well as the story progresses. Milk and Frenchie are very much what Hughie could turn in to if he stays with Butcher.
Every hero needs a villain and in this, The Boys have The Seven. Vought’s premier (and satirically familiar) superhero group. Lead by Homelander (Superman), Queen Maeve (Wonder Woman), Black Noir (Batman), The Deep (Aquaman), A-Train (The Flash), Transparent, and their newest member, the idealistic Starlight.
Anthony Starr leads the Seven and brings a decided creepiness to Homelander that is every bit a layered performance that mirrors Superman. What I have to give the show so much credit for is The Seven, Homelander specifically. There is a fine line between satire and mockery. Superman’s greatest power is his self-control. For him, he shakes a hand just a little hard and he can turn every bone in your hand to dust. Everything in Superman’s life is control. Homelander, on the other hand, never takes his costume off. It’s a great tell to the character without actually telling. And this train flows through all of the Seven, and the Boys, in ways that are engaging and touching or just really messed up.
The Boys and the Seven’s storylines get far more intertwined as Annie January’s alter ego, Starlight, is hired by the Seven. She shines a light (pun intended) into this dark world through an incredibly engaging performance from Erin Moriarty. Annie is idealistic. She grew up, like all of us, with what a superhero should be and she has an unwavering view that directly conflicts with her new job at the Seven.
It’s that view that speaks a lot to how well this show mirrors today’s world. But especially for someone such as myself who has been reading these heroes for my entire life.
Whether it’s the Boys or the Seven, these characters are strong and the story they tell is engaging as much as it is really messed up. For being a television show budget, the show’s success with the visuals is what sets it apart. With a great mix of practical and CGI that, as the story and characters, does not let up. If you were ever curious if Superman’s heat vision could cut a guy in half, and what that looks like, this is the show for you.
For all the viscera, cursing, babies with laser-eyes, nudity, The Boys is an engaging story with some strong characters and a damn good time. Very much worth 5 out of 5 stars. Check out the first season on Amazon Prime as the second season shoots right now.