The Boys Review – Superheroes Can Be D**ks Too!
Everywhere we look Superheroes are smashing the Box Office, dominating Streaming Services and basically taking over the world one lunchbox at a time. I have absolutely nothing against this, bring on the Disney/Marvel world takeover in my opinion. Yet, there’s only so many fantasy Utopian ideals that an audience can take at once. Sometimes, we need a dark, gritty and nihilistic slap around the face to wake us up from the ‘Everything is Awesome’ world of superheroes.
Enter The Boys.
Based on the comic book of the same name by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson, and brought to life by Eric Kripke, Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen The Boys is set in a world where ‘Supes’ exist as powerful entities with inflated egos and no needle on their moral compass. This hyper-real universe plays heavily on our understanding of the tropes of superhero movies, while simultaneously crashing down the reality of how wielding the power of a God can easily corrupt. It’s not the first to bring us this concept (“Who watches the Watchmen?”) but it is definitely one of the better at portraying it (I’m looking at you Brightburn).
The titular Boys are a vigilante group who set out to ‘spank’ the world’s greatest superhero team, The Seven, and expose the multitude of crimes they have committed under the protection of their owners Vought Industries. They are led by snarky and foul mouthed Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) who has a deeply personal vendetta against the American Flag wearing face of ‘The Seven’, Homelander (Antony Starr).
The link between The Seven and the Justice League is thinly veiled but greatly used. We have the Warrior Queen, the Speedster, the Bloke Who Can Speak to Fish and the All-American Hero who heads the table. The meta inclusion of characters we are already aware of in our zeitgeist is somewhere between loving homage and brutal satire of the superhero culture. Of course this speaks to Ennis and Robertson’s connection to the world of DC comics and comes from their reverence of that universe.
As the series begins we are introduced to the newest recruit to The Boys, Hughie (Jack Quaid), who lost his girlfriend in a ‘collateral damage accident’ caused by another member of The Seven, A-Train (Jessie T. Usher). I mean, running through a person causing them to explode into a puddle of viscera and guts can only be described as an accident right?
Alongside this we are introduced to The Seven’s latest recruit, Starlight (Erin Moriarty). Annie January is really the girl next door, with a heart of gold and a body full of blinding light. Upon entering The Seven she has to deal with being a cog in the corporate machine of superheroes and battle with the egos and disgusting behaviour of her fellow ‘Supes’. Starlight quickly begins to understand the old adage ‘Never meet your heroes’.
The events of the series amp up as Butcher promises to help Hughie get his revenge on the ‘Supes’ who want to brush his girlfriend’s death under the rug to maintain their clean image. This leads to an all out battle between The Boys and The Seven involving the use of everything from electrified cages, C-4 and laser-eyed babies. Violence and carnage ensue and there is a real feeling that it will end with nobody truly winning.
The Boys could easily have been a cynical pit with no means of escape, but the human elements manage to bring depth to this show. Showing the humanity of Starlight and her want to be a real hero gives us something to buffer against the rest of The Seven. We see who they should be, and maybe who they once were. Hughie is at the heart of the collateral damage that people on the ground suffer, something that has been tackled mildly in major Comic Book films, but nowhere near as intensely or personally as this. These two characters become our guide through an insanely iniquitous world.
There’s definitely some social ideologies at play here too. We’ve seen what celebrity status and a sense of social superiority can do to many people in the real world, from politicians, to actors, to reality stars. Now add the idea that these people see themselves as infinite, infallible and immortal…that creates a whole new level of asshole. Throw in issues such as sexism, elitism and the hypocrisy of the powerful and The Boys really does seem to be holding up a mirror to modern events.
Savage and intense in dealing with murder, sexual assault, drug abuse and human trafficking, The Boys holds nothing back. It is visceral, visually stunning and poignant, nailing the cynicism of the modern world and peeling back the curtain on large conglomerate companies, the illusion of heroics and the corruption of those in power. The ‘Supes’ are tainted, ego-maniacs happy to lounge within their own hype and fulfill every twisted fantasy they have. Our heroes are a motley crew of the broken, the angry and the disreputable. It’s a Superhero series for the downtrodden.
Superhero movies aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and neither is The Boys. Amazon has already confirmed a second series is in the works, and I am eagerly awaiting more foul-mouthed fun and chaotic shenanigans. Bring back my ‘Spice Girls’!