Confusing title aside, here’s Fanboy Luis’ review of season 1 of Amazon’s “The Boys”, all episodes streaming now!
“The Boys” is Amazon’s newest addition to its library of original shows. Based on the comic book by writer Garth Ennis (Hit Man, Preacher, The Punisher) and illustrator Darick Robertson (Transmetropolitan, The Punisher, Wolverine), The Boys tells the story of a normal man named Hughie Campbell who lives in world where powers, superheroes and super-villains exist. After witnessing his girlfriend be brutally killed by a superhero and dismissed as collateral damage, Hughie is recruited by black ops operative Billy Butcher to The Boys – a ragtag group of skilled individuals who’s tasked with keeping the super-powered community in check. The book delves into the seedy and dark underground of people of power who live lives filled with drugs, money, sex and other vices. The Boys are there to make sure their acts don’t get out of hand and harm any more people. The comic does not shy away from the potential debauchery, mayhem and insanity a world with actual superheroes could be, so it is very graphic and vulgar. As a fanboy AND a fandad, I must warn potential readers that your enjoyment of the book will definitely depend on how much violence, gore and profanity you can tolerate.
The new series does not stray far from the source material. Our point of view character remains Hugh “Hughie” Campbell (played admirably by Jack Quaid), again a victim of “collateral damage” as his girlfriend is brutally killed by speedster A-Train (played by Jessie Usher) under very questionable circumstances. Like the comic, Hughie does not accept the fact that the government, media and the huge corporation Vought International seemingly sweeps the death of his girlfriend under the rug as an accident or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. From here, it becomes a slippery slope of decisions that finds Hughie teaming with Billy Butcher (Karl Urban, in another masterclass of genre acting) to find justice in an unjust world. The streaming version of The Boys adds some great elements that reflect the current environment of super heroes, big corporations, mass marketing, social media and the government & military industrial complex. Just as the book, the so-called superheroes of this world are all but human with their flaws: addiction, depravity, violence, intolerance and ignorance. The show takes some great cues and imagines a world of superheroes worshiped the same way we do our celebrities. Their appearances are followed and curated on social media, their stories sold as books and movies, and their every move and speech monitored by huge corporations. The main antagonists for Hughie, Butcher and The Boys are The Seven, a thinly veiled analogy for DC Comic’s Justice League and Marvel’s The Avengers. The series picks up the pace (and gore) from the word “GO!”, and it doesn’t let up until the final episode. As I mentioned with the book, your enjoyment of the series will definitely depend on how much gore and vulgarity you can take. Given that, I highly recommend this show. Its 8 episodes long, averaging 55 minutes long, an easy binge if you have an open weekend. The material might shallow and only for shock value, but it does take a critical look at how we treat our heroes, how media and government and big corporations already influence our lives, and how one person could possibly make a difference. As a fanboy, I highly recommend the show and I cannot wait for season 2.
A Last Thought
As mentioned, veteran genre actor Karl Urban (Lord of the Rings trilogy, Judge Dredd, Star Trek) makes a great turn as tragic anti-hero Billy Butcher in the show. However, the series stand out and my personal MVP of the show has to be The Homelander, played amazingly yet horrifyingly by relative newcomer Antony Starr. Homelander is a satire of both Superman and Captain America; an All-American boy with all the best powers, loves apple pie and baseball, and never questions his government and military and Vought International. Starr plays Homelander with an incredible sense of menace and intimidation, tactics he uses to keep The Seven (and the whole world) in check. Homelander also has intermittent moments of vulnerability and sadness, played against the incredible Elizabeth Shue as his handler Madelyn Stillwell. In another universe, I can honestly imagine Antony Starr playing either Superman or Captain America on the big screen. I’m glad, yet horrified, that we live in one where he can be the terrifying inverse of both.