Welcome to the Golden Age of Super-Powered Jerks
Let’s be honest: real-life superheroes would probably be terrible people. With great power comes great responsibility, but one only needs to take a look at Twitter to know that most people are terrible and should not have any power of any sort. Picture what your MAGA-Chud drunk uncle or your douchebag office mate who won’t shut up about CrossFit would do if they had heat vision or super-strength.
Thanks to Amazon Prime’s new offering, The Boys, you don’t have to imagine what would happen if normal shitty humans became superheroes. Based on the comic books series by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson, The Boys is yet another take on the whole superhero deal–comics, TV shows, Expanded Cinematic Universes–and its place in American society. Because it’s from Garth Ennis, known for his work on the Preacher and Hellblazer comics, it’s gory, misanthropic, and nihilistic. This will become obvious to the viewer in the opening minutes, as speedster hero A-Train (think The Flash) runs through an unsuspecting pedestrian. Literally. She explodes into a red goop, leaving her stunned boyfriend holding on to her dismembered hands.
The stunned boyfriend is Hughie (Jack Quaid). His grief turns to anger as he watches A-Train’s press conference, in which A-Train lies about the circumstances of the girl’s death. Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), who may or may not be an FBI agent in charge of a team of highly trained killers, recruits Hughie. This team is the titular Boys, although there is a female member, named The Female, responsible for keeping the “Supes” in line.
The show intertwines Annie January’s origin story with Hughie’s. Aka Starlight, she’s an innocent Midwestern Supe who’s looking to join The Seven, the show’s take on The Avengers/Justice League. She gets her wish and pays a terrible price, and the show pulls back the rest of the curtain: The Seven are a bunch of sociopaths, sexual predators and general miscreants, operating under the sponsorship of the Vought Corporation. Vought is happy to make money off of the merchandise, movies and TV shows featuring The Seven. In return, The Seven get to pretty much do whatever they want, to whomever they want. As for Billy Butcher and The Boys, they’re less about managing the Supes and more about beating them to a bloody pulp/killing them in nasty ways.
The Boys is definitely not for everyone; the Exploding Girlfriend scene will certainly cause a number of viewers to reach for the remote, and if that doesn’t do it, the barrage of gore and violence (including rape) that follows certainly will. I’m hesitant to call the show “fun,” but it’s certainly a satire, one that’s quite funny at times, and all of the lead actors seem to be in on the joke. Karl Urban is especially great; he was the best part of the rebooted Star Trek movies, and brings the same energy here. Give the man his Judge Dredd TV show already; he’s more than earned it. Amazon has already picked up the show for a second season. Between The Boys, and HBO’s upcoming Watchmen series, it’s a great time to be a fan of super-powered assholes.