From the earliest matinee serials, when the adventures of comic book characters first got adapted to movies, and television, what occurred represented the birth of the sub-genre known as superhero movies. Everyone developed what, over time, became traditional ways of approaching the ‘B’ material and bringing it to life onscreen. From the more literal translation used in the original Batman weekly editions to television’s The Adventures Of Superman, to all the early adaptations, the genre series and films developed and evolved into something mostly better over time. These artists were transforming idyllic, two-dimensional characters into more fleshed out human beings. As the film industry became better at what they created,  so did their productions.

Then came Watchmen, the comic (or graphic novel if you prefer) that turned traditional approaches to comic creation on its head and changed everything. Following in that tradition, The Boys goes even further. With the arrival and subsequent embracing by fans of the ‘new’ grounded, grim and gritty tone that established itself in genre books and stories approaching the twenty-first century, genre films and television followed suit. Naturally, just like always, this shift met with mixed success depending on how good the source material was, to begin with, and how well it got translated to the screen.


In a post Games Of Thrones world, The Boys represents an adult entry in the genre that establishes the show as a new benchmark in bringing comics to the screen. In the tradition of Watchmen,  this entertaining series represents an approach that goes beyond satire and parody and turns the genre on its head. By challenging the traditional norms of comicdom and exploring the nature of good and evil, it creates a cynical universe that is not always friendly towards the innocent or punishing to those that do wrong or misbehave.

In case you are not familiar with the title, The Boys is an American superhero television series based on the comic book of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. Developed by Eric Kripke for Amazon, it follows the eponymous team of vigilantes as they fight back against superpowered individuals who abuse their abilities.

The Boys is a very dark and darkly amusing, unapologetically violent series that takes place in a world where everyone, to some degree, is a villain with the all too human ability to be only occasionally heroic. Starting by depicting how bad things can happen when ordinary people and superheroes collide. The Boys quickly establishes itself as a grim one with a fondness for graphically portrayed violence onscreen. The series takes the time to remind us of that at regular intervals throughout the first season. The viewer gets faced with the choice of watching human bodies explode like blood-filled water balloons and worse regularly, or seeking their amusement elsewhere. The Boys also establishes a very dark narrative that takes place inside a not-too-distant-future evil corporate dystopia that is, not too surprisingly, disturbingly similar to our current situation. Things start dark and only grow increasingly more ominous as the series reveals more of its story.

Beyond the graphic violence (which can be distracting and even a turn-off for some), there’s some good writing going on here in an engaging series with an abundance of remarkable and memorable moments. Like other comics-based series portraying a group of characters, The Boys is an ensemble series with multiple storylines, some more compelling than others. We see some characters rise while others get portrayed in a downward spiral. Some live, and some die. Like any story, we find some familiar ground here also, in the form of a few old reliable well-used classic themes like ‘Be careful what you wish for’ and ‘Things are not always the way they seem’ get used well again here.

Of course, taking place in a corporate dystopia, the series’ chief villain behind the scenes is the Vought Corporation that has assumed the role of a genuinely evil and amoral god interested only in maintaining its power and profits. The Boys entire narrative leads back to the corporate giant after it cooks up a nightmarish machiavellian scheme to remake and conquer the world while establishing itself as a heroic establishment that solves the world’s problems (at a profit, of course)

The cast, for the most part, does an excellent job here bringing this group of delightful characters to life and even elevating it beyond ‘B’ material to some degree. The show’s two male leads steal the show. Karl Urban’s over-the-top portrayal as Billy Butcher, makes the ex-government agent and maniacal leader of The Boys seem like a man possessed by Satan himself.  Anthony Starr’s more nuanced approach as the deeply psychotic John/ Homelander is equally compelling and very disturbing. These are potent characterizations, boosted by the noteworthy performances of supporting cast members Elizabeth Shue as the heartless Madelyn Stillwell, the face and leader of Vought, and Jack Quaid as the affable and somewhat naive Hughie Campbell who soon finds himself in over his head.

Season one of the series ends with a lot of loose plot threads. Topping everything off, The Boys first season ends with a surprising plot twist that turns the entire first season narrative on its head to some degree and works well as a device that invites speculation about a second season of the show. Bottom line, The Boys is a very entertaining and engaging series that some may find offensive dues to language, sex, and lots of graphic violence, while others will want more. A second season is on the way, but no premiere date is presently known. Recommended

 

Our Score
C

By Craig Suide

A genuine (OCD) enthusiast of Sci-FI and fantasy. Addicted to stories. a life-long fan of movies, TV, and pop culture in general. Purchased first comic book at age five, and never stopped. Began reading a lot early on, and discovered ancient mythology, and began reading science fiction around the same time. Made first attempts at writing genre fiction around age 12 Freelance writer for Sci-Fi Nerd (Facebook), retired professional gourmet chef. ex-musician, and illustrator

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