Hello dear reader, and welcome to this very comprehensive and not at all obsessive piece on Amazon Prime’s The Boys TV series. The following will include a short spoiler-free review of Season One, an unnecessarily hefty segment of comparison between it and the comics, and then a delightful bit on what I think they should do with Season Two, in regards to introducing more characters and ideas from the books, and maybe a brisk little summary at the end if you're lucky. Sound good? Good, off we go!
Review of Season One
The Boys is based on a much-beloved Garth Ennis comic book of the same name. Set in a world where superheroes are created by a greedy business conglomerate and live the full celebrity lifestyle, it's no surprise that sometimes things get out of hand.
When that happens, it's up to Billy Butcher and the Boys to “spank em.” The show takes the violence and language of Deadpool and turns it up to 11, all the while exploring the 'who watches the Watchmen' argument of cape accountability to its fullest extent, in an even darker, more visceral world.
But it’s not just a big pointless gore-fest; the show has heart and character to it. I can truly say there is nothing quite like it outside of comic books, and in our current superhero-heavy landscape it’s exactly the kind of show we all need to break up the monotony.
To sum it up in just a few words, if Watchmen and Deadpool flip the superhero genre on its head, then The Boys snaps it' neck... and that's pretty great.
Changes from the comics (minor spoilers for the comics)
The Boys was made for TV by Eric Kirpke and produced by (among many others) Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, part of the creative team behind AMC's Preacher (another Ennis comic). They do a remarkable job with them and I thoroughly enjoy both shows, but where they differ is that I've read all the source material for The Boys, so let's talk about that.
Several characters are race or gender swapped from the comics, but by far the most prominent person to go through significant aesthetic alterations is Wee Hughie. He's not even wee. As well as being 1.85 m/6"0, neither Hughie (played by Jack Quaid) nor his father (played by Simon Pegg) are Scottish. I think this is a negative change but a lead character in an American television show, with an accent most Yanks can't understand would probably have been too difficult to sell to networks; though it seems to be working out fine for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
There is one aspect they add to Hughie that I think is an improvement: his tech knowledge. In the comics Hughie is upset over Robin but he doesn't really have any skills. It's clear why he would want to be in The Boys, but not why The Boys would want him. However, with TV Hughie, his technological aptitude and general resourcefulness continue to prove useful to Butcher and the others, rightfully earning his spot on the team.
Another thing: Karl Urban's English accent is pretty rough at first. Between that and his penchant for floral shirts (which is a small change) I thought they might have decided to change his nationality to Australian. Thankfully that was not the case, just some teething issues with casting a Kiwi as a Cockney. He does greatly improve as the series goes on, plus he already looks the part and puts in a great performance. By episode eight he's giving it the full Jason Statham.
The last three core members of the team, Mother’s Milk, Frenchie, and The Female, remain mostly the same, the only real differences being the relationships between the characters.
From the start of the comics, The Boys is an informal, but kind of formal team. They’ve had their history, their ups and downs, but they’ve come out the other side of those disagreements and are still working together to “fight the good fight”; but in the show, it’s a bit more fast and loose. Hughie, and therefore the audience, are involved in the struggles of “getting the band back together” as it were, which I think brings us closer to these characters.
The members of The Seven receive significantly more development: The Deep and A-train are much more sympathetic characters than in the books. We get to see them and their struggles, and it humbles them so much. It almost makes you feel sorry for them.
Translucent is a new character for the show, who has the powers of invisibility and impenetrable, diamond-like skin. He takes the place of Jack From Jupiter, the Martian Manhunter-inspired member of this Justice League allegory. I think they changed him because: 1. Jack is an orange-skinned, noseless alien, and would have required heavy special effects to bring to life, and; 2. Martian Manhunter is inarguably the least well known regular on the League, due to his absence from the Justice League film, so audiences probably wouldn't understand what they were going for with him anyway.
Also, Translucent doesn't even need to be in shot... you can just say he's there. Both characters do have a type invulnerability though, so that's something, and I do enjoy Translucent so I don't mind the change.
Maeve is quite similar to her comic counterpart, but gets fleshed out earlier in the series than the comics, and seems to be at an earlier stage in her arc, less numb and more human. Key events happen differently and in a unique order in the show, so the way her character handles those events is altered. We also get to see some of her personal life away from The Seven.
We spend a lot of time with Homelander and really get to see his psychology in action. The range of emotions Antony Starr can convey with his face is far more impressive than Homelander's heat vision; at first, I saw him and thought they’d just found a discount Chris Pine, but he really does deliver a stellar and chilling performance.
I don't want to give too much away about him in the show but for anyone who has read all the comics, I can see the writers trying to find creative ways of twisting and stretching him, but ultimately towards the same endpoint as the books.
Starlight and Black Noir are almost entirely unchanged. There seem to be some minor tweaks to Starlight's childhood but they could just be a knock-on effect of the changes to how superpowers work and are acquired in this world. I think where they diverge is that Annie (Starlight) learns things earlier and gets a more active role in the main story because of it. Black Noir is very much the enigma that he is in the comics: a silent Batman-esk character that occasionally does mad things. We'll have to wait and see if he continues to follow the source material.
Season Two Hopes (minor spoilers for Season One)
Speaking of following the source material, here are a few characters and story ideas that I think should be adapted in Season Two (which has apparently already been green-lit).
From Russia with Love
Season One introduces the idea that Supes aren't just an American thing anymore, that other countries are working on their own imitations of Homelander and The Seven. Well, as with anything the US does, Russia usually isn't far behind. Enter, Love Sausage.
In the comics, Vasilii Vorishikin is introduced as an old friend of The Boys and former cape in the Soviet superhero team, Glorious Five Year Plan. Vas is a great deal of fun in the books, mostly because he's a silly two-dimensional Russian stereotype with a comically large penis, but with the calibre of writing the other characters have received he could easily be given the depth and personality required to make him a fan favourite.
Also, some interesting things happen in Russia and I would love to see the show's take on them, especially considering where the last episode leaves our Boys.
I know what you’re thinking, “but M.M is already in the show?” and that’s true, but what’s not in the show is why he’s called Mother’s Milk. In comics, it’s a very straightforward (albeit odd) reason that I will not spoil, but for those of you familiar with the books and the show, that reason isn’t really going to work here. I’m confident the writers have a good idea for it though, and I look forward to seeing their take on his origin.
Vic the Veep
Another character I would be excited to see on screen is Vic the Veep. Victor K. Neuman is a mentally deficient former CEO who Vought manage to place in the White House as Vice President, with the ultimate goal of making him President and manipulating policy through him.
Creator Garth Ennis has said Vic was meant to be a parody of George W. Bush, but I think we can all agree that the idea of an inept businessman in the oval office is even more relevant now than it was over a decade ago when the character was created.
A young, inoffensive team of actual do-gooders, Super Duper are some of the only heroes in the world of The Boys that actually do anything heroic. In the comics, Butcher sends Hughie undercover as a new member of Super Duper in order to dig for dirt, while there he gets to see a whole other side to the Supes that really opens his eyes to why they are the way that they are, and, given half a chance, what they can be.
Ennis is quite cynical about superheroes in a lot of his work, but he’s arguably most vitriolic in the pages of The Boys, whereas the show takes a much more level headed approach. Introducing these Young Avengers is the perfect way to further demonstrate the duality of the superhuman condition that the show is already striving for
See, I said there might be a round up, and there is! To culminate this entire piece into just a few lines, I'd have to say The Boys is a good solid watch.
I wasn't too sure at first, the changes and faults were right on the surface but the only reason I kept Amazon Prime was in anticipation of this show, I'd have been damned if I quit after one episode. So I stuck with it, and you know what? It hooked me.
More than that, it convinced me of why these changes were made. The characters are so well understood and beautifully realised, they're given so much more verisimilitude than in the comics. The creators of this show took something I thought I wanted and gave us something I didn't know I wanted more, updating and elevating a truly unique story to even greater heights.
So yeah, if you can get past the irony of a show about abhorrent corporate depravity being made by Amazon of all people, then I can assure anyone not faint of heart, you will enjoy this show.
Written by Kyle J.