Cast: Karl Urban, Elisabeth Shue, Jack Quaid, Erin Moriarty, Anthony Starr, Jessie Usher, Tomer Capon, Laz Alonso, Dominique McElligott, Chase Crawford, Karen Fukuhara
Kenny J: Published between 2006 and 2012 by Wildstorm and Dynamite respectively, The Boys was Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's hyper violent foray into the world of superhero comics and the band of men self-tasked with policing them. Notoriously, Ennis is not a fan of the superhero genre and The Boys is definitely his most overtly anti-cape book. This cynicism has not tainted Amazon’s latest adaptation of an Ennis comic though - it is just as in love with the source material and the characters within as any Marvel or Zack Snyder produced movie. The analogous superheroes are instantaneously recognisable, as are the locales and fraught relationships.
With it comes a more tempered version of the ultra violence that peppers the pages of the comic. That’s not to say it isn’t there, in all its red and expletive-filled glory, but that it is used sparingly and to further the plot rather than shock and titillate. Take for instance arguably the most visceral event that kickstarts Hughie’s story: the tragic everyman caught up in the cyclone that is Karl Urban’s portrayal of Billy Butcher. This performance is so good that it is sometimes to the detriment of the rest of the stellar cast. When time is spent focusing on other characters you will find yourself longing to be back in the company of his gruff demeanour. This affects the wholesome Annie, aka Starlight, the most, at least in the first half of the series. She is arguably the third star in this version alongside the aforementioned Hughie and Butcher.
This shifts throughout the eight hours of running time, as more is revealed about every character and by the end you will at least understand, if not care about, even the initially seemingly two dimensional villains , including the unnerving Homelander (Anthony Starr). Even apparent side characters like Tomer Capon’s Frenchie and Laz Alonso’s Mother’s Milk have arcs that will have you caring for them. With the vast number of cast members, some do feature more heavily than others but this only leaves you wishing to see the next part of the story when they aren’t on screen. Take The Deep, for instance; a predatory pretty boy that isn’t necessarily all surface, or A-Train; a speedster desperate to keep up.
The Boys' setting seems quite mundane when compared to other properties in this genre. This only adds to the show’s atmosphere where superheroes fly, run and swim amongst the regular folk in a regular city. We're given the feeling that if one of these regular people were determined enough they could do the supes real damage. This is a world full of dreary office spaces, frustrating appointments and awkward bathroom visits and that’s on top of the superheroing side of things.
Sometimes I find stories, especially in the realm of comics, can be aged by the subjects they attempt to tackle. Rather than taking a more universal timeless approach to the subject matter they home in on the events of the day. Unfortunately, The Boys does suffer from this a little. Themes revolving around international politics that were front and centre in the early to mid-Twenty Tens that now seem less relevant. This is more a problem with the source material that has transferred on to the screen. On the other hand, Starlight’s arc contains subjects weaved throughout that are very current without being jarring and this is just another reason that your appreciation of Erin Moriarty’s depiction of Starlight will grow as the character does.
At no point was I bored watching The Boys. There are far too many threads being expertly woven for disinterest to have a chance to set in. Amazon are obviously confident in their interpretation as they leave several plot points unanswered, left dangling, fresh to be picked up in future seasons. This does leave one concerned that the series may not have a satisfying conclusion as a large reveals occur far too late in the running time to be answered, however I needn’t have worried: the ending was not only satisfying but will have me streaming the second series as soon as it hits Amazon Prime. 8/10