Crack open a cold one with Amazon’s “The Boys”

Based on the comic book of the same name by Garth Ennis and Eric Kripke, “The Boys” is available on Amazon Prime Video.

Official show poster via Amazon Prime Video

Based on the comic book of the same name by Garth Ennis and Eric Kripke, “The Boys” is available on Amazon Prime Video.

By Thomas Wick, Staff Writer

In case you have been living under a rock for the past 10 years, superheroes are one of the biggest trends in popular culture. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, critically acclaimed video games and interconnected TV series on Netflix and the CW are proof that we are in the golden age of superheroes. Their presence is so immense there are even ads for “Avengers: Endgame” grape cartons at the grocery store.

It’s fair to call “superhero” its own genre. And, like any genre, there is always going to be a film or TV show that deconstructs it. This year we got one such deconstruction — which features babies shooting laser beams to literally deconstruct men in suits — in the Amazon Prime exclusive show “The Boys,” a sharp, witty and adult series that exceeds expectations and then some.

Based on the comic book of the same name by Garth Ennis and Eric Kripke, “The Boys” focuses on a group of individuals fed up with the corrupt superheroes in their world who fail to uphold their duties. The heroes in question, The Seven, are owned by a massive multimedia corporation called Vought, and their immense power has caused them to become more like villains than heroes.

One day, a member of The Seven traumatizes the central protagonist of the series, Hughie (Jack Quaid). Hughie is approached by a mysterious man named Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), who offers him the chance to get even with The Seven. Hughie joins Billy’s team of antiheroes Frenchie (Tomer Capon), Marvin (Laz Ansolo) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara).

Together they must fight against The Seven, a clear parody of the Justice League with deadly members such as the Superman-like Homelander (Anthony Starr), Wonder Woman-like warrior Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), The Flash-like speedster A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) and Aquaman-like hero The Deep (Chace Crawford).

The first thing that stood out, other than Karl Urban’s delightful accent, was the cast. The two leads of the show, Hughie and Billy, were the highlights. The constant moral dilemmas they face while fighting against superpowered jerks were enthralling.

While Hughie and Billy are connected in their quest to get revenge against The Seven, they are both cut from different cloths. Billy is very dark and his diabolical nature tends to spread its way onto Hughie and taints his innocent slate. However, Hughie isn’t fighting against The Seven because Billy forced him too. Hughie is also driven by vengeance, but unlike the desensitized Billy, every horrific action he makes fills him with disgust and overwhelming regret. One of the most common themes of the superhero genre is trying to uphold the law while also working outside it, and both Billy’s and Hughie’s characterizations are great case studies of this issue. Their relationship is a wonderful dichotomy that keeps the narrative flowing.

The Seven are also very interesting, even if they aren’t very likeable. A-Train is the most despicable, using performance-enhancing drugs to cheat his way to victory and lacking the most basic human compassion for his closest friends.

Homelander, on the other hand, is a complete menace. His terrifying demeanor is elevated by Starr’s performance and the representation of Homelander’s limitless power. We see in the first episode how he destroys a plane with little effort, establishing how easily Homelander could destroy The Boys if they get caught. Combine this power with his total lack of ethics and you have a genuinely scary villain, right on par with Thanos.

However, not all of the members of the Seven are as despicable as Homelander and A-Train, and some feel immense guilt about their actions. Though a pawn of Vought, the heroine Starlight (Erin Moriarity) represents a better version of the traditional superhero — one who protects innocent lives.

“The Boys” is not just a parody of the superhero genre but also of our celebrity-focused society. On TV and social media The Seven come across as likeable and heroic, but behind the scenes they’re people with the same issues as everyone else. But with their immense power they became burned out and forgot who they were supposed to be.

Starlight’s characterization is relevant in today’s world because she represents how it feels to be bought and controlled by a corporation. Once she becomes a member of The Seven, Vought owns everything about her. The same happens in our society.

Rather than creating a black and white show that makes Hughie a saint and The Seven coldhearted devils, some of the latter are still faintly heroic. The Deep wants to save the ocean, a pursuit that almost costs him his job, and Maeve still tries to do the right thing in the face of Homelander’s ferocity, such as trying to save a young family from death.

On top of these morally gray story beats and even some jabs at ’80-’90s superhero costumes, “The Boys” also has some very sharp and stark humor. The show isn’t gut-bustingly hilarious, but the interactions between the five antiheroes are sometimes extremely funny.

The visuals are the icing on the gray cake. For an Amazon Prime show, the cinematography is excellent, showcasing some great mise-en-scene in the costume designs of the heroes, the authentic locations of the city and bringing the best out of the actor performances. The lighting is flat and ugly but it works in the show’s favor, matching its murky themes and violent material.

“The Boys” is also super adult. There are some seriously grotesque visuals and raunchy dialogue that would make Deadpool proud, yet it never comes across as childish or cheap shock value.

“The Boys” is an absolute must see for everyone. Even if you aren’t a fan of the superhero genre it’s still worth binging. The show is only eight episodes at the moment, and it’s already been renewed for a second season. We’ll see if it dies a hero or lives long enough to become a villain.