Amazon Prime is releasing Season 2 of their TV show rendition of The Boys comic book series on Friday. My fiancé and I watched Season 1 earlier this year and are rewatching it while eagerly anticipating our Friday night plans 😉 We love it so much, I thought I’d check out the first volume of the comic. I’ll talk about this first volume of the comic first before comparing it to Season 1 of the show.
Don’t worry, this review is free of spoilers =)
Superheroes are real, and they are backed by the most American institution: big corporations. What happens when they mess up? Hughie is about to find out. After his girlfriend, Robin, is accidentally killed by A-Train, one of the Seven (think Justice League or Avengers for this world), he is approached by a man named Billy Butcher. Billy wants to recruit Wee Hughie into a group called The Boys. They are backed by the CIA specifically to keep the Supes in line. Hughie wants justice for Robin, but at what cost? Annie January, also known as Starlight, is the newest member of the Seven. It’s been her dream ever since she was a little girl growing up in the rural Midwest. However, she’s about to find out that being among the best of the best is not what it’s all cracked up to be…
The point of this series is to subvert common superhero tropes. As such, the comic is very graphic, in terms of both violence (some of which is sexual) and sexual content, neither of which are seen often in traditional superhero comics – at least not to this extent. None of the characters presented are especially good people. They’re not all bad, but none of them are particularly good, either. In this world, Supes are the faces of corporations and businesses, not operating independently. As such, they serve the ends of the corporations first, and of the greater good to a lesser extent. The art of the book, especially in the coloring, is dark and murky, as if you’re seeing the world through a dirty lens.
Overall, I think the first season of the show did a much better job with this story than it’s source material, for a couple of different reasons.
First, and I’m not sure if this is because I simply watched the show first, but I felt the story in the book went way too fast. A plot point that is revealed very late in Season 1 is presented in the book within the first half of the first volume. This absolutely killed any mystery or tension behind it. At that point I felt there was no longer any point to reading. Other plot points were switched around from the book to the show, which in my mind only served to aid in the deliciously slow reveal of that big twist.
Second, there is a large level of violence in both the book and the show. In the book it felt much more gratuitous and as if violence was in there for violence’s sake, not necessarily to move the story along. While I can close my eyes at some parts of the show (and definitely needed to), it’s harder to skim a graphic novel. You still see the parts you want to skip over! This is fine for some readers, but still definitely not for me.
Third, as mentioned before, none of the characters are particularly good people. Perhaps this changes as the graphic novel series goes on, but here in the first volume I didn’t get the impression that any of these characters were redeemable whatsoever. None of them were particularly human, just cardboard stereotypes, even the people we’re supposed to be rooting for. The show takes steps to humanize all the characters. We are shown the good qualities in these bad people, making us wonder if we are supposed to really hate or like them. Volume 1 of the book series doesn’t offer any of that, so readers just… plain don’t like them.
The Boys can be a great subversion of the superhero genre, and does succeed in both comic and show form – but overall the winner in my eyes, and my ultimate recommendation, is the show on Amazon Prime, not the graphic novel series. If you can stomach the gratuitous violence and love to love very bad people, pick it up!
Ennis, Garth, and Darick Robertson. The Boys (Vol. 1): The Name of the Game. 2010.