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The Boys turns the superhero genre on its head 

click to enlarge ANTIHERO Karl Urban stars as Billy Butcher, who leads a group of vigilantes against The Seven, a group of corrupt but powerful superheroes run by a corporation that seeks to monetize them, in The Boys on Amazon Prime.

Photo Courtesy Of Amazon Studios

ANTIHERO Karl Urban stars as Billy Butcher, who leads a group of vigilantes against The Seven, a group of corrupt but powerful superheroes run by a corporation that seeks to monetize them, in The Boys on Amazon Prime.

What if superheroes were actually corrupt and arrogant jerks who were owned by a corporation that monetizes them through films and merchandizing while carefully crafting their heroic public personas to appear virtuous and selfless? And what if a group of vigilantes knew the truth about these so-called heroes and worked to take them down? Welcome to The Boys, an action crime comedy that pits the titular vigilantes—led by profane and irreverent Billy Butcher (Karl Urban)—against The Seven, Vought International's premier tier of superheroes—led by egotistical and increasingly unstable Homelander (Anthony Starr). (16 60-min. episodes)

Glen We're obviously a little late to this series, which first came out in 2019. Season 2 is now wrapping up with a third scheduled for 2021. Now's the time to jump into this funny, violent, thoroughly entertaining, genre-flipping romp. The series opens with mild-mannered Hughie Campbell, who toils in an electronics store. He's a nerd, but he has one thing going for him—Robin (Jess Salgueiro), a terrific out-of-his-league girlfriend who loves him. Then the unspeakable happens. The fastest man in the world, A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), one of The Seven, accidentally runs right through Robin, obliterating her body and leaving Hughie holding her severed arms. Now turned against superheroes, Hughie is slowly recruited by Billy Butcher into his team of vigilantes, along with Mother's Milk (Laz Alonso) and Frenchie (Tomer Capon), all of whom have their own reasons to hate superheroes. What follows is Hughie's descent into crime in the service of something greater.

Anna Gotta love a hero-turned-villain tale and vice versa, and The Boys is an entertaining journey into both. Hughie is meek and mild mannered, living with his dad, Hugh (Simon Pegg), in a seemingly dull but happy enough existence. His bright, shiny reason for happiness is literally torn from him in the first few minutes of the first episode, and his descent into a deep, dark depression slowly takes a turn upward after meeting the newest member of The Seven, Annie—aka Starlight (Erin Moriarty). Raised believing she was chosen by God to be a superhero, Annie is the newest and most naive member of the elite team. Soon she realizes that the heroes she has looked up to her whole life are imperfect and, in some cases, really terrible human beings. The Deep (Chace Crawford) almost immediately forces himself on her, and while she stays quiet for a bit, she soon decides to take a stand against the corruption in her group. Little does she know how deep it all really goes, and soon she's reluctantly joining Billy's band of vigilantes as their inside spy. Even in binge mode this series doesn't get boring. I'm excited for season 3!

Glen It's compelling to discover Butcher's reason for hating superheroes and even more compelling to see that side plot unfold. I don't want to spoil anything, but Butcher's soon pitted against Homelander in a real grudge match. Of course, Homelander is unbeatable and too busy being a shallow, selfish prick to bother taking out Butcher himself, so he sends the redundantly monikered Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell), who's completely silent. He's sort of a weird character. The series is filled with deftly choreographed violence, and though they lack superpowers, the titular Boys led by Butcher are a slippery lot, always managing to escape death. Other important characters are Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), Homelander's former paramour, who's at risk of replacement in the second season when Stormfront (Aya Cash) shows up. There's also The Seven's handler, Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue), who has a delicate relationship with the volatile leader of The Seven. Now's a great time to get up to speed before the third season starts next year.

Anna Watching Homelander's mental unraveling is both infuriating and fun. He knows how much power he wields, and he's not afraid to use it against people. There are moments where he's fantasizing about taking the world out, and it's not that far from what could be reality. The dude is seriously unhinged. He's jealous and haughty and just an all-around manipulative jerk. All these supes have some real need for therapy, and being touted for their greatness their whole lives hasn't led to healthy egos. Butcher's team isn't much better off—they are all wrestling their own demons. It's as close to a big superhero movie as we're going to get in quarantine, and with longer episodes and several storylines happening at once, there's a lot to enjoy in the first couple of seasons. Δ

Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Split Screen. Glen compiles streaming listings. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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