Partly because if I am not careful I am going to run out of my backlog of books before I finish reading some new stuff, and partly because I have a few TV series I really want to review, I am going to be doing some alternating between TV and book reviews for at least some of this month.
To start with I am going to finally get round to doing a review of The Boys, which I watched all of not long after it came out and which I have some definite opinions about.
I do want to say that, like The Umbrella Academy, this is not a graphic novel series that I have actually read so I am basing my opinions almost entirely on what I have seen in the TV show, though I may include some details I have heard that are differences between the two in terms of characters.
There will likely be spoilers for the series in my discussion so once I have done a summary of the premise of the show, everything else will be put beneath a cut to avoid spoilers for anyone who hasn’t watched it yet and wants to.
The Boys takes place in a version of our planet where Superheroes are real and come under the auspices of a company called The Vought corporation which makes money off of what they do by marketing them and selling their services to cities and anyone else who needs it. The most famous group of superheroes are The Seven, led by Homelander, who is basically a Superman analog.
On the opposite side of this are a group called The Boys, who hate the superheroes for the things they get away with and the often nasty secrets they hide behind the scenes. The story follows Hughie, who gets involved with The Boys after his girlfriend is killed by one of The Seven. On the other side we see Starlight, the newest member of The Seven come to terms with the fact that her fellow heroes are not what she thinks they are. The two worlds collide and chaos and violence tends to follow.
Unsurprisingly, the cast of characters is fairly overwhelming male and pretty white as well. Apparently A-Train was also white in the comics so they did change that round, but otherwise it’s the same standard where women are lucky to make up a quarter of the cast and you might get one or two PoC in it. Now I am sure there is an argument to be made that since the point of these comics is to take a darker look at comics, using a similar ration that we tend to see in superhero teams makes sense, but it’s also a tired argument given that if you satirise someone by making the same mistakes the original did you are not improving it at all.
The Seven are clearly meant to be The Justice League with Queen Maeve being Wonder Woman, The Deep being Aquaman, Black Noir being Batman and A-Train being The Flash. The last two not quite being the same sorts of analogue, I am sure there are superheroes who can be invisible though and Starlight probably also has similarities as well but I am not sure they are meant to have a direct comparison to members of the Justice League that I am instantly aware of (but I am not as well read on superhero comics).
I did like the exploration of superhero power being a corrupting influence on the people who lead it. I mean we are introduced to A-Train pretty early on as he literally runs through a person and kills them. The fact that said person is Hughie’s girlfriend and her death provides his motivation for his part in The Boys and all that happens with them is classic fridging and exceptionally annoying though. Again, this is not a case of them subverting the trope even slightly, it’s the same sort of use we have seen loads of times before and it is really very tiring. The fact that they made his girlfriend black (actually no idea if this was true or not in the comic) was particularly egregious.
On the other side we have The Boys, led by Billy Butcher who hates superheroes with an intense, burning passion. Unsurprisingly we learn that he blames Homelander for the disappearance of his wife who used to work for Vought and who Homelander raped some years ago. Once again this is pretty classic fridging combined with rape and honestly I am sick of it. This isn’t really satire, this shit happens in comics too (though usually villains do it and the heroes are the ones motivations, but same idea).
The other particularly awful thing is that The Boys rescue a young woman who is being held by people working for Vought. Turns out that she’s also a super, though not from America. She’s apparently just called The Female in the comic, but is given a name, Kimiko, in the series. The character is mute though and the only female member of this team. Perhaps there is some slight trope subversion in having the mute, asian woman be extrememly competent at killing people, but not enough to really justify the awfulness of one of the only PoC and women, being unable to speak.
There are things I liked about it, the way the series explores how fucked up the supers are is well done. They also show that the people hunting them are pretty much just as fucked up, just in different ways. I have to say that overall I did enjoy it, I just find it frustrating that too many crap behaviours and tropes are still present in this sort of thing and violence against women is too often used as a tool to further the plot and motivations of male characters.
I could probably go on about a lot more in this series, but I would probably need to rewatch it first to get the details right. I have covered the main things that annoyed me about it that I can recall. I am also going to do some reviews of Carnival Row and the Dark Crystal series in future weeks and more book reviews in between those.