TV Review: The Boys

A couple of months ago my wife suggested we watch through the new Amazon series, The Boys. Last month we finally sat down and did just that. This series is based on a comic book series that run in the early 2000’s to a lot of critical acclaim. I had never read the books, but was familiar with the basic premise, that superheros existed, but that they often were corrupt, serving their corporate overlords. The show stars Karl Urban as the leader of a rag-tag group of misfits who are trying to take the supers down.

First off, this show is dark and gritty. There are no punches pulled and you will see blood, gore, and full frontal nudity. It’s about desperate people doing whatever they can to accomplish their goals. When I say this is a comic book series, it’s more akin to Walking Dead than Captain America. Despite this bluntness everything still works. The violence fits with the narrative and never feels gratuitous. If someone were hit with heat vision rays from a superhero’s eyes, they would slice in half with blood and gore. This isn’t hidden, but at the same time it’s not celebrated.

Along with a dark and gritty tone, the story follows suit. This isn’t a happy-endings type of story. All of the characters, even the good guys (especially the good guys?) are morally questionable. The ethics rule book goes out the window for almost every character. That means you sometimes feel weird rooting for the “good guys”, but in the end they’re not as bad as the bad guys.

I won’t get into spoiler territory, and so I’ll wrap up my review saying that this is a really well done show, despite its gritty nature and questionable ethics. It’s easier to write a story where the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and winning is black and white. That isn’t this story. This is a much more difficult tale, and it’s told well.

I’m happy that season 2 is in the works, though it’ll probably be quite a bit before it’s released. I know the story is going to get darker before the end, but as long as it continues to be well told, I’ll keep tuning in.

Big comic changes

The comic book world was buzzing this week about two big story changes that happened between the Marvel and DC universe. I’m going to talk directly about both of these changes, so if you’re a comic book nerd, and don’t want things spoiled, turn away now and go read either one of these books. If not, feel free to read on and find out what all the hoopla is about that is making the Internet’s head explode.

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Men in tights

Despite the title above also referring to running clothing, today’s post is more geeky in nature. Last night the wife and I sat down and watched the first episode of the new Agent Carter TV show. For the most part we enjoyed what we saw, and will probably watch more of it as time goes on. Agent Carter is yet another title in the surge of comic book based stories that are finding their way into our mainstream entertainment.

I’ve been a comic book geek for a long time, doing a lot of collecting in college and shortly after. I put the hobby away for a while, but now that many comics are available digitally I’ve picked it back up again. It seems that much of the rest of the world has also indulged in this genre, and that got me thinking about why. I think I can name off 3 main reason why comics, and comic themed media, are so appealing to people. Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a few of my thoughts.

First, comic book characters can (usually) do things that no one else can do. They exist in a world where the natural order of things are disrupted, and either through super powers, or just exceptional skill, are able to perform feats that the common man cannot. The explanation for these powers are often vague and unscientific, but that’s a part of the appeal. Comics bring us back to a simpler way of thinking, when our imagination was the boundary, and not reality. Comic characters let us think about a world of possibility, and sometimes absurdity, in a beautifully packaged art form.

Second, comic book heroes are often deeply flawed. The idea of a hero having a vulnerability is central to the story hook of many comic stories. Despite being these over the top heroes with perfect bodies and amazing strength, comic heroes show us that even the best are not perfect. Some of the best storytelling in comics revolves around a hero facing and dealing with their vulnerability or flaw. These stories connect with us, because we know that none of us are perfect. Yet, we can read about these amazing characters who also can relate to our struggles.

This all comes together in a way that makes comic heroes accessible. Sure they might have Hulk-like strength, or Flash-like speed, but they’re often just regular people (or aliens) on the inside. They try to live a good life, do the right thing, yet the world just won’t let them rest. Through a comic book we get to experience this struggle right along side of them, living through their ups and downs. Which often leads us right to the inevitable death and resurrection story-line, starting our friendship with them all over again.

I’ve got another new comic in my subscription I need to read today. Maybe I’ll toss on another comic book TV show as well just to round out the experience.