Comic book mega star Mark Millar’s mega deal with Netflix to adapt his impressive library of creator-owned comics such as “Jupiter’s Legacy” and “Reborn” has yet to produce anything.
That leaves the still very good Dark Horse Comics-inspired “The Umbrella Academy,” which recently released a successful second season on Netflix, as a top contender for a live-action, not-confined-by-the-network-TV-rules superhero fix.
But the champ, for the second straight year, is Amazon’s “The Boys.”
The Amazon show, based off comics by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, features superheroes being anything but, and the “bad” guys who have to save the world from them. Its just-debuted second season is more of the same bloody mix of super-heroics fueled by corporate greed with a dash of rebel vigilantism and a top-notch cast — but you don’t fix something that isn’t broke.
What makes “The Boys” work especially well this season is how our cast of superheroes — who wear suits that evoke the intricate work of “Man of Steel” costume designer Michael Wilkinson — continues to toy with a mainstream media obsessed with their every move.
That symbiotic relationship between these characters and the cameras that cover them is the most diabolical part of the show, even more twisted than, well, the heads that are being twisted off or exploding at any given moment.
“The Boys” tries to make itself stand out by being the goriest superhero offering around, and it is, but the blood, guts and extremely gross gills of Aquaman-wannabe the Deep (played hilariously and pathetically well by Chace Crawford) aren’t what make the show tick. What does is the lengths everyone will go to keep up the lie of who these heroes really are.
The best acts, Karl Urban’s superhero-hating vigilante Billy Butcher and Antony Starr’s devilishly charismatic, secretly obsessive lunatic Homelander (think Superman with absolutely no morals), remain on a collision course to destroy each other.
In Season 1, we learned that Becca (Shantel VanSanten), the love of Billy Butcher’s life, who we were led to believe was dead, is not only alive but raising the son she had against her will with Homelander (in case you need a reminder as to why Billy hates superheroes so much). That gives Billy and the Boys their top mission for Season 2.
Other priorities for the not-at-all-super-team are Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) trying to work with the woman he loves (Erin Moriarty’s Starlight, the mole in the superhero team) to take down the powerful organization that not only funds the superheroes of this world, but is secretly creating them.
Hughie’s superpower is looking like he should not be hanging out with Billy Butcher’s crew at all, while providing the Boys with a small sense of morality.
Mother’s Milk still has the worst code name in the superhero genre, but Laz Alonso continues to impress as the tough guy who also has a heart so big he just wants to get home to his daughter. And he’s clearly not skipping arm day at the gym. It’s a downright crime that Alonso hasn’t been given more superhero stuff with which to play. How is this guy not in James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad?” Although honestly, there are so many people in that movie he just may show up after all.
With live-action superhero fare lacking at the movies this summer, watching the good guys be bad on TV is even more entertaining than it was in Season 1. And since it looks like we won’t be getting Anthony Mackie’s potential ascension to the mantle of Captain America streaming to our devices any time soon, your current superhero entertainment champ is the least heroic offering of all.
The Boys (eight episodes) available for streaming on Amazon Prime, debuting with three episodes, followed by new episodes released on Fridays. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)