A great appetizer ahead of season 3
The season-two finale of Amazon’s hit series The Boys was released in October 2020. While the pandemic has made the passage of time feel somewhat meaningless to put it in context, it has, in many respects, been a very long wait to find out what will happen next for Hughie (Jack Quaid), Butcher (Karl Urban), Starlight (Erin Moriarty), and company.
Well, there’s still some more waiting to do as season three isn’t due until June. In the meantime, fans’ appetites will have to be sated by The Boys Presents: Diabolical, an animated anthology series consisting of eight episodes, each in different animation styles, that tell stories set within The Boys universe. Some involve characters we already know and love/hate, and others who have no connection beyond the interference of Vought Industries or the use of Compound V.
With most anthology series, the accepted wisdom is that there will be hits and misses; while the standard isn’t uniform across all eight episodes, there are no calamitous “misses” in the mix. Each entry lands a couple of solid jokes and is successfully animated in its own distinct style.
The installment that ventures closest to being a dud is “BFFs,” written by and starring Awkwafina as Sky, a socially inept young woman whose encounter with Compound V leaves her befriending her sentient turd. Awkwafina is a talented voice actor, the animation inspired by “Saturday morning animation imports” is delightful, and appearances from aquatic psychopath The Deep (Chase Crawford) are great fun, but this is still essentially a one-joke premise and even the greatest poop jokes can’t sustain a full 13 minutes.
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Taking on an equally simple premise but executing it with more aplomb is “Laser Baby’s Day Out,” made in classic Looney Tunes style. It is an entirely dialogue-free look at a Vought scientist who, rather than let a baby who shoots lasers out of her eyes be exterminated by Vought, smuggles her out of the facility, but is pursued by a plethora of heavily armed Vought employees. Of all the episodes, “Laser Baby” has the cutest moments and the warmest nostalgia, but this being The Boys, it also has the highest death count, easily reaching into the mid-hundreds.
Coming closest to its bloodiness is the aptly titled “An Animated Short Where Pissed-Off Supes Kill Their Parents” from Rick And Morty creator Justin Roiland—who, along with Ben Bayouth, creates a short in his signature animation style and tone. In it, a group of supes in a foster home seek revenge on the parents who abandoned them. The characters themselves feel plucked straight from Rick And Morty with hilariously absurd powers including Human Tongue, The Narrator and Ranch Dressing Cum Squirter. The ending is true to Boys fashion, and a little more brutal than we are used to from Roiland, but the two universes make for great partners in crime.
Similarly plumbing maximum dark laughs out of its premise is Aisha Tyler’s “Nubia Vs. Nubia,” whose title alludes to Kramer Vs. Kramer rather than a big splashy supe battle. Young Maya (Somali Rose) tries to get her supe parents to halt divorce proceedings by recreating the mission that they first bonded over. What ensues is predictable, particularly since we are all well aware of what sadistic creeps the supes are, but Tyler has a knack for writing and delivering witty dialogue that breathes life into familiar proceedings. An equally dysfunctional relationship lies at the heart of “Boyd In 3D,” in which a budding romance is complicated by some experimental Vought face cream that helps you take on your ideal appearance. The French animation style and final twist are extremely effective, but some of the satire lands a little heavy, even for The Boys.
Perhaps the biggest departure in tone comes from Andy Samberg, who writes and does some supporting voice work on the Korean-drama- and horror-inspired “John And Sun Lee.” John is an elderly janitor at Vought whose beloved wife has been given days to live. Desperate and unable to accept losing the love of his life, he steals a syringe of Compound V and administers it, hoping that it will give them some more time together. Unlike the other entries, “John And Sun Lee” doesn’t rely on laughs; instead, it’s a moving and tender portrait of long-lasting love and grief, made lovelier still by the Korean-inspired animation that bursts with intricate texture and bold color.
And for those who just want to spend more time with the characters they’re most familiar with, there’s “One Plus One Equal Two” and “I’m Your Pusher.” The first, made in the style of modern American superhero animation, works as an origin story for Homelander, voiced by the ever-chilling Antony Starr. It also sees a welcome return of Elisabeth Shue as Madelyn Stillwell, who is tasked with introducing Homelander to the American public and shaping him into a beloved supe despite his vicious streak.
Perhaps even more fun is “I’m Your Pusher,” in which Butcher confronts the supes’ main drug dealer. It’s utterly depraved and raucous, animated in the style of the comics that inspired the series. In an additional nod to readers, the episode finds Simon Pegg stepping into the role of Hughie—the Boys character played in live-action by Jack Quaid, but originally modeled on the Shaun Of The Dead star. Pegg’s presence amounts to little more than a cameo, but is still heartwarming in the midst of all the heroin enemas, disembowelments, and supes that can only get aroused when drinking the blood of children with leukemia.
We’re still a few long months from The Boys’ third season, and it remains to be seen if we’ll finally see the titular boys take Compound V, if Black Noir will ever recover from eating that Almond Joy, or if we’ll get another head-exploding extravaganza courtesy of Congresswoman Neuman (Claudia Doumit). In the meantime, The Boys Presents: Diabolical is a reminder of just how gross and fun a world of superpowered sociopaths can be.