The Boys on Prime Video brought the dark and gritty comic to life. The series gave a glimpse at what corporate greed and superheroes could do when combined, painting a picture of just how twisted things can get when you throw superpowers into the mix. Taking things one step further, The Boys Presents: Diabolical expands on the core concept of the universe in a new anthology format that shows the power of animation at pushing the limits on storytelling.
The Boys Presents: Diabolical is a hard series to break down. Each of the eight episodes looks at The Boys stories in wildly different styles. From the classic cartoon style of Laser Baby’s Day Out, to the Akira like anime style of John and Sun-Hee, this is the boys as you have never seen them. Much like the Animatrix and other anthology animation collections, there is a lot to take in, and while everything may not hit everyone, there is more than enough to sink your teeth into, so you won’t walk away bored.
The Boys Presents: Diabolical feels like a collection of cartoons that would have been on Adult Swim, bringing bonkers takes on the characters and the universe, while still managing to bring new insight into the world, and how broken things really are behind the scenes.
“The different animation styles at play in The Boys Presents: Diabolical also help set the stage for what sort of story you can expect to dive in.”
While everything is set in the same world as The Boys, all but I’m Your Pusher feature any of the titular boys, with most focusing on the havoc that compound V has on the world and the people in it. The different animation styles give a wide array of tones to the series, with it fluctuating wildly from sincere to outright lunacy, and honestly, that all fits the tone the series sets out to capture.
The different animation styles at play in The Boys Presents: Diabolical also help set the stage for what sort of story you can expect to dive into. I really enjoyed episode 2: An Animated Short Where Pissed-Off Supes Kill Their Parents, where the iconic Rick and Morty look and feel was brought to The Boys, and it worked. It set the stage well for something completely off the hook, with each new segment pushing the bar a little farther. Featuring some top talent in the medium providing their voices, including Justin Roiland, Christian Slater, Kevin Smith, and Kenan Thompson, you are in for a ride as you watch the episode.
The Boys Presents: Diabolical is here to push the envelope on what you can expect from this franchise. Almost every episode, from touching to bonkers, drops gallons of blood and gore on the proceedings. This is a series made for adults, and it wears this on its sleeve throughout, and for the most part, it works. There are segments that could cross the line of fun to overdone, but thankfully these are in the minority.
With such a series, it is hard to nail down an overall score, but for the most part, the experiment worked. There are some real gems of animation behind all the gore, violence and madness. The series manages to keep a tone throughout the carnage, giving a sense of how The Boys as a franchise can go well beyond the series we all know and love, into many different directions.
Rather than break down each of the episodes and giving them all a review, it is more helpful to break down what works, and what you can expect when you dive in. The majority of the episodes explore different aspects of the universe, giving it a Justice League cartoon show look. Episode 2 (I’m Your Pusher), Episode 6 (Nubian vs Nubian), episode 8 (One Plus One Equals Two) all bring concise stories, filled with levels of gore, violence, and what you would expect from a superhero show that somehow had no restraint. They deliver fair levels of action, and give a taste of how life behind the scenes of this world works.
Episode 4 (Boyd in 3D), for me, was one of the standout offerings in the series. The simple story of a man that wants to catch the eye of a girl, who finds himself going to test out an experimental cream. What follows is a dive into the vapid world of social media stardom, and how selling your soul for superficial concepts will not lead to happiness. It is an oddly bitter-sweet tale, that never overstays its welcome, while giving a good dose at how ruthless Vought International really is with the people it works with.
The other standout episode is 7 (John and Sun-Hee), that has a worried husband risking everything to try and give his wife another shot at life. In typical The Boys fashion, things quickly escalate to the point where the body count is well into the double digits, yet even with all that, the touching relationship, and the sense of duty and love keep the story grounded even as compound V manages to make cancer itself into something truly horrific. The animation also aids this experience, with there being attention to characters to make you care even over the short runtime.
The Boys Presents: Diabolical is the essence of a mixed bag. This is what I hope from an anthology series. Using the source material as a jumping off point for expression and to push the limits on your imagination. There is a lot to love with Diabolical and if you go in with an open mind, you will find plenty to sink your teeth into. While it won’t be for everyone, this is a series worthy of the franchise, just don’t forget your poncho, things will get bloody.