an animated anthology as brutal with superheroes as the main series

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The problem and the attraction of anthologies always go hand in hand: the good thing is the diversity of proposals, the breadth of visions that can be collected on a common theme. Contradictions and departures from tone are as valuable as points in common. And the problem is the irregularity: the weakest episodes see their appeal even more reduced when compared to those that come out better.

Luckily, in ‘The Boys presents: Diabolical’, the spin-off of ‘The Boys’ that serves as an appetizer for the third season of Prime Video’s acclaimed superhero satire, the global count is very positive. And that without losing the great appeal of the format, the variety of views on the universe of the series, which also reinforces one of its great values: the world of ‘The Boys’ is a grotesque caricaturebut also a tragicomedy with a certain sensitivity.

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‘Diabolical’ features eight fifteen-minute episodes (there are only ten without credits), each one offering a different perspective on ‘The Boys’. There are those that directly affect the plot of the series (those starring Butcher or Patriota), others that have a merely tangential relationship (such as the one with special appearances by Profundo) and others that directly use an element as a base (normally, the evils of the Vought corporation) to go in different directions.

The latter are perhaps the most interesting. The tribute to the animation of the ‘Looney Tunes’ (and Roger Rabbit) written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, with a baby with superpowers sowing chaos. Or that of Justin Roiland, creator of ‘Rick and Morty’, where he unleashes one of his great abilities, the avalanche of delusional sidekicks, here with a group of teenagers with ridiculous powers who want revenge on their parents. Or the one co-written by the comic Ilana Glazer, in which a Voight cream that allows us to change our appearance gives rise to a satire of our dependence on image.

Uneven but interesting

It is in these free-running episodes where the authors can afford to launch messages that complement or contradict, why not, what is proposed by ‘The Boys’, which undoubtedly yields the most stimulating results. For example, one of the best, Roiland, goes beyond an extension of the idea that Vought is an evil corporation: His Absurdly Powered Teenagers is a re-reading of the X-Men and a classic theme in the subtext of Marvel’s youngest mutants, their relationships with their parents. All this without giving up, of course, the bloody and wild humor that we already know from ‘Rick and Morty’.

It is a curious pleasure to tackle each episode without knowing where it will lead and letting yourself be surprised by its proposals. The one written by and starring Awkwafina, for example, is a parodic regurgitation of the visual constants of the craziest anime, all to reformulate one of the most fascinating obsessions of Japanese pop culture: (literally) kawaii shit.

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Among the less fortunate are, perhaps, Andy Samberg’s disappointing bid for an unexpected more or less pure Korean horror drama, perfectly in keeping with Steve Ahn’s aesthetic, but at odds with the general, lighter tone. Or the last one, by Simon Racioppa, also producer and screenwriter of the fabulous ‘Invincible’, and who is too concerned with the continuity of ‘The Boys’ to be genuinely interesting in and of itself.

And even so, even the ones with a limp are remarkable pieces of superhero animation for adults. The global perspective, as we say, is very interesting, and although it is convenient to see the two seasons of ‘The Boys’, ‘Diabolical’ goes far beyond the mere preamble for the third season. Findings like the superhero-narrator or the caustic social media take on several episodes are already extraordinary on their own.

The problem and the attraction of anthologies always go hand in hand: the good thing is the diversity of proposals,…

The problem and the attraction of anthologies always go hand in hand: the good thing is the diversity of proposals,…

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