THE BOYS PRESENTS: DIABOLICAL Review; "[A] Brutal, Bloody, And Surprisingly Thought-Provoking Anthology"

The Boys Presents: Diabolical arrives on Prime Video this Friday, but is this animated anthology able to live up to The Boys? While not perfect, we think you'll find plenty to love in this violent delight.

Reviews Opinion

You shouldn’t need us to tell you that The Boys is among the best shows on television, and the first two seasons proved themselves deserving hits for Prime Video. Now, they’re looking to expand this world with an animated spinoff, The Boys Presents: Diabolical, that arrives on the streaming service this Friday, March 4. The eight-episode anthology brings a suitable number of twisted ideas to the table, and even when the animation doesn’t always do the strong level of storytelling justice (and vice versa), you’ll find plenty of bonkers concepts and shocking moments of violence that leave as big a lasting impact as anything we’ve seen in the live-action series.

Tonally, Diabolical is all over the place, but that’s kind of the point! Even when things get silly or a specific animation style makes a particularly hard-hitting or upsetting moment that little bit less impactful, this series feels like a worthy addition to The Boys canon (and there are some stories here you definitely won’t want to miss ahead of season three). Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s Looney Tunes-inspired romp is perhaps the weakest episode, but "Laser Baby’s Day Out" still delivers enough gore for fans to get a kick out of seeing what the duo does with a style we’d normally see used for far more family-friendly capers. Justin Roiland enters the fray for a brilliantly brutal tale inspired by Rick & Morty’s aesthetic, as an unbelievably weird group of supes with perhaps the worst superpowers ever find themselves hunting down their parents for revenge in the aptly titled "An Animated Short Where Pissed-Off Supes Kill Their Parents." The Boys creator Garth Ennis even gets in on the action for an episode that, while a little less impactful than the rest, is sure to leave fans of the comic books with a huge grin on their face. "I'm Your Pusher" is a simple story of Billy Butcher and Hughie Campbell taking out a supe, and boy is it delightfully graphic. 

"Boyd in 3D" is inspired by French comics, and follows an unusual romance that involves a Voight-produced face cream that can change your appearance; however, it tackles some surprisingly heavy themes along the way, including the impact of social media on a relationship and a last-minute twist that your stomach will still be churning over once the credits roll. Diabolical takes a huge U-Turn with Awkwafina’s "BFFs" as a young woman finds herself hanging out with a living, breathing poop she goes to any length to protect. It’s ridiculous, but a Saturday morning cartoon animation style helps it work, even if the idea feels more like a silly throwaway gag than a meaningful addition to this world. Once again, though, this anthology setting allows Diabolical to have fun, so even if not every single episode is a winner for you personally, there should be something here to love. The anime-inspired "Nubian vs Nubian" is a good example, as the somewhat familiar story of a kid looking to save her parent's marriage is bolstered by some unexpected reveals about Voight’s involvement in superhero vs. supervillain battles. 

Diabolical wraps up with two standout episodes in "John and Sun-Hee" and "One Plus One Equals Two." Andy Samberg pens the former, and delivers a surprisingly emotional tale about a man who is willing to do whatever it takes to save his wife as she battles cancer. Things get a lot more serious in the episode, and the strengths of this anthology series - particularly in one cleverly inspired by Korean drama and horror - are highlighted in a significant way. As for Simon Racioppa’s finale, that might have the biggest impact on The Boys itself as this dark take on American animation (it’s very much in the vein of the DC Animated Universe) revisits Homelander’s first adventure, fills in some gaps in his origin story, and teases a dynamic with Black Noir we hope to see further explored.

There are more writers, directors, and voice performers in Diabolical than we have room to list here, and it definitely feels like everyone involved has given it their all. As noted, there are good and bad points about the series, but nothing that stands out as being too glaring. Like American Horror Stories, the anthology format means there will be stronger episodes than others, and while some of you will be in stitches watching the story of a girl and her poopy best friend, others might roll their eyes. However, by far the biggest compliment we can give Diabolical is that we’d happily watch full-blown seasons with some of these creative teams and animation styles, and it’s fair to say that each instalment adds something to The Boys Universe that could easily be explored and elaborated on down the line. Some episodes are likely to be forgotten after a first viewing, while others deserve to be revisited for the greater themes and sadistic ideas they bring to the table; as a result, while far from perfect, Diabolical feels like a worthy addition to this world and by no means a lazy cash grab looking to capitalise on the popularity of the series. We just wish every episode had managed to find a way to leave a lasting impact. 

Not every episode hits the mark in The Boys Presents: Diabolical, but there are enough gloriously twisted ideas in this brutal, bloody, and surprisingly thought-provoking anthology series to make it essential viewing for fans of The Boys.


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