The Boys Presents: Diabolical Review: An Anthology Experiment That Works, Mostly

"The Boys Presents: Diabolical" is an animated anthology series from the twisted world of Garth Ennis' "The Boys," with eight unique tales. Each comes from different creators, with stories by Ennis, Eliot and Ilana Glazer, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, Aisha Tyler, Andy Samberg, Awkwafina, Simon Racioppa, and Justin Roiland and Ben Bayouth. Much like the results of Compound V on wannabe superheroes, the style, tone, and quality of these shorts are all wildly unpredictable, but the short run-times mean nothing really overstays its welcome. There's a little bit of something for every "The Boys" fan, whether they're looking for biting social commentary, harsh violence, or just some silly superhero vulgarity. 

While some of the animation styles mimic children's TV, what's on display here is definitely not for kids and will honestly even shock some adults. There's nudity, sex, swearing, adult themes, and an incredible amount of intense, bloody violence. Some of it is cartoonish and played for laughs, but because of the wildly different tones between episodes, some of it is genuinely horrifying. 

Each of the stories stands alone  — and they stand apart from the main "The Boys" canon, too, serving only as one-offs. For example, Ennis' episode, "I'm Your Pusher," features some of the same voice-actors as the live-action "The Boys," but the characters look like they do in the comics instead of representing the actors on the live-action series. There are some that feel completely in-canon, like Aisha Tyler's "Nubian vs Nubian" or Simon Racioppa's "One Plus One Equals Two," but even these entries wouldn't impact the live-action series if fans missed "Diabolical." 

While it's not required viewing, "The Boys Presents: Diabolical" is a lot of fun for "The Boys" fans. The wide variety of creatives means that no two episodes feel alike, and the stories told touch on almost every aspect of "The Boys" universe. Some are funny, some are sad, but they're all deliciously diabolical. 

If you like The Boys, you'll enjoy Diabolical

"The Boys Presents: Diabolical" is to "The Boys" what "The Animatrix" was to "The Matrix," only processed through a layer of cynicism and a fat bong rip. Each short tops out around fifteen minutes, so even if something's not tickling your fancy, it'll be over before you know it. 

On the funnier side of things, Goldberg and Rogen's "Laser Baby's Day Out" is reminiscent of Mindy and Buttons from "Animaniacs," even mimicking the art style. It follows a baby who shoots lasers out of her eyes when she sneezes after she escapes from the Vought labs. The scientist who worked with her wants to protect her (and also stop her accidental rampage of destruction). Hilarity ensues. "An Animated Short Where Pissed-Off Supes Kill Their Parents" by Roiland and Bayouth, is exactly what you'd expect based on the title, and follows a bunch of superheroes with terrible powers as they kill their parents after discovering they were injected with Compound V as babies. If you ever wanted to see "Rick & Morty" meets "The Boys," this is your chance. It's also pretty satisfying to see some of these parents who took their children's bodily autonomy away from them punished.  

"BFFS," Awkwafina's short, is done in a cutesy anime style and tells the story of a young woman who gives birth to a living poop. It's has a few cute moments but feels like a weird retread of South Park's Mr. Hankey that leaves me with some serious questions about hygiene. Would you kiss a talking poop named after nipples? In an anthology series with some seriously juvenile humor, this one feels almost too juvenile, and that's saying something. 

The two best shorts in the bunch both mix humor with some reality-based relationship drama. In Aisha Tyler's "Nubian vs Nubian," a little girl is frustrated when her superhero parents (voiced by Tyler and Don Cheadle) start to drift apart. In order to bring them back together, she enlists the help of one of their former foes, Groundhawk (voiced by John DiMaggio). The story is surprisingly relatable, given the subject matter, and Tyler and Cheadle have great banter. The short manages to give us a peek into the world of "The Boys" that doesn't directly impact the Seven or the Boys themselves. It's a smaller, character-driven story, and Tyler has a clear understanding of animated storytelling and comedic beats. 

"Boyd in 3D," written by Eliot and Ilana Glazer, is a romantic comedy with a Vought twist. When a shy nobody named Boyd agrees to be a test subject for Vought's new serum that allows users to change their appearance, he discovers newfound confidence and finally flirts with his long-time crush who happens to live next door. Because nothing ever goes quite right when Vought's involved, this romance ends up going haywire fast, but it's funny and sweet. The character-driven stories have heart and humor in spades and aren't as intentionally provocative as the full-on comedy or more serious shorts. It's a nice middle-ground, and if we get a "Diabolical" season 2, I hope there are more of these kinds of episodes. 

Samberg's story is shockingly not a comedy, but instead tells the tale of a pair of elderly lovers fighting against time. The animation style is reminiscent of Studio Ghibli and the characters are Korean-American, with some of the dialogue in Korean. This is the most visually impressive of the shorts and comes the closest to the "Animatrix" comparison in both tone and execution. It's sad but beautiful, though it feels a little odd coming from Samberg. 

Also on the sort of serious side is Ennis' "I'm Your Pusher," which is a fun little one-off about Butcher (voiced by Jason Isaacs) and Frenchie sabotaging a Vought event by giving one of the supes a dose of what amounts to turbo-cocaine. The animation on this one looks more like a comic book, though the movement is disturbingly fluid when things get gross. While a lot of the horror here is played for laughs, it's pretty dark.

"One Plus One Equals Two" is a Homelander origin story and it's as unpleasant as you would expect given that information. Homelander (Antony Starr) isn't a total monster yet in this short, and his interactions with Black Noir start leading him down a more villainous path. Fans of the comic series will definitely find a lot to love in this episode, which hints at some possible stories crossing over from the comics to the series. If this is the one story that's true to the live-action canon, it would be a great insight into Homelander's brand of brutality. 

While some of the shorts in "The Boys Presents: Diabolical" were a little weaker than the others, overall this is a fun side-experiment in a fascinating franchise that exists purely to take the piss out of super-serious superhero stories. This little experiment was more successful than Vought can usually claim, at least. Here's to more animated anthologies, where creators can really go wild. 

"The Boys Presents: Diabolical" will stream on Amazon Prime Video on March 4, 2022.