the boys comic-con activation

A crashed car, a destroyed electronics store, and a stabbing: all things you see up close and personal in Amazon’s The Boys activation at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. But the party responsible for this crime scene is not a group of petty criminals, but a corrupt spandex-clad superhero whom the titular Boys are attempting to unmask. And you get to be on the case.

Amazon Prime Video turned the former novelty pop-up experience of activations — immersive experiences that plop attendees right in the middle of the world of a TV show or movie — into a full-blown extravaganza at the 50th San Diego Comic-Con. When you enter the area for all three activations the company was holding — which highlight new shows The Boys and Carnival Row, as well as beloved cult hit The Expanse — you’re greeted by smiling ushers who hand you a churro and a bag of coins; coins they coyly promise may come into play as you go through the various interactions. This tantalizing promise turned out to be a bunch of nonsense (although maybe I just couldn’t figure out where to use them), but hey, the large and weighty coins do look cool. Plus they give you something to play with as you wait in the long lines to experience the activations.

The Boys is the longest activation of the three, with a new experience taking place every 45 minutes. 15-20 people are allowed in at a time, to pick their way through a wrecked electronics store that has become the scene of a mysterious crime.

Becoming Part of the Boys

As a member of The Boys, the vigilante group that seeks to expose venerated but secretly corrupt superheroes, we are thrust into a crime scene with little explanation, until an angry British man in a leather jacket begins yelling at us about the super “cocks” that are responsible for it. “Here’s the deal,” the man declares. One of the members of The Boys, Hughie (played in the series by Jack Quaid) was at this electronics store before the attack took place. Our job was to find out what happened to him.

We team up with the man and his partner, a hotheaded American in a Nirvana T-shirt, to pore through the wreckage of the store, which — in addition to having a crashed car in the middle of it — is full of toppled over shelves, twisted pieces of metal, and a curious-looking outline of a man embedded in the drywall. We find clues about Hughie’s life, including an odd portrait of just his face, a bouquet of roses with a card attached addressed to a woman named Robin, and a crinkled picture of him lovingly touching heads with the same woman. But the biggest find is the security tape, which makes clear exactly what happened: a superhero crashes the car into the store, sending Hughie flying back into the wall, and they get into a tussle. But the problem: we can’t see the superhero.

“Translucent!” Nirvana T-shirt guy gasps, naming the superhero played by Alex Hassell in the series.

“The invisible cock!” our leader screams.

Search and Destroy

Curiously, our next step isn’t to take these security tapes and hand them to the cops, but to destroy the evidence. We feverishly search for the tapes, finding a vault locked inside a metal cage. The first lock can only be opened by a key hidden in one of the battery compartments of a remote control. Luckily, there are about 50 remote controls strewn throughout the store. But a second lock presents another obstacle: a four-digit code that could be any combination of numbers. But the discovery of a Prince CD for his album 1999, an album that apparently happens to be Hughie’s favorite, cracks the code and we open the vault to find a tape.

“Smash it!” our leader screams, as Nirvana T-shirt guy chants “Smash, smash, smash!” The confused attendee who happened to unlock the vault drops the tape on the floor and smashes it with his foot, whooping in triumph. The adrenaline in the room is palpable, we all end up cheering and clapping over the smashed videotape.

Murder Most Foul

But the most shocking turn of events happens in the last two minutes of the activation. A member of our group, who was seemingly a regular attendee, turns out to be an undercover superhero supporter who lazily reveals his loyalties to our leather jacket-wearing leader. It happens in a flash: our leader pulls out a knife and stabs the man, leaving him bleeding out the floor while Nirvana T-shirt guy pulls his partner aside to calm him down.

“Fuck suits,” he emphatically says. “Fuck suits,” our leader screams. They lead us in a chant: “Fuck suits, fuck suits, fuck suits!” as we get corralled out the door, energized and feeling ready to take down a superhero.

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The Amazon Prime Video Experience will be open from Thursday, July 18 through Sunday, July 21. The Boys premieres on Amazon Prime Video on July 26, 2019.

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