There is a preconceived notion that comics writer Garth Ennis dislikes superhero culture with a passion, which is at times quite evident from all the brutally sarcastic jabs he delivered to the genre through some of his seminal works like Hitman. But his most scathing commentary took the form of a bitter deconstruction of the established superhero status quo, The Boys, which has been famously adapted into a TV series by Amazon Prime. Far removed from the idealistic world where superheroes exist to serve justice with honor, the superheroes in The Boys abuse power to their hearts’ fill—an aspect that has clicked with the audience so much that the series has spawned three seasons already, as has the spin-off series Gen V, which has been released recently.
An adaptation of The Boys volume four, We gotta go Now, the series Gen V revolves around a young generation of superpowered individuals enlisted in the ‘Godolkin University,’ a Vought international-owned institute dedicated to grooming the youngsters into superheroes. Needless to say, staying true to the subversive, debauchery-filled world of superheroes in the The Boys universe, the mainstay super-students have been presented as a pastiche of established superheroes from several franchises. We will take a brief look at their bios and their character arcs, as showcased in the first three episodes.
Viewers move through the central narrative of the series from the perspective of the prime lead, Marie Moreau. Like most other parents of their generation, Marie’s parents took up the all-controlling conglomerate Vought International’s proposal to use Compound V on her when she was born. As series fans already know, the synthetic super drug contributes to gaining varied kinds of superpowers in its consumers, which in Marie’s case was manifested in a horrendous fashion. On the day of getting her first period, Marie accidentally causes the deaths of her parents and learns that she has the ability to manipulate the flow of blood. The gruesome incident is witnessed by Marie’s sister, Anna, who, from that point on, starts considering Marie a monster, and eventually, the relationship between the two deteriorates. Marie gets separated from her sister after going to the Red River Institute for Superpowered Orphans. As she grows up, seeking redemption and reuniting with her sister becomes the only goal of her life, and to attain that, she dreams of getting recruited into the so-called superhero team of the earth, the Seven.
Marie proceeds to the first step to fulfilling her dream when she gets selected for the prestigious Godolkin Institute and continues practicing her blood manipulation powers by injuring herself. In a way, her powers are a tragic representation of the fate of the younger generation, who have to uphold the sham of fabricated superheroism that was forced onto them by society. At Godolkin, Marie’s fate changes overnight when she gets catapulted into stardom based on a false narrative of heroism—after the death of Golden Boy and Professor Brinkerhoff—and, after initial hesitation due to moral scruples, she decides to ride along with it. She needs to become a member of the Seven, whatever the cost; therefore, despite knowing how the strings are getting pulled, Marie is unapologetically selfish. However, she forms a strong bond of friendship with her roommate, Emma Meyer, and eventually, the duo gets entangled in a troublesome conspiracy the institute is involved in. As a character, Marie’s powers are inspired by DC comics’ supervillain Bloodwork, who made his first live-action appearance in CW’s The Flash series.
Being raised by an overbearing, rich single mother didn’t curb Emma’s inherent goodness, and so far, until the third episode, she seemed like the only individual who apparently acts like a decent human being. Emma’s superpower is size manipulation, which otherwise sounds pretty nifty until its execution is revealed to be through consuming food and vomiting it out, which is as weird to see as it sounds. Apparently, this bizarre procedure contributed to a lonely upbringing, which might explain her fixation with the virtual world. As a content creator, Emma has a channel dedicated to her shrunk form engaging in funny jostling with her pet hamster, which has resulted in some form of popularity but also exposes her to forms of online bullying. After getting admission to Godolkin, her mental resilience is tested during a sequence of sordid events. One sleazy, pathetic student pretends to be her fan just to fulfill his own vile sexual fantasy. A senior pretends to be sympathetic towards her, only to backstab and publicly shame her for her uncanny superpower and her own social media reach. Despite the emotional hurt, Emma chooses not to give in to her negative instincts and stays strong. Initially, her roommate Marie shuts her off while sorting out her own life, but gradually, the duo connect. Later, while Andre persuades her to investigate the underground facility of the university using her powers, she gets pulled into the murder conspiracy as well. Emma’s powers mimic DC superhero Atom’s abilities of size manipulation.
Luke Riordan & His Brother Sam
As his alias Golden Boy suggests, Luke Riordan is the charismatic poster boy of Godolkin University, ranking as the topmost superhero of the institute and a hot favorite among media and faculty. Luke possesses pyrokinetic powers—the ability to manipulate flame much like Marvel’s Human Torch—but in extreme form, his powers are thermonuclear, much like DC’s superhero Firestorm’s. As the first episode revealed, he was also set to take his place among the Seven, but a personal crisis hinders his trajectory in the end. Unknown to the majority of outsiders, Luke had a younger brother, Sam, and the duo shared a strong bond. Sam possessed superhuman strength due to the compound V influence during birth, and although it is not yet revealed, it seems that as a side effect of the drug, Sam became mentally unstable. Due to his mental condition and potentially destructive powers, Sam was held captive inside a mental asylum, and a despondent Luke felt a sense of responsibility in looking out for his brother.
Three years ago, the news of Sam’s death shook Luke to the core, but at present, he has learned that his brother’s apparent death was a cover up as a part of a huge conspiracy—and that he is still alive, held inside an underground prison known as ‘The Wall’ and being experimented upon. Before he can learn about the location of the prison, Luke learns that his mentor, Professor Brinkerhoff, was involved in the conspiracy as well, and in anguish, he ends up killing him and later takes his own life. Luke’s death sets forth a chain of events, and the central group of students in the show becomes aware of the conspiracy as well.
Gen V handles the notion of gender identity in a unique way through the character of Jordan, who was born as a male and possesses the power to transform into a female, thereby changing their gender at will. Ranking only second to Luke as one of the topmost students of Godolkin, Jordan is acquainted with cutthroat competition and is willing to prove their worth. However, they have struggled to find acceptance not only in society but also from their parents, with Professor Brinkerhoff being the only supportive presence in their lives. Aside from altering their gender, Jordan showcases super durability and energy pulse projection as their other superpowers. The gender-altering powers of Jordan seem to have been inspired by DC Comics’ characters Wotan and Amazing Man/Amazing Woman.
Not much is revealed about Cate Dunlap yet, aside from a hint that she might belong to a socialite family and possesses the superpower of manipulating others’ emotions and thoughts by touching them with her hands. This is a dead giveaway of the combination of powers of Rogue and Charles Xavier from Marvel comics. It was revealed in the third episode during Cate’s conversation with Marie and Jordan that the first time her powers emerged, she accidentally caused her brother’s forever disappearance, which later resulted in estrangement between her and her mother. Like Marie, Sam, and lots of others, the compound V-induced fabricated superpowers are a curse for Cate.
Among the introduced bunch of supers, Andre Anderson seems to be the only legacy hero, as he shares his father Polaris’ superpower of magnetism. Burdened by the weight of legacy and a constant pressure to pursue a vapid, immoral, superfluous, and ostentatious lifestyle to become a future hero, Andre finds himself in conflict with his father regarding the true nature of superheroism. Luke’s death affects Andre the most, and he decides to start an investigation on his own after finding clues from Luke’s last words to him and learning that Sam is being held in ‘The Wall.’ A grieving Andre becomes even more disenchanted with his father, whom he used to consider to be his idol, after learning that Polaris knew everything about the ongoing conspiracy yet chose to look the other way. In his desperation to find more answers, André sends Emma inside the facility, and the upcoming episodes will delineate more on the consequences of his actions.