Review: ‘Gen V,’ the irreverent spinoff of ‘The Boys,’ flies on its own

Three girls in T-shirts and jackets stand next to each other.
Lizze Broadway as Emma, Jaz Sinclair as Marie and Maddie Phillips as Cate in Prime Video’s “Gen V.”
(Brooke Palmer / Prime Video)

There’s nothing worse than an omnipotent superhero with anger control issues, unless they also happen to be an impulsive teenager with a sky-high sex drive and low self-esteem.

Roll out the bloodied carpet for “Gen V,” Prime Video’s spinoff from the brilliant black comedy “The Boys.” The new series, which premiered with three episodes Friday, expands upon the hit superhero satire with a new cast and storyline that stands on its own as a sharp, snarky commentary on the billion-dollar business of hero worship. And yes, it’s just as irreverent and crass as its fearless predecessor.

The Godolkin University School of Crimefighting is home to students with a host of terrifying abilities and none of the maturity to use their gifts wisely. They are the first generation of “supes” who know that their powers are not God-given but rather the result of Compound V being injected into them at birth. The drug is manufactured by Vought International, a nefarious conglomerate that also happens to run the university. It’s training the next generation of crime avengers and crusaders to make America and the world a safer place! Sure it is.

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Fans of “The Boys” know better, but the kids of “Gen V” don’t. They hope to become part of celebrated superhero team the Seven and fight alongside A-Train and the Deep. However, they’re too busy fighting their own internal enemies: Crippling Anxiety, Deep Depression, Low Self-Worth and Raging Hormones. The nation’s next generation of supes are a mess of undergrad neurosis and confusion, and many of their powers reflect this challenging period in their lives.

One of the show’s more immersive characters, Emma (played with depth and humor by Lizze Broadway), can shrink herself to the size of an ant, or expand above the treeline. To get small, she has to vomit. To get big, she must overeat. Bingeing and purging — body dysmorphic disorder comes to mind. Cate (Maddie Phillips) is the mean girl who manipulates minds. Jordan (played by London Thor and Derek Luh) uses they/them pronouns and their superpower includes the ability to switch between male and female forms. Each gender has a subset of powers, from exceptional agility to launching energy blasts from their hands. Golden Boy/Luke (Patrick Schwarzenegger) is poised to be the next Homelander (Antony Starr). The expectations placed upon him are staggering — then he self-immolates.

Developed by “The Boys” team of Craig Rosenberg, Evan Goldberg, and Eric Kripke, “Gen V” references many of the backstories and characters from that older series. A-Train makes an appearance and so does the Deep. Though just as raunchy and gory as “The Boys,” “Gen V” strikes its own tone. It veers away from much of the political and cultural parody that shaped “The Boys” and focuses more on a peer group whose biggest challenge is navigating the mess left behind by their parents’ generation, and that mess includes their own chemically induced superpowers.

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Sam (Asa Germann) is monstrously strong and nearly invulnerable, but he’s also a mess when he’s off his meds. The poor teen has been treated like a science experiment for most his life, and things only get worse when he’s inducted into a secret program run behind the scenes at Godolkin University. When he veers into a violent episode, he sees the enemy as these Sesame Street-inspired puppets, and the viewer sees a hilariously twisted bloodbath animated with red glitter.

Like “The Boys,” “Gen V” may be too much for those who prefer the comparatively clean-cut superheroes of Marvel blockbusters. There are seriously bent sex scenes, and the violence is next-level. But for the rest of us, it’s a wonderfully warped alternative to your friendly neighborhood superhero tale.