The Boys season 3 reveals Soldier Boy’s Payback team via flashbacks. Here’s how the sequence compares to the comics, and why it’s so much darker.
Caution: spoilers ahead for The Boys season 3
The Boys season 3 borrows straight from the comics when adapting Soldier Boy’s Payback past but, as you’d expect, takes an even darker turn. The arrival of Jensen Ackles as Soldier Boy marks the latest marquee signing for Amazon’s The Boys, but Vought’s Craptain America is vastly changed from Garth Ennis’ comic books. In the source material, the first Soldier Boy fought and perished in World War II, only for Vought to hide his death by handing the “Soldier Boy” mantle to other, lesser supes through the years. In The Boys‘TV series, Jensen Ackles’ Soldier Boy survived World War II and enjoyed many decades as Vought’s top hero before allegedly dying during the 1980s.
The Boys season 3, episode 3 shows was really happened to Soldier Boy and his Payback team. Stationed in Nicaragua as part of a Vought experiment into military use of superheroes, Grace Mallory’s Operation Charly unit was lumbered with the burden of babysitting Payback. Because the insectoid Swatto could not understand the notion of keeping a low profile, enemy soldiers and rockets soon descended upon the camp, leaving little standing. This “Barbary Coast” scene is virtually identical to Payback’s origin from The Boys‘comic series, which comes in a chapter with that very same title.
The setting is 1940s WWII rather than 1980s Nicaragua, and Greg Mallory (Grace’s comic counterpart) is forced to accept Payback’s “assistance” by orders from above his pay grade, echoing the scene between Stan Edgar and Mallory’s younger selves in The Boys season 3. With both versions, it’s inconsiderate flying that causes Payback’s downfall. Whereas Swatto was the culprit in live-action, the comic flashback sees Soldier Boy proudly reveal he ordered “Manbot, The Buzzer & Eagle the Archer“To fly above the treeline and scout for enemy troops shortly before their arrival. Needless to say, German soldiers promptly arrive to wipe out Mallory’s encampment in a very one-sided bloodbath. The conflict, the era, and the names might be different, but Payback’s calamitous venture into military ops follows the exact same formula on TV as the WWII comic flashback written by Ennis.
Both tellings of Payback’s demise are absolutely horrifying. In the comic books, Mallory (speaking in the present day) laments how these were real, flesh-and-blood soldiers dying because of some incompetent superhero experiment dreamed up by a corporation. Tugging at the heartstrings in just the same way, The Boys season 3 spotlights a young soldier whose blood-soaked baseball cap Mallory later spies in the wreckage. What really makes The Boys‘live-action massacre more tragic than the comic battle, however, is what comes after. When Greg Mallory awakens to a cold, ashen battlefield, he finds the barely-alive Soldier Boy – the idiot ultimately responsible – and finishes the supe off with a German grenade. In The Boys season 3, Crimson Countess stupidly vaporized two friendly soldiers … and now she has a musical gig at Brave Maeve’s Inclusive Kingdom. Gunpowder mowed down countless civilians with a crazed smile … and he is now preaching gun rights at firearm conventions. The only member of Payback who actually got payback was Swatto, who suffers a very similar death to the comics’ Eagle the Archer.
Greg Mallory made sure justice was served in Soldier Boy’s comic backstory, bringing a small measure of closure to an immense tragedy. In The Boys season 3, Payback’s big culprits haven’t only evaded consequences for their actions, they’ve not even learned from them. After zapping two friendlies in 1984, Crimson Countess accidentally hexes an innocent man in a Homelander costume when Frenchie and Kimiko chase her in The Boys‘present day. Similarly, Gunpowder still thinks shooting things is his god-given right, despite the carnage he caused in Nicaragua. Though this live-action sequence is mostly faithful to the comic books, no justice and no lessons learned makes The Boys season 3’s Payback origin even darker than it already was.
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The Boys continues Friday on Prime Video.
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