The Boys season 3 revolves around Jensen Ackles’ character, Soldier Boy, who is one of the most intriguing antiheroes this year.
Soldier Boy is a character on the Amazon Prime original TV series, The Boys, played by Jensen Ackles. This Soldier Boy is an adaptation of the comic book character of the same name, though they are relatively different from one another. This happens to be the case for many elements and characters within The Boys, such that they are inspired by their comic book counterparts while having several major differences in characterization, backstory, etc.
For example, look at the most recent episode of The Boys, specifically Season 3, Episode 6, “Herogasm”. In the source material, Herogasm was a six issue comic book mini-series separate from the main line of The Boys comics. In that story, The Seven, Payback, the G-Men and all of the superhero groups team up to fight an extraterrestrial threat, which loomed menacingly over all of humanity. At least, that is what Vought told the public and the press. In reality, the entire superhero community was meeting up for an annual orgy of the most twisted and vile kind.
Early on in the Herogasm miniseries, Soldier Boy and Homelander have gay sex, which Soldier Boy apparently does every year in the hope that he will join the Seven and finally leave behind Payback, a team which is seen as inferior by everyone including the members themselves. Homelander had no intention of bringing Soldier Boy onto the Seven. This is just one example of thousands, where Homelander abuses and manipulates for his own sick, selfish desires.
The Boys: Soldier Boy + Homelander = Homeboy?
The portrayal of homosexuality in The Boys comic is far from tasteful, but to those familiar with the series, perhaps that goes without saying. Queer culture, depictions and relationships are a bit more complex and positively aligned in the TV series, but by that same virtue, some opportunities to reinvent the gay storylines of the source material are abandoned. Long story short, I see no possibility of Homelander or Soldier Boy acting on or even expressing homosexual feelings in live-action. All of that being said, The Boys has every opportunity to prove me wrong and deliver a storyline about the LGBTQ+ romantic and sexual desires Soldier Boy and Homelander may or may not be repressing.
Another important thing to point out is that the Soldier Boy seen in Herogasm is actually the third individual to go by the Soldier Boy name. Much like how Captain America was suspended in frozen animation in the Marvel Universe, Vought wanted the people to believe that the first Soldier Boy was back after all this time. This was a simple facade, a lie cooked up by the most evil and corrupt marketing department in the known universe. Billy Butcher (leader of The Boys) saw through this lie quickly and brutally, torturing Soldier Boy for information on Homelander while making fun of him for claiming to be the original.
Simply put, Soldier boy isn’t particularly powerful, noteworthy, or all that impressive in the source material. But Eric Kripke and the creative team behind Amazon Prime’s The Boys have taken this mediocre character and elevated him with more finesse and skill than almost any other comic book adaptation. Jensen Ackles’ performance crackles with nuance, the characterization is to die for, and the commentary Soldier Boy provides on the Captain America archetype is top notch. To be quite frank, Soldier Boy already has more to say about the legacy and truth of Steve Rogers’ story than US Agent ever did.
Soldier Boy Explores Cap’s Legacy Better Than The MCU Has
Like many elements of The Boys, even the casting of Jensen Ackles is a wonderful nod to the world of comic book media. This is his first major superhero role in live-action, but Jensen Ackles has voiced both Red Hood and Batman in DC animation. And while he apparently never auditioned for the role of Captain America in Phase 1, despite long-standing rumors, Ackles seems to have been in the running during the earlier stages of development on The First Avenger.
Soldier Boy truly wants to protect his country. He fights for the freedoms of American citizens, and he strives to uphold and protect the law at all costs. Narcissistic as he may be, he really is America’s son. In other words, Soldier Boy is what happens when upholding the establishment becomes your highest priority, when protecting America as a concept becomes more important than protecting your neighbor.
Soldier Boy fought for Vought and the American way for decades throughout the 1900’s. He co-founded Herogasm with the white supremacist crimefighter, Stormfront, who operated under the codename Liberty at the time. He leads the superhero team Payback (get it? instead of avenging, they get payback!) for years, before they turned on him and delivered him to the Russian military. According to his ex-girlfriend Crimson Countess, everyone in Payback hated him, especially Black Noir, who set up the sting which resulted in his capture by Soviet forces.
The Boys, Soldier Boy & The Challenging Topic Of Redemption
While he hit on women such as Grace Mallory in front of his partner, Crimson Countess, he claimed to have really loved her, even wanted kids with her. Whether or not that’s true, self-delusion or an outright lie is up to viewer interpretation. His brutal murder of the Countess upon escaping Russia certainly doesn’t scream “redeemable”, but his depiction has been far less black and white than other Vought heroes, especially compared to Homelander or Starlight.
Characters who walk these morally grey areas, committing deeds of terrible good, while fervently believing that they are fighting for what’s right, are sometimes called antiheroes, though that description may not fit every antiheroic character. Some of the most popular antiheroes include The Punisher, who uses murder to accomplish vigilantism, Venom, who fights greater evils while occasionally eating the brains of his enemies/victims, and Deadpool, a mercenary for hire who sometimes fights for the greater good, and sometimes for his own selfish gain. The antihero archetype allows for more flexibility and creativity within storytelling than the tight moral paradigms of beings like Superman, or on the other end, Darkseid. Soldier Boy is another wonderful addition to the world of antiheroes.
It’s fascinating that he’s teaming up with Billy Butcher and Hughie, two central protagonists, as opposed to aligning himself with more clearly villainous forces. Even his acts of brutal atomic decimation have been triggered by the Soviet programming, forcing him to act without control or free will, not unlike Bucky Barnes as The Winter Soldier. Could Soldier Boy find his way to true heroism in the modern age, becoming a soul more akin to Annie January and Mother’s Milk than Homelander or Butcher?
While that may seem like a stretch, and I certainly wouldn’t count on America’s Son turning over a new leaf, part of what makes The Boys so compelling is how they blur the lines between right and wrong, good and evil, light and dark. By presenting a world where Vought creates the paradigms of morality, ethics and belief within the country, the belief system of the average citizen in Vought’s America is challenged. And truthfully, our reality may share more in common with The Boys than anyone is comfortable admitting.
Soldier Boy is a killer, a drug addict, a misogynist, and the worst kind of patriot. At the same time, he is a direct byproduct of his environment, a false hero, and the result of a twisted world that cares about the bottom line more than it does individuals and free will. He is a monster, but he’s a victim at the same time. Does he deserve a second chance? How far can we go before we lose our shot at redemption?
These questions are nearly impossible to answer on a macro-scale, but individually, they are absolutely worth pondering. Soldier Boy and The Boys force us to look inward, to evaluate how we behave, who we support, and where we come from. What does the truth about American history teach us? If Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson represent the American Dream, do Soldier Boy and Homelander represent the American reality?
Don’t miss the next chapter in the epic saga of Soldier Boy when The Boys, Season 3 Episode 7 airs on Friday,
What do you think of Soldier Boy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media!