WARNING: Spoilers ahead for The Boys season 3, episode 7
The Boys‘ latest huge Soldier Boy reveal incorporates elements from three totally different comic book characters. Jensen Ackles debuts in The Boys season 3 as Soldier Boy – a former Vought legend who died under mysterious circumstances in 1984, but returns to get revenge on the teammates who wronged him. Born in 1919, Compound-V has left Soldier Boy ageless, but while there’s only one version of the horribly outdated supe in Amazon’s live-action adaptation, Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s The Boys comic books contain two very different incarnations of Soldier Boy.
The first wore a green suit while wielding a golden shield, and fought (badly) alongside his Payback pals during World War II. Though not afraid of battle, Soldier Boy mk. 1’s overconfidence and woeful ineptitude caused many deaths on the battlefield – his own included. The Boys‘ second comic Soldier Boy is a modern day coward whose costume more closely resembles Captain America’s. Neither brave nor skilled, he sleeps with Homelander while trying to earn a spot in the Seven. Jensen Ackles’ Soldier Boy is a made-for-TV creation, not directly based on either calamitous comic cretin, but the influence Amazon’s adaptation does draw comes mostly from Soldier Boy mk. 1. Ackles’ emerald-colored costume and gold shield faithfully recreate the original Soldier Boy design, and both share a brash, arrogant attitude. Moreover, The Boys season 3’s Nicaragua incident follows Soldier Boy’s WWII comic massacre almost beat-for-beat, even down to Mallory’s involvement.
Despite taking most of its cues from the first comic Soldier Boy, The Boys season 3, episode 7 begins to weave characteristics of the second incarnation into Jensen Ackles’ portrayal. The Legend reveals Soldier Boy never actually fought Nazis during WWII, but merely posed for photographs on Omaha beach weeks after the battle finished. Listening to his companion’s patriotic boast later in the episode, Hughie seizes his opportunity to accuse Soldier Boy of being a fraud. In the comics, Soldier Boy mk. 2 is a completely different supe from his predecessor, but the public believes he’s the same guy who fought Nazis in World War II – a military fraud, just like in live-action. Instead of Hughie getting to rub Soldier Boy’s nose in the truth, comic Butcher venomously drops the line, “You never fought in the war you c***, and you’re an insult to the lads that did.”
Already blending aspects of two different Soldier Boys together, The Boys season 3 throws another comic superhero into the pot – Stormfront. The final moments of “Here Comes A Candle To Light You To Bed” shockingly reveal Homelander is Soldier Boy’s biological son. Vought’s Jonah Vogelbaum took a sperm sample from the company’s top guy in 1980, and secretly used it to create the upgraded Homelander. This doesn’t happen in Ennis and Robertson’s comics, but the source material does establish how Homelander was engineered from Stormfront’s DNA as an upgrade upon the original. This storyline has been shifted to Soldier Boy in Amazon’s live-action The Boys TV show, meaning Jensen Ackles plays a mixture of three distinct comic personalities – the original Soldier Boy, the pant-wetting fraudster, and Stormfront.
As a general rule, comic book adaptations fare better when sticking as closely to their source material as practically possible, but The Boys has so far walked a fine line between respecting Ennis’ work and doing its own diabolical thing – and Soldier Boy is a perfect example of that philosophy in action. Comic readers can clearly see inspiration being drawn from those hallowed pages, but can never quite guess what comes next. Jensen Ackles’ performance is authentic, but brings together a collage of comic details to create a character that’s fresh, modern (not in his social opinions, sadly), and constantly surprising.
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More: Why Starlight’s Nose Was Bleeding In The Boys Season 3 Episode 6
The Boys continues Friday on Prime Video.