The Boys Franchise Is Finally Exploring the Dark Side of the X-Men
Being a teenaged superhero has never been a walk in the park, but Gen V is exploring that reality from every angle.
It’s hard not to see superheroes at school without thinking of the X-Men. As much as superheroes have dominated the zeitgeist in recent years, stories depicting their higher education are usually neglected in favor of more exciting endeavors. That makes Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters one of the definitive schools for supes. And even as pop culture turns a more cynical eye towards hero worship, Professor X’s academy still feels like a utopia.
Not unlike the Wizarding World’s Hogwarts, comic fans the world over dream of being whisked away for mutant training. Xavier’s school has been a safe haven for the outcasts and misfits that later become the X-Men. It’s the ultimate take on found family and spawned both a successful movie franchise that predates Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and an iconic animated show. But the shadier side of the X-Men, however — especially where its eponymous leader is concerned — rarely makes it to the screen. The mutant group has been satirized in Garth Ennis’ comic series The Boys, but it’s not until now, with Prime Video’s spin-off Gen V, that the dark side of superhero education is finally getting the spotlight.
Within the world of The Boys, there’s rarely an aspect of supe culture that doesn’t inevitably get skewered. It’s no different for the X-Men, though the Boys comics go much further than anyone (even Gen V) really should. Godolkin University was founded by John Godolkin, a Professor Xavier stand-in who’s just as powerful and ten times as disgusting. Rather than recruiting gifted kids through a telepathic outreach program, Godolkin creates heroes by exposing abducted children to Compound V and grooming them to serve him unconditionally. His hero squad, the G-Men, becomes one of the largest and most powerful superhero groups in the Boys-verse. While Vought is well aware of Godolkin’s practices, they don’t put a stop to it until he and his group become a threat to Vought’s bottom line.
Of course, Professor X never went as far as his Boys-verse counterpart, but he still remains one of the X-Men saga’s more controversial figures all the same. To say nothing of his fondness for child soldiers, Xavier has been prone to some unsettling practices. He’s used his powers to rewrite reality (and even wipe heroes’ minds) without waiting for consent. He once harbored icky, one-sided love for teen protégé Jean Grey, too — but that was way back in the comics’ Dark Ages. Either way, The Boys wasn’t building its parody off of nothing: there’s definitely an air of creepiness to Xavier’s proceedings. In the wrong hands, it’s easy to imagine how his unique brand of power might corrupt, and that’s exactly what Gen V is starting to explore.
While neither John Godolkin nor his G-Men make it to The Boys (and thank God for that), Gen V does parody Marvel’s most famous mutants in its own edgy way. Shelley Conn’s Indira Shetty is as close a substitute to Professor X as we may get for now. She might have been introduced as a well-meaning liaison to students, but as the series goes on, it’s clear her motives aren’t exactly altruistic. With Andre Anderson (Chance Perdomo), Godolkin has its resident Magneto, and telepathic Cate feels like a perfect stand-in for Jean Grey, especially where her untenable powers are concerned.
The third episode of Gen V, “#ThinkBrink,” also gave us the best look yet at Godolkin’s darkest secret: The Woods. It’s nowhere near as bad as the God U of the Boys comics — in fact, it might be closer to Marvel’s New Mutants — but knowing that ghoulish supe experiments are taking place right under everyone’s nose is still just as creepy.
There’s still no telling what the higher-ups at Godolkin want with superpowered liabilities like Sam (Asa Germann), but Gen V’s central mystery is finally heating up, and that gives the series more opportunities to explore the pitfalls of being a teenage superhero under the watch of a questionable leader.