Review: “Peacemaker” – HBO Max has a new icon for peace; we’re so doomed


Ben Kaiser, News Editor

The world is full of threats, and DC superheroes can only do so much. So many threats can slip under the radar. Most of these heroes handle crime in their own cities (Batman with Gotham City, Superman with Metropolis) and only team up in powerful teams when global threats are too powerful for just one hero. But when a government secret threatens life on Earth, there is a short list of people that you can depend on. In this case, someone who can obey orders, who isn’t smart enough to know he’s being used, and who is a well-known criminal that you can blame everything on when things go bad.

“Peacemaker” is a spinoff series, continuing events from “THE Suicide Squad” and is part of the DC Comics Extended Universe, or DCEU. This series focuses on the titular character trying to show the world that he’s not the villain everyone thinks he is, even if he keeps killing people. I mean, it is what he does.

So who is Peacemaker? He’s a pretty obscured character from DC Comics, which might be why director James Gunn chose him for part of his Suicide Squad lineup. First appearing in 1966, Peacemaker is described as a pacifist diplomat who is so committed to peace that he will use force to obtain it. However, Gunn rewrote Peacemaker in “The Suicide Squad” to be a mass murderer, who justifies his killing to achieve peace.

The “Peacemaker” series was created by James Gunn, who also wrote and directed most of the episodes. Gunn is widely known for Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” and recently joined DC to bring his unique ‘wacky’ take to “The Suicide Squad.” Gunn has also done a range of writing from the live-action “Scooby-Doo” films to zombie films like 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead.” Currently, Gunn is finishing the third “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which will release next year, and “Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special,” the latter coming out this December on Disney Plus.

John Cena returns from “The Suicide Squad” as Christopher Smith/Peacemaker. Joining the series is Danielle Brooks (Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black”) as Leota Adebayo, Freddie Stroma (the “Harry Potter” series) as Adrian Chase/Vigilante, and Chukwudi Iwuji (“Exam”) as Clemson Murn. Jennifer Holland (CMT’s “Sun Records”) and Steve Agee (Fox’s “New Girl”) also return from “The Suicide Squad” as Emilia Harcourt and John Economos, respectively. Robert Patrick (“Terminator 2: Judgment Day”) stars as Peacemaker’s very estranged father Auggie Smith/White Dragon.

The series starts with the Peacemaker recovering from the aftermath of “The Suicide Squad.” ARGUS, the government organization that recruits supervillains for black ops missions, tracks him down and forces him into another world-saving mission. This time, Peacemaker is going solo with a small support team to hunt down and kill parasitic alien bugs called “butterflies.” The only thing in his way is the local police (since he’s still a wanted mass murderer) and his hateful father, August “Auggie” Smith, known by his racist followers as the White Dragon.

I know that 2022 has only started, but this may be the best thing I’ll see all year. Marvel Studios has some serious competition now!

Like Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad,” he had a lot of freedom (and fun) putting this together. There are lots of graphic violence, blood, heads exploding, F-bombs, nudity, you name it. Gunn also likes to use bright imagery and colors, which gives Peacemaker and Vigilante classic comic book looks to their costumes. It’s a long way away from Zack Snyder’s DCEU, which was more serious and darker.

First off, the opening credits. TV shows often don’t have much for intros. Usually, they’re clips strung together from other episodes to introduce the main characters. They’re brief and usually not worth watching for every single episode. You’ll get bored even with the ones you like. Most streaming services even give you an option to skip them now.

“Peacemaker” exceeds in the opening credits game. The main characters dance in synced choreography while in full costume to Wig Wam’s “Do Ya Wanna Taste It.” I never even heard of this Norwegian glam rock band or the song until this show. Now it’s on top of my playlist while at work. I will watch this opening over and over again. Gunn knows how to pick the music.

Even though the episode will be filled with a lot of death and crude humor, the opening has light-hearted energy to it. The displaying credits and titles are lit up with bright neon colors. The music is upbeat and catchy. The choreographed dancing link up perfectly and is an awesome start for each episode.

It also has Gunn’s humor, which can be outrageous and wild. Sometimes, it’s really wild. Gunn has a way of blending wacky humor and action scenes. It shows in all of his works that I’ve seen. Gunn will go from having the team kill a talking gorilla with a chainsaw and then later have an emotional bonding between two characters. Every episode juggles between bizarre, emotional, crude, and action-packed at any time; yeah, it sounds just like a comic book.

Cena also brought his own humor to the script. Cena put together ad-lipped rants and jokes of his own, a lot cut to fit episode time schedules. For example, his Peacemaker character has a recurring joke that every famous superhero has a lewd or perverse secret that he picked up from online rumors.

Also, Gunn wrote in a sidekick for Peacemaker: his pet eagle, Eagly. Eagly reminds me of the old cartoon superheroes that had animal sidekicks with them. I think even Superman and Batman had their own, too. Peacemaker sees himself as an all-around American hero and, I mean, how much more American can you get with a pet eagle?

Jokes aside, the series does have a lot of character depth, especially around Peacemaker. Peacemaker struggles a lot with self-image, seeing himself as a patriotic superhero despite being a wanted criminal. The show digs into his past to show that he has a warped moral compass from growing up with a Klansman of a father, Auggie Smith. Thankfully, Peacemaker isn’t a racist like his father, but he definitely had a messed-up childhood.

Almost everyone except Auggie had character growth throughout the series. It starts with everyone having personal problems, ranging from loneliness, acceptance, friendship, purpose, or trust. By the end of the season, the main characters found their way to achieve their goals and move on while also saving the world from mind-controlling bug parasites.

As I mentioned earlier, Gunn is great at picking music for his movies and now for this show. If you’ve seen Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, you’d see that Gunn handpicks music to fit scenes or moments. It’s not a new technique from film directors, but Gunn adds a distinct style to it. Generally, Gunn doesn’t always go for bands or songs that we hear every day on Spotify. With “Peacemaker,” Gunn’s choices give both the songs and scenes a fresh feel.

“Peacemaker” was phenomenal. This is easily the best thing to come from the DCEU. Hell, it’s a freaking DCEU masterpiece! It follows the same humor and action from “The Suicide Squad” while coming out as its own identity as an HBO show. Who knew such an obscured character would become one of DC’s biggest wins?

Every episode has an end-credit scene. Each one is an extended scene from that episode, usually a continuation of jokes, rants, or arguments.

Season 2 is confirmed! Yes!

“Peacemaker” is streaming on HBO Max.