Photo courtesy of DC Comics and WB

‘Peacemaker:’ James Gunn’s creative stroke of genius

DC's original HBO Max series is crazy, fun-filled, heartfelt, and quite dark at times.

5 mins read

Peacemaker is a series that feels vastly different from other comic book-related properties gracing our screens.

It feels human, exciting and budding with the potential to be something special going forward. I need to address this now, this series is a character study first and foremost.

However, the beauty of this series is the question of nature vs. nurture, and our own morals affected by our greater sins. In fact, every character throughout the narrative is given a sense of context to manifest and, in turn, we see what drives human reaction and choice. 

I do feel the emotion of interest James Gunn was trying to illicit through a character such as Christopher Smith, Peacemaker, who is perceived as a blood-thirsty psychopath fixated on achieving something inconceivable, which is the fruition of peace. As I watched I started to realize the truth. He’s trying to cope with the machinations of being a puppet forever sentenced to follow orders while longing for attention. 

Hence why he breaks out with random and vulgar thoughts. One could also argue that the environment of being raised in a neo-nazi household, and pushed to the psychological breaking point of his abusive father, could’ve built to the fact that Smith is completely broken, but believes in his ideology regardless of the consequence. Empathy as a running to advance the screenplay while dropping subtle and lasting hints of confessional trauma, and it’s superb.  

Photo courtesy of WB and HBO MAX

“Peacemaker” works as a whole because it’s among the lines of “Doom Patrol,” which comes off as a Grant Morrison psychedelic experience. In reality, it’s a social commentary about being cast aside from the broken perception of life while understanding the greatest villain for that team. That villain being the impending rejection of fear and shame forever lingering in our hearts.

Another series I noticed “Peacemaker” taking inspiration from was Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass” films. Where it’s a journey and spectacle of ordinary citizens or other societal cast asides. Outcasts who find salvation and escape from emotional trauma by donning the various colored costumes of childhood euphoria.    

John Cena as Peacemaker. Photo courtesy of HBO Max

I also noticed that every character is trying to keep a piece of themselves hidden from either themselves or others. I already discussed Smith, who in my opinion is perfectly embodied and placed with such finesse and ease by John Cena, but the scenes and little moments of struggle and PTSD that Cena manifests in times of desperation are perfectly shown. 

From the way, his hands shake when he can’t take a shot despite being under orders, or standing up to his father only to hear him gruff and revert into a puddle of shame. I do wonder, as time progresses, will we see more of Smith’s past? It could be an interesting angle to invoke empathy. 

Freddie Stroma as Vigilante and John Cena as Peacemaker. Photo courtesy of HBO Max

Vigilante (Freddie Stroma) is an entirely different story, but one distinction I’m surprised no one has made yet is that both are reflections of one another. Both are almost two sides of the same coin. The screenplay makes it clear that both are killers and anti-heroes but one enjoys the murder and blood lust while the other is trying to cope with the past haunting them.

On the other hand, Stroma portrays Adrian Chase as the best friend you can’t stand but the one you need. I mean his motives are a little contrived, but hilarious as well by ushering in a sense of dark comedy. He’s sporadic and downright comical at moments requiring levity to break up the tone. Needless to say, he was one of the standouts and highlights from the characters I have seen so far. 

Danielle Brooks as Leota Adebayo. Photo courtesy of HBO Max

Another character that grew on me was Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks). She comes off fervent and tries to fit in with the team, and showcase her worth, but to spoil her secret would unravel the mystery of the series. However, the chemistry between her and the rest of the cast is strong and I need to see more. 

Jennifer Holland as Emilia Harcourt. Photo courtesy of HBO Max

Agent Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) comes off cold, distant, shallow, but every episode feels like a piece of redemption is starting to reach the surface while lingering in the darkest corner of her heart. I feel her character could be summed up by her quote in the second episode, “Do you pet the dog when he looks cute in these clothes? Doesn’t want to wear the clothes or is just willing to humiliate himself for your love.”

I feel that this was commentary from Gunn expressing trauma, symbolizing the fear that not only Peacemaker endures, but also every character.

Steve Agee as John Economos. Photo courtesy of HBO Max

Tech Expert and Communications Specialist John Economos (Steve Agee) feels like the comedic relief for about the duration of the first two episodes, but he does have scene-stealer lines, and others feel out of place. Agee definitely shines through and is a bright spot simply because he feels innocent, but I wonder if his pure conscience will be dripping in blood with moral corruption. 

Chukwudi Iwuji as Clemson Murn. Photo courtesy of HBO Max

Finally, my favorite character, Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji), a definite scene-stealer that carries a closed-off presence while staying devoid of emotion almost on the level that Viola Davis portrays Amanda Waller. However, it’s clear he thinks everything he does is for the greater good. Does that mean a challenge of authority could in be the cards going forward? Either way, Iwuji is fantastic and the entire cast has a balance of synergy and chemistry that is impressive.  

Every episode’s pace and plot starts to pick up and develop over time. This means the rating and story age up as well. Now one thing for certain this is an adult-only series and takes full advantage of the MA rating. The humor was hit and miss for me but shines through, the social commentary is scathing and the comics-shaming is impeccable. Of course, the underlying plot with Project Butterfly is intriguing and I long for more from what I’ve seen because, at the moment, it feels like a mix of “Men in Black” assimilated with the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” which could lead to a strong season unfolding through the means of a slow burn plot-wise. 

The best way to describe James Gunn’s latest creation is it’s crazy, fun-filled, heartfelt, and quite dark at times. This feels like “The Office” meets “Ash vs Evil Dead” meets DC Comics. The cast is great, with a lot of chemistry and talent on display. The cherry on the cake was the music and a campy anime intro reminiscent of the bombastic insanity that hasn’t been showcased since the great Adam West. It’s clear “Peacemaker” could shine going forward, but only time will tell. 

“Peacemaker” gets an 8.5/10 for being a bloody good time while reminding us that not everything is what it seems, especially when it comes to people closest to us or the ones we never thought deserved a chance. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Brendan Rooney

Brendan Rooney has always been full of creativity and enthusiasm toward the world of widespread media. He is also a passionate comic book fan along with a die-hard sports pedigree. Brendan has written various articles covering all topics and dreams of forging a long-lasting legacy by bringing respect to the Rooney name as either a teacher, journalist, or whatever else the future holds. His work has been featured on Google, Quoted by Marvel Games, Reshared by Movie Trades, Broken exclusives, Spoke and presented at syndicated academic conferences as well.

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