Monday 21 February 2022

Is Peacemaker good?

Peacemaker is a spin-off from The Suicide Squad, which I've yet to see on Sky Cinema. Director James Gunn's follow-up series is a hit on HBO Max.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based comic book guru busy filming on location in the Imperial Sand Dunes (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi), takes a break from Marvel Comics to check out DC's latest live-action series.

Guest post by Nick Smith

The world needs a lot of things right now – ambassadors, conciliators, Nobel prize-fighters. What it doesn’t need is an obnoxious assassin who thinks he’s a superhero, with a Neo-Nazi dad and a four-year prison record. But that’s what James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) gives us in his HBO series, Peacemaker.

Gunn’s 2021 movie The Suicide Squad threw a group of awkward, abnormal villains together and made them sympathetic. The square amongst these oddballs was Peacemaker (John Cena), who was incapable of fitting in with his teammates and turned out to be the most dangerous squaddie of all.

Christopher Smith AKA Peacemaker (John Cena), a Charlton comics character inherited by DC, has always been low on the hero tier. With his shiny ‘beacon of freedom’ helmet and bright uniform, he’s always been ridiculous and unsettling – with his brutal take on making peace, he was the basis for The Comedian in Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Gunn uses the character’s flaws as the foundation for an eight-episode series that is by turns satirical, goofy and hilarious. Sometimes all three.

The satire is mostly aimed at toxic masculinity; Peacemaker’s years in prison mean he has to be schooled in the art of living in our polite, easily-offended modern society. When the joke’s not on the title character, it’s on his nerdy Government colleagues or on daft DC characters like Matter-Eater Lad and Judomaster. There’s even a blink-missed reference to that scourge of the skies, Kite Man, who really likes kites.

The series is well written, although no exposition goes by without the characters engaging in smack talk or comedic dialogue. Gunn, who wrote all eight episodes, obviously has great affection for comic books and the American way of life he lampoons. Cena shows great aptitude for comic timing, never afraid to make fun of his muscle-bound self. Robert Patrick gives a gung-ho performance as Peacemaker’s despicable dad, Auggie Smith. Peacemaker’s helpers are all likeable and there are some cute movie references (The Hidden, 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers) to add an extra layer to the lavish visuals.

However, most of the adventures are grounded in a depressingly real United States of suburbs, duct-taped trailer homes, strip malls, sexist bars and car parks. No wonder the humour has such impact, spicing up the depressing land the heroes fight for.

With its cheeky gags and characters who show no mercy teasing each other, Peacemaker lays out a manifesto for Gunn’s controversial sense of humour. Poking fun at everything he can think of, Gunn manages to have his cake and eat it too. And nothing makes Peace like a piece of cake.

Are you watching Peacemaker on HBO Max? Let me know in the comments below.

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