It’s not a bad time to be a fan of the superhero genre. With Marvel and DC releasing shows and movies most months out of the year (and sometimes both in one, a la Hawkeye and Spider-Man: No Way Home), there’s sure to be something to appeal to just about everyone’s tastes. Unless, of course, you’re a fan of Amazon Studios’ The Boys.
The Boys fans have had it tough in the year and a half since Season 2 was released. Amazon put out monthly “Seven on Seven” Vought promotional videos/cable news parodies on YouTube and an official release date has been set for summer, but it’s not the same as watching a show and certainly not the same as watching that show. After all, very few programs — superhero-related or not — have managed to balance style, substance, cultural critique, and absolute off-the-wall craziness the way The Boys has.
However, one show is coming pretty darn close: DC Universe’s Peacemaker.
If you haven’t heard of Chris Smith, a.k.a. “Peacemaker” (John Cena), here’s a basic rundown. He was “trained from birth” to kill by his white supremacist father (yikes), and taught to maintain peace no matter how many men, women or children he had to kill to get it. He also has a pet eagle named “Eagly.” Sounds crazy? Yeah, it is. And he is. That’s what landed him in prison, where he became part of the Suicide Squad 2.0 (important distinction) and almost died on that mission. All of this is explained at the start of the show, so if you haven’t yet seen James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, that needn’t preclude you from watching Peacemaker.
Chris didn’t die on that mission, and that’s where Peacemaker, also spearheaded by Gunn, picks up. Right away, fans of The Boys will notice some familiar beats. The show is loaded with the same irreverent, raunchy humor for which The Boys is known. There are murder jokes. There are superhero jokes. There’s nudity. There’s cleverly cloaked commentary on today’s politics. There’s gore aplenty, too; this is a show where people get their faces blown off in excruciating detail. And at the center of it all is Peacemaker, who has the clueless golden-retriever-ness of Hughie (Jack Quaid) and, thanks to his upbringing, some of the philosophies of Homelander (Antony Starr). He’s not a straight-up psychopath, but needless to say, the guy’s got a lot to learn. And to un-learn.
But as with The Boys, there’s more to Peacemaker than guts and butts. At their core, both shows are about families — or at least that’s the sense you get from Peacemaker’s first four episodes. Chris has started to bond with the agents on his mission, who are meant to be keeping him on a tight leash, and they’ve begun to bond with each other, and … it’s probably not hard to see where this is going. Found family is a hallmark of Gunn’s work, so it’s possible, if not probable, that most of the crew is going to end up being pals by the end of the season. If they survive.
But unlike The Boys, Peacemaker is less a commentary about superheroes and more an exploration of these kinds of bonds, both found and biological.
Cena manages to make Peacemaker likable and laugh-out-loud funny even when his character is totally off the mark in most social interactions, or in the comments he makes. The opening credits are so riotous that you might find yourself watching them in every episode, even with the “skip” button right there.
So, if you’re missing the show about corrupt superheroes and good people that’s crammed with off-color jokes, gore and heart, check out this show about a slightly less corrupt superhero and good people that’s crammed with off-color jokes, gore and heart. It’s a darn good time — and the soundtrack is phenomenal.
Peacemaker, Fridays, HBO Max