After making a splash on the big screen with 2021’s The Suicide Squad, the costumed antihero Peacemaker – a super-soldier so devoted to peace he’ll kill for it – has expanded his newfound prominence to television and comic books. Kyle Starks and Steve Pugh have crafted Peacemaker’s most audacious outing yet in the six-issue miniseries Peacemaker Tries Hard!, with a collected edition available for preorder ahead of its February release. Published through DC’s mature reader-oriented imprint DC Black Label, Starks and Pugh are able to cut loose with all the unhinged violence and raunchy jokes befitting their ridiculous protagonist on his latest adventure.
Visibly inspired by Peacemaker’s portrayal and backstory in The Suicide Squad and its Max original television spinoff series Peacemaker, Peacemaker Tries Hard! doubles down on the ‘80s-style action comedy. Instead of just keeping the Peacemaker Tries Hard cast to Suicide Squad-centric characters, Starks and Pugh incorporate much of the wider DCU, including some of its more obscure heroes and villains to square off with Peacemaker. Here’s how Kyle Starks and Steve Pugh create the perfect spiritual successor to the cinematic antics of Peacemaker while leaving their own stamp on the gun-toting antihero in Peacemaker Tries Hard!.
Peacemaker’s one-man mission to save the world
Peacemaker Tries Hard opens with Christopher Smith securing a release from the Suicide Squad and eager to use his lethal talents to be recognized as a legitimate superhero. This wish quickly becomes true when Peacemaker manages to crush a terrorist syndicate, adopting a dog in the process, whom he names after billionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne (Peacemaker is unaware of the Batman connection). This mission proves to be the tip of a much more sinister iceberg when Peacemaker learns that the radioactive supervillain Chemo is cloning an entire army of Deathstrokes in a bid to conquer the world.
Without the help of the Suicide Squad, Peacemaker must rely on his own skills and the help of an unlikely superhero to stop Chemo and other misfit villains along the way. This adventure is far from conventional, however, with Starks and Pugh indulging in plenty of absurdist humor - from Peacemaker fighting off a cloned gaggle of Deathstroke babies to Smith’s usual bone-headed perspective on the world effectively played for laughs. This is a miniseries with all the scope of a classic DCU superhero story, with some added grit to the violence and jokes that take full advantage of the creative freedom offered by DC Black Label.
Peacemaker needs a friend - [Comic spoilers in this section!]
Spoilers Ahead! Throughout Peacemaker Tries Hard!, one of the underlying themes is that Christopher Smith really just needs a friend. Smith constantly struggles to find that honest connection and emotional support. The start of the story reveals that Amanda Waller and the rest of the Suicide Squad have written Peacemaker off as an awkward headache and are more than happy to see him leave their ensemble. This glaring void in Smith’s personal life is one that flashbacks reveal has existed since he was a child in an abusive home and one that his enemies exploit in the story.
At the start of the story, Peacemaker thinks he’s formed a burgeoning friendship with Monsieur Mallah only to learn that Mallah’s been in league with Chemo all along, exploiting Peacemaker’s loneliness. To make matters worse, Mallah kidnaps Peacemaker’s new dog, taking away Smith’s faithful and true friend. This betrayal adds a personal element to Peacemaker’s conflict against the supervillains, as he raids Chemo’s island base to rescue his dog.
One super friend that Peacemaker does genuinely make over the course of the story is the forgotten and over-the-hill Golden Age superhero Red Bee. Despite his admittedly absurd gimmick, Red Bee proves himself every inch the superhero and hasn’t lost a step with age. Helping Peacemaker stop Chemo, rescue his dog, and save the day, Red Bee then heroically sacrifices himself and saves Peacemaker’s life, using his last words to wish Peacemaker a happy birthday and remind him that he believes in him.
Though Peacemaker mourns Red Bee’s death, he is reminded that he isn’t as alone as he believed at the beginning of the story. The local townspeople show up for an impromptu barbecue at Smith’s home, which is even begrudgingly attended by Waller and the Suicide Squad. In the end, this means more to Peacemaker than any major accolade as he finally gets to celebrate a birthday in the company of those who appreciate him.
Cinematically homaging James Gunn’s DCU
Like other titles published through DC Black Label, Peacemaker Tries Hard! isn’t set within the main comic book DCU, nor is it set within the cinematic universe where John Cena catapulted Peacemaker into prominence through his depiction as the character in The Suicide Squad and television series Peacemaker. Instead, Peacemaker Tries Hard! feels like a non-canonical spiritual bridge between the comic book DCU and DC Extended Universe, drawing visible influences and direct allusions from both. The sense of humor throughout the story is very much in DC Studios co-CEO James Gunn’s wheelhouse, with Starks employing plenty of nonsensical jokes and ‘80s-inspired references especially consistent with the Peacemaker Max series.
Even narratively, Peacemaker’s unhappy upbringing mirrors the television version, while the Suicide Squad’s appearance includes a similar roster to the DCEU iteration of the team, with Harley Quinn and King Shark as notable members. There are elements that subtly confirm Peacemaker Tries Hard! is not in the same continuity as the DCEU, most visibly with the presence of Captain Boomerang, who died in The Suicide Squad in the movie’s prologue. Instead, Starks and Pugh just take advantage of the thematic canvas Gunn has created, giving their own twist to it and making the story itself more accessible to readers familiar to the popular Max series.
Kyle Starks & Steve Pugh’s road to Peacemaker
If there was ever a premise that seemed tailor-made for Kyle Starks’ creative sensibilities, it’s a DC Black Label action comedy in the vein of Peacemaker Tries Hard!. Starks’ creator-owned projects like Sexcastle and Assassin Nation revel in ‘80s action tropes while his fan-favorite run on the Rick and Morty comic book series and its usual inane comedy makes Peacemaker Tries Hard! feel like something of a dream DC project for him. Similarly, Pugh has been doing acclaimed work at DC for years and with a cinematic quality that makes him a natural fit for drawing characters inspired but not beholden to their DCEU counterparts.
Though Peacemaker was renewed for a second season on Max in 2022, there has currently been no word on production on production on the series resuming. That places Peacemaker Tries Hard! in the perfect position to help tide over fans until they can get those future new episodes, matching the spirit of the show while giving the readers something wholly different. DC has been pushing Peacemaker pretty hard ever since the build-up to The Suicide Squad’s theatrical release in 2021 across its publishing line, but to best capture the appeal of the DCEU iteration of the character, it takes a creative team like Kyle Starks and Steve Pugh, perfectly at home on DC Black Label.
Peacemaker Tries Hard! is written by Kyle Starks, illustrated by Steve Pugh, colored by Jordie Bellaire, and lettered by Becca Carey. All six individual issues are on sale now, with a hardcover collection on sale February 6 and currently available for preorder.