I made a note back in my review for the first issue of Batman: Reptilian that writer Garth Ennis doesn’t do a lot of superhero work. No sooner had I put those words down in digital ink that I found he wrote a one-shot for lesser-known DC antihero Peacemaker. Granted, it could be work-for-hire sort of stuff, and Peacemaker is both kinda silly and just got a new HBO Max series spinning off last summer’s The Suicide Squad movie, but it is still Ennis writing a story featuring a guy known for, among other things, a ridiculous helmet.
Issue: Peacemaker: Disturbing the Peace #1, January 2022
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Garry Brown
The Plot: Christopher Smith meets with a woman psychiatrist in a cemetery to discuss his troubled history.
Commentary: OK, let’s get a couple things out of the way first: this was written with a more mature reader in mind, the “Peacemaker” name is dropped all of once as a military call sign, and the only place the character wears his distinctive silly-looking helmet is on the cover. Ennis is here more or less completely re-writing who Peacemaker is, what he does, and what he’s like. Gone is the original story that had his seeing a hallucination of his dead Nazi father berating him on a consistent basis along with more or less everything else there is to know about the guy.
If anything, this Peacemaker seems like a much calmer and, for lack of a better term, more zen version of Ennis’s take on the Punisher.
Using the framing device of a nervous woman questioning Smith about his origins while the pair are seated in a cemetery, a place Smith finds relaxing, it comes out that Smith’s early life had a lot of violence and death in it. Smith came home from school once to find his mother and step-father both dead in a murder-suicide along with three younger siblings, a pair of twins and a baby. Ennis’s usual dark humor doesn’t come up that much in this story, but there’s a sense of it when he describes how the kids died here. It’s not for the faint of stomach.
From there, Smith apparently bounced around foster homes, was accidentally kidnapped by a pair of drug-addicted small time thieves whose company he actually liked, and then he ended up in the military where, despite being in a variety of elite units, there were always some mysterious casualties left behind that seem to connect to him, and the woman is concerned she’s dealing with some kind of serial killer who is just very good at covering his tracks.
She isn’t wrong, but Smith’s reasoning fits in well with the Ennis mode of antihero. Ennis writes Smith as having a very strict moral code of right and wrong, and the people he targets probably deserve what attention he gives them. True, some of the deaths depicted in the book are a bit over-the-top, but that is par for the course for Ennis. What really sets Smith apart from Frank Castle is how he approaches what he does. The name “Peacemaker” may not be written out more than the one time, but he does have a means of living up to that name. It’s just on a smaller and more personal level than past Peacemaker stories, where he works to achieve world peace even if he has to use devastating lethal force to achieve it. Instead, this story presents it as a way of punishing the guilty, even as it is clear Smith may feel pity for many of his targets.
So, it’s not the best or most original take on a character from Ennis considering his past work, but it largely works if you don’t consider the John Cena version to be comics-accurate. I don’t think DC could have come up with a version of the character more radically different from the one on HBO Max if they tried.