Could Peacemaker Be Adapting an Iconic DC Comics Arc?

The second trailer for HBO Max's Peacemaker made its debut on Friday, showcasing the first television series set within the ever-evolving DC Extended Universe. The show will serve as a spinoff of this year's The Suicide Squad, and will see Christopher Smith / Peacemaker (John Cena) reuniting with ARGUS' Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) and John Economos (Steve Agee) on a new mission, alongside a number of new characters. While the teaser largely showcased the vibes of the irreverent Peacemaker, one segment just might confirm a theory that has begun surrounding the series — that its mission could be an adaptation of the iconic "Janus Directive" crossover story arc.

Running across several titles — Suicide Squad, Checkmate!, Manhuter, Firestorm, and Captain Atom — from May to June of 1989, "The Janus Directive" chronicled a tale of the covert groups within the DC universe. The arc began with a war between the Suicide Squad and other government agencies, which was revealed to be all part of a larger plan by Kobra and his cult. Kobra had planned to murder Squad leader Amanda Waller and replace with her a doppelganger who would do his bidding, but Waller had killed her double and assumed the role of a double agent. Kobra's goal was for the Waller doppelganger to help him use space technology to kill all of humanity, unleash a literal agent of chaos named the Kali Yuga, and repopulate the Earth with a space ark. The event culminated in the members of groups such as the Squad, Force of July, Checkmate, the C.B.I., and Project Atom joining forces and defeating Kobra in his space ark.

So, how could this factor into the Peacemaker series? For starters, one of the other groups taking part in the Janus Directive storyline is "Project Peacemaker", a small team of handlers tasked with inconspicuously monitoring Peacemaker and helping him with his superhero activities (so inconspicuously that Smith isn't even aware that it's happening). While the circumstances in Peacemaker are a bit more overt, that description certainly sounds like Harcourt, Economos, and the other members of Smith's current crew. We know from the post-credits scene of The Suicide Squad that the mission the group is reluctantly being put on involves saving "the f-cking world", and it's safe to assume that Kobra or another villain secretly trying to create literal chaos on Earth a la "Janus Directive" would be a problem of that magnitude.

Whether or not the team knows about this larger task remains to be seen, especially as the second trailer tells Smith that his mission is to eliminate "butterflies" — targets who are "threats to American citizens." There's certainly the chance that this objective could be part of the larger "Janus Directive" ordeal — particularly, creating friction and paranoia between various teams and government agencies — only to later be revealed as a distraction to hide world domination. To top it all off, around 2:24 into the second trailer, a character appears to be standing in front of a swarm of drones, which fit the vibe of Kobra's space ark.

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(Photo: DC Entertainment / HBO Max)

We also know the series is confirmed to include Judomaster (Nhut Le), a character with ties to Kobra in the comics. In particular, the second incarnation of the character, Tommy Jagger, works for Checkmate, but briefly spends time undercover as a member of Kobra's cult. While there are an array of reasons for Judomaster to be at odds with Smith, a version of that status quo would certainly be interesting to see unfold.

And even on a larger level, "The Janus Directive" feels like the perfect kind of story for Peacemaker to riff off of — it is well received and conceptually unique in the tapestry of DC events, but is still relatively small in scale, and revolves around characters who aren't necessarily household names. The crossover's themes of government transparency and allegiance fit right into what we've seen of Peacemaker, with Smith struggling with his pacifistic, but deadly, moral compass in the second trailer. Plus, juxtaposing the rowdy, underdog story of Smith and his new friends with cataclysmic stakes of "The Janus Directive" has the potential for some fascinating — and wildly entertaining — story. 

Whether or not Peacemaker adapts "The Janus Directive" in any capacity, it's safe to assume that fans are in for a wild and unexpected take on the world of superhero television. Still, it doesn't seem completely impossible that we could get elements of the event weaved into the series' eight episodes.

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Peacemaker is expected to debut on Thursday, January 13th exclusively on HBO Max.