According to dictionary.com, ‘that which cannot be brought back” is one of the definitions of the word “Irredeemable.” It is also an accurate description of one of comics’ newest characters, The Plutonian.
We live in a society where we revel in being able to put cracks in perfection. Too many years of our leaders failing us has created this deep seated desire to watch the good people fall to ruin and made us cynical. It is in this vain that Mark Waid has created the new hit comic from BOOM! Studios “Irredeemable” with artist Peter Krause.
Waid is definitely doing an ambitious book here. For the first time in a long while, this is a book about humans with powers, instead of superheroes with human traits. There is a difference. These characters are subject to the follies of humanity. Through and through, they fall to their emotions. Humans cannot merely avoid humanity, they can never live up to the hype of their legend. Superheroes have the ability to raise above their human needs and failings. But in this world, no one can escape themselves.
The Plutonian is a thinly veiled copy of Superman. His secret identity is basically Clark Kent, working at a radio station and falling for a headstrong, brunette reporter. But he did not have the peace and good upbringing that Superman was able to have. The Plutonian is surrounded by humans who are still uneasy with his abilities and his heightened senses allow for him to see and hear the worst of what the world has to offer. And slowly over his career, as shown in flashbacks, he loses his faith in humanity and instead of being the greatest hero of all, he becomes the greatest villain. He’s killed a lot of people in the first 11 issues.
And the supporting cast is not all angels either. Qubit, a genius hero whose intellect is beyond even Stephen Hawking, creates an army of android Modeus, Plutonian’s former arch-nemesis, in an attempt to take down Plutonian, completely ignoring the fact (though acknowledging it) that he has basically created an army of robot psychopaths. Bette Noir, a super hero as well, is shown to have an affair with The Plutonian, which she is shown to hide from her husband over the course of the book. Charybdis, another hero whose twin brother is killed by The Plutonian, is shown to be completely arrogant when he is able to stand toe-to-toe with the villain. These are not perfect people and are possibly even capable of falling down the same hole as The Plutonian.
Waid is a master at spinning a grand epic. His work in the 90s, which include the classics “Kingdom Come” and “Marvels”, can attest to that. But he is also fantastic at deconstructing what it is to be a superhero. In the 1930s and 40s, all it took was a smile and great hair to prove a man’s goodness, but as time has gone on, even the most dashing of comic book characters have done horrific things. In “Kingdom Come,” Waid showed the next generation of heroes in the DC Universe and their willingness to fight the same way as the villains. The leader of them, a psycho known as Magog, is even shown blasting a hole in an elderly Joker. And he was cheered on by the public. Waid is no stranger of showing heroes in dark lights and this seems to be what his career has been heading towards. The characters are real and relatable, trying to make sense of the apocalyptic world that they now live in. They respond the same way normal people would in such terrible situations. And with Peter Krause’s classic artwork, reminiscent of the Silver Age of comics in the 1960s and 70s, but with the darkness of modern comic book art, the book looks just as good as it reads.
And in an interesting turn of storytelling, Waid has launched a congruent title that runs parallel to “Irredeemable” called “Incorruptible.” Where the first book asks the question “What if the greatest hero became the greatest villain?,” “Incorruptible” asks “What does it take for a villain to become a hero?” with the villain in question being the nigh-indestructible Max Damage, the lowest of scoundrels in this universe. Just a quick example of his type of villainy, he has a sidekick named “Jailbait.” Two guesses as to whether or not she is 18 years old.
Waid is creating a full and vibrant universe. “Irredeemable” is nearing the one year mark and issue 3 of “Incorruptable” just reached the shelves. These books offer complex views as to the nature of humanity’s capacity for heroism and villainy. Before succumbing to the darkness, The Plutonian did a vast amount of good for society and before he walked the path of angels, Max Damage did plenty of unforgivable things. Neither is completely evil or good. Their actions will show which side has more of a claim to their souls. And with Mark Waid at the helm, it is going to be a bumpy road.
All artwork is copyright BOOM! Studios