Created and Written by Mark Waid. Art by Peter Krause. Color by Andrew Dalhouse. Letters by Ed Dukeshire. Edited by Matt Gagnon. Published by Boom! Studios.
I fully blame my friend Chris for this. Chris is the host of the Pop Culture Pub and creator of the Random Nerdness blog. On a recent episode I was also on, Chris suggested I read Irredeemable. Two volumes down, the next four in my queue, and the four after that on the want list.
What would happen if Superman went bad? Various takes on this have been done in all media over the years. But none has brought this scenario into the most obvious conclusion. Absolute terror.
Within the first few pages, the horror is clear. The Plutonian will wipe away anyone on a whim. Friend, foe, or child. It matters not to this rogue god. His former teammates, the Paradigm, are struggling to figure out why he turned and how they can stop him.
In near 35 years of reading comics, I have never read one that makes so much perfect use of the page turn. Revelation after shock after revelation. Constantly I was left in awe thinking, “I cant believe they’re doing this.” But they do, and more. It is the best kind of unpredictable that is so rare. The kind that is for the plot. None of this is for shock value. It is essential and furthers the plot. While also being flat out jaw dropping.
Mark Waid is well known for being an architecture professor of comics. Set it up, break it down, remodel, bring it up to code. All of it. He can get into the psychology of any character and make it “real”.
To make a leap, Irredeemable came out in late 2008-early 2009. Waid would certainly be aware of other takes on the Superman mythos. For example, Bill’s speech in Kill Bill volume 2 just four years earlier. Bill states that Superman is the real person and Clark Kent is the alter ego. Clark Kent is how Superman sees humans – weak, frail, clumsy.
In a way, Irredeemable showcases the Plutonian dealing with how flawed humans are. Impulsive. Egotistical. Selfish. As a “god” Plutonian sees the bigger picture. He can’t rescue your kitty from a tree because he’s trying to lift a cruise ship out of a whirlpool. That doesn’t make him a bad hero, that makes him the biggest emergency services personnel on the planet with the biggest PTSD as well.
Yes, heroes say they did something heroic because it had to be done. Someone had to do it. No wish of glory or fame. Yet, after the fact, there is time to reflect. The bomb is diffused, the aliens are defeated, and in the calm after the storm the negative voices carry heavier. Every troll who thinks knocking down a god behind his back makes him that much cooler. In real life, these comments are said to the wind. The Plutonian though hears every whisper, every breath around the world. How many negative things can be said to someone before they snap? Why save the ungrateful?
As a moral person, we keep trying. But damn if the story isn’t crafted in a way to understand the Plutonian’s motivations. The best villains are ones the audience can agree with up to a point. The point tipped in the first pages of the comic, but the lead up is understandable.
Much like yesterday’s graphic novel review there is so much I have to avoid mentioning so any new reader can enjoy it without spoilers. Volume 2 review coming soon with more depth.