What happens when the world’s greatest hero decides that you’re not worth saving anymore? What makes a hero irredeemable?
The concept of a superhero going bad isn’t exactly new. With the growth of anti-heroes around the late 80’s and 90’s the idea of heroes being less than perfectly ethical isn’t a far fetched one and is actually quite frequently used. That said what Mark Waid has laid out for us isn’t a gimmicky turn to the dark side, but rather a deeper look into the degrading mental state of a man often touted as being the greatest of all heroes. It not only looks at the worldly implications of a hero gone bad, but is just as much a character study on what makes a morally righteous being truly irredeemable.
The Plutonian, a character quite obviously meant as the Superman stand in, was at one time the world’s most beloved savior. With what seemed to be very little notice to the citizens of the world as well as his fellow heroes The Plutonian decided to lay waste to one of the countries largest cities, vaporizing all life that inhabited it. No one knows why The Plutonian changed. No one even knows the man’s true name. All anyone knows is that one way or another he’ll find them.
The story of “Irredeemable” is phenomenal. Going into it I had heard a lot of good things and after finishing the first volume I was certainly satisfied with how it turned out, shocked and a little disturbed, but satisfied nonetheless. Right away you’ll notice that the series is not taken from the point of view of it’s featured character, The Plutonian. Instead the focus lies on The Plutonian’s former superhero colleagues as they scramble for a way to figure out some weakness within the madman while at the same time trying to save both the world and keep themselves alive.
Taking the story from this point of view was a pretty interesting way of going about it and it certainly pays off. From the premise alone the first thoughts in anyone’s head is that this man is just going to rampage across the world and no one will stop him. Instead we actually get a diminished view of The Plutonian which ultimately serves to keep him a complete mystery to the audience. With everything from his name to his motives to even his whereabouts half the time it all serves to ramp up the suspense of seeing the characters run head to head with him. In the same vein as a horror film the writer keeps The Plutonian in reserve and out of the spotlight making him far more menacing as well as expressing the brevity of the situation to the reader far better than it would otherwise.
Better yet all of the suspense and chase is balanced by the heroes’ past reflections on who Plutonian was as a person. The flashbacks serve the purpose of what my major concern going into this book was. I had been afraid that the impact of a man gone evil would be lost without prior knowledge of him or his past actions. This is remedied by the past memories of other characters as they look for a way to remember any sort of flaw or weakness The Plutonian had. We get to see the man he had been as well as the brief instances that would inevitably lead to his heel turn.
Now, here’s where I run into a problem. Not with the book, but rather with recommending the book to new readers. The title is “Irredeemable” and for good reason as many of his acts within the series are unsettling and downright awful. These actions go a long way towards showing just how far this character has fallen, but they are at times hard to read and view for certain individuals. Personally I find them suitably tragic and terrible, but many people will have issues with these scenes. It by no means starts you off easy either as within the first few panels you witness The Plutonian murder a woman and her baby, chase the father and daughter into their garage were he vaporizes the father before leaving the little girl to die as he blows up the house. These scenes, while not really grotesque, are not cut and you do see the deaths of these children on panel. Its a hard sit through at times which makes it hard to recommend. That said you are your best judge of what you can take and if it seems like it’s too much for you then I would recommend staying away from this title.
In terms of art I have far less to say than the story. It’s good art and does its job well in capturing the characters and the intensity of the comic. That said it is a bit standard and is a bit less stand out than many of the other comics I’ve read. Nothing wrong here at all, just not a lot to really touch upon either.
“Irredeemable” volume one was written and drawn by Mark Waid and Peter Krause respectively. “Irredeemable” was published by BOOM! Studios in October 2009 and is still widely available today. The first volume collects the first four issues of the series. Timely enough the series came to a close only a couple of months ago after thirty-seven issues, all of which have been collected in trade paperback volumes with the tenth and final volume being released on September 4th. “Irredeemable” has also spawned a spin-off series entitled “Incorruptible” which has also come to a close these past few months and has been collected in full with it’s seventh and final volume releasing on August 7th.
“Irredeemable” is, as I said before, phenomenal. Taking a simple and almost cliche concept it manages to make it truly intriguing and surprisingly enough shocking even for a generally desensitized generation. This is the perfect example of a simple concept done right and perfectly showcases the amount of depth and overall possibility the superhero genre can have. While I did not touch on this concept much in my article “Irredeemable” takes the simplistic ideal that encases Superman and completely turns it on its head. Giving a long standing tale a darker re-imagining and showcasing the real world implications and consequences that accompany your beloved Man of Steel.
Retail Price: $9.99
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Peter Krause
Age Rating: Adult
Genre: Superhero, Suspense
Original Release: October, 2009