Posted by Don MacPherson on April 1st, 2009
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Peter Krause
Colors: Andrew Dalhouse
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover artists: John Cassaday/Barry Kitson
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $3.99 US
While last week’s launch of Boom! Studios line of licensed comics for younger readers was a pivotal moment for the publisher (and by all indications, a successful one), the debut of this new super-hero genre title from editor-in-chief and industry star Mark Waid is clearly important to Boom as well. It’s certainly put a strong promotional push behind it, and it’s even recruited writer Grant Morrison to extol the virtues of Waid and Irredeemable. He lauds Waid as an innovator, dismissing the label of Waid as someone whose sensibilities are mired in the Silver Age of super-heroes. I both agree and disagree with Morrison’s assessment. Yes, there’s more to Mark Waid’s writing than simple love for the comics and characters of yesteryear. But no, Irredeemable doesn’t represent an exciting new vision of the genre. We’ve been down this road before, and that’s OK. I like what Waid offers in this comic, but while it’s dark in tone, it’s not exactly cutting-edge stuff either. Not so far, anyway.
The Plutonian, the world’s most revered and powerful super-hero, has inexplicably turned against his closest friends. The seemingly insane powerhouse has embarked upon a killing spree, murdering his fellow costumed heroes and even their loved ones. Desperate to stay one step ahead of their one-time ally, the remaining heroes gather to share information and to get to the root of the problem. They need to know what’s behind the Plutonian’s bloodthirsty transformation, and to do that, they need to know who the Plutonian really is.
Peter Krause is probably best known as the series artist on Jerry Ordway’s The Power of Shazam!, a DC Comics title that ran from 1995-1999. His work on that title exhibited a strong Ordway influence, and it’s still apparent in his work a decade later. There are also a couple of panels in this issue that put me in mind of the work of the late Curt Swan, the quintessential Superman artist for any era of comics. It’s fitting, given that the central figure in this plot is a twisted interpretation of Superman. The art is a bit brighter than what one might expect, given the harsh tone of the plot, but generally, it serves the story well. I also enjoyed the designs for the various characters. While the Plutonian’s design is fairly standard for the archetype, there seems to be a more inventive approach at play when it comes to the other super-heroes’ looks.
There’s a slight misstep in the script that leads to some confusion and takes the reader out of the story for a moment. After the initial scene featuring the antagonist’s murderous actions against one hero and his family, the story skips ahead with a banner that reads “One week later.” The problem is that the next panel is a flashback to years before. Now, the flashback is a vision and projected memory of one of the heroes in the present, but there’s a disconnect there that really wasn’t necessary.
There’s no shortage of stories about a Superman out of control, driven insane or corrupted, but then again, there’s no shortage of a lot of super-hero plots. Waid’s plot and script handles this particular deconstruction of the super-hero archetype quite well. One could argue that the violence in this story is over the top, that it’s included only for shock value. It’s definitely a sustainable argument, but I don’t agree. The point is that such unlimited power in the hands of a madman would be unimaginably devastating and terrifying. At its heart, Irredeemable really isn’t a super-hero story, but rather an entertaining piece of horror fiction. 7/10