Posted by Don MacPherson on December 20th, 2009
Writer: Mark Waid
Pencils: Jean Diaz
Inks: Belardino Brabo
Colors: Andrew Dalhouse
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover artists: John Cassaday/Tim Sale/Jeffrey Spokes
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $3.99 US
I’ve heard some criticism that with Irredeemable still not even a year old, it’s too early for Boom! Studios to launch a spinoff title that explores the opposite dynamic: the world’s most powerful super-villain turning over a new leaf to fight for what’s right. I really don’t understand that aversion to this new title. The way I see it, the publisher is simply beginning the expansion of its super-hero line in a shared-continuity context. No one took issue with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s efforts to develop a larger super-hero universe almost 50 years ago or any other comics creators who have done the same over the life of the comics medium as a whole. That being said, while I enjoyed Incorruptible, it’s a far cry from the strength of Irredeemable. Still, there’s a great deal of potential here, and it certainly looks as though one’s appreciation of the plotlines and characters of this title won’t be dependent one one’s knowledge of the other.
Max Damage, the only superhuman known to have survived a physical confrontation with the Plutonian, has been missing for a month, and his underlings have decided they can’t wait any longer for him to return and lead them. Using advanced weaponry from Damage’s arsenal, they head out to make a big score, only to find themselves face to face with an entire precinct of police officers. As the bad guys open fire on the vulnerable cops, a figure in the shadows decides to intervene, and his powers, it’ll definitely turn the tide of the firefight. It turns out to be Max Damage, and he chooses a side that surprises everyone.
Penciller Jean Diaz tells the story clearly and capably, but his work here is really a generic super-hero style typical of a newer talent. His linework is occasionally inconsistent and rarely eye-grabbing. He really needs to develop his own unique look. Unfortunately for him, comparisons between this title and Irredeemable are unavoidable, and Diaz’s work pales in comparison with that of Peter Krause. I do like the design for Max Damage; it’s a plausible, realistic look while still conveying his extranormal nature. Jailbait’s look, on the other hand, is disappointing and completely uninteresting. Furthermore, the artist seems to draw her as being older than she’s actually meant to be (given her codename and a few snippets of dialogue).
Speaking of Jailbait, she’s really the most troubling and irksome aspect of this premise. I realize Waid is trying to paint Max Damage as having been the most disgusting, depraved and corrupt figure one could imagine, so he’s developed this notion that he only slept with underage girls. I also get that he’s riffing on the teenage-sidekick concept as well, but Damage’s (previously) perverted appetite just isn’t necessary. Rather than add to the story and character background, it took me out of the story. I think it was a misstep, and hopefully, it’s one the series can overcome.
The dynamic between Max and also reformed police lieutenant is much more interesting. Lt. Armadale seems to give physical form to Max Damage’s emerging conscience and voice to his ethical dilemmas. I’m also looking forward to learning this supporting player’s backstory. Mind you, he (and the unlikable Jailbait) isn’t enough of a supporting cast for this drama. While I trust Waid will soon expand the cast in forthcoming issues, I also trust he’ll plotlines here that will run independently of those in Irredeemable. Some common ground is to be expected, even welcomed, but it’s my hope that one won’t have to read both titles to appreciate what’s going on in each individual series.
Waid’s story of ethics and larger events that force philosophical imperatives is an engaging one, but not necessarily a realistic one. It’s really the only kind of thing that could unfold in the context of the super-hero genre. It’s a strong premise, and Waid’s central character is an interesting one, in part because the writer doesn’t instill too many badass or mysteriously stoic qualities in him, and as such, the writer avoids turning his protagonist into a cliche. 6/10
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