So, I had actually planned to read the two sister series Irredeemable and Incorruptible at the same time. I knew the former spawned the latter and they were both fairly interconnected in their duel stories from writer Mark Waid about a superhero who went bad and one of his greatest enemies deciding to do good. However, I couldn’t. I would have just flipped back and forth between chapters/issues, but neither Omnibus showed where one issue ended and another began, so I would have to make my own best guesses, and Irredeemable actually ran for more issues. Both books had all the parts of the time the two series did a crossover, so I wouldn’t necessarily miss anything if I went with Irredeemable first.
Turns out I was fine going that route, but I’ll explain more when I finish and review Incorruptible.
Irredeemable tells the story of the Plutonian, a Superman-like hero who, one day, goes bad. Really bad. The best way to understand it is to see the opening scene where this universe’s Batman, the Hornet, is running scared back home to warn his wife and kids that they need to hide. Then Plutonian shows up and effortlessly kills most of them (one of the kids may survive…it’s vague). Plutonian has already destroyed the city he called home and killed most of the residents, destabilized the world’s governments and economy, and has no compunction killing as many people as he wants to. His surviving teammates on the Justice League-like superteam the Paradigm are running for their lives, trying to understand why the man they all call “Tony” went bad.
It turns out they don’t really know much about him. The man they thought they knew was, well, not that guy. Or he was, but the job of being the world’s greatest hero is both lonely and stressful. It would seem that Tony just, well, snapped.
Now, Evil Superman stories are old hat by this point. The Boys has gotten a lot of mileage out of that idea both in print and on TV with the Homelander, and that’s just one example. Other stories might show Superman or his stand-in opting to go for some kind of world domination. The Plutonian goes neither the Homelander route of the occasionally homicidal frat boy nor the world domination route. Instead, he’s more interested in simply spreading fear and murder while terrifying pretty much everybody. This is a world with a Superman that doesn’t really have anything like Kryptonite. How do you stop and unstoppable man?
The answer may be to figure out what made him go bad, but that won’t help if no one can even stand up to him.
This is an excellent series, and it helps that Waid has more or less mastered storytelling in this medium, particularly with superheroes. For all the horrific death and destruction that happens in this series, there’s a part of me that suspects it could actually be published by DC or Marvel. There’s violence, but not particularly graphic violence in many instances (a demon that materializes out of a living body may be the biggest exception, but the worst of it always happens off-panel). There’s no particularly strong profanity. There’s not much sex, and what nudity the series has is generally hidden with strategic objects. That Waid could do all this while still maintaining something like a PG-13 rating is impressive.
Contrast that with, say, Geoff Johns trying to use profanity (poorly) in Doomsday Clock where it always feels like a kid trying to use his father’s language and only able to copy it without the knack for using it effectively, and it isn’t that hard to see the difference.
But the way Waid makes it work is that, despite the fact this is still a fantastic, supehero universe-sort of setting is he understands the psychology of his characters and allows them to react like real human beings. Plutonian’s reasons are beyond any sort of simple explanation of one bad day, and the series as a whole is about explaining why he became what he became. But Waid also gives quite a bit of time to the other characters. The surviving members of the Paradigm are all flawed in their own ways whether its mechanical genius Qubit’s struggle to find hope, Bette Noir’s guilt for not stopping Tony when she had the chance, or Survivor’s self-centered feeling of superiority when his power increases enough to perhaps challenge Tony in a fight. The one character who I felt was maybe not as well-developed as the others was Modeus, Plutonian’s archenemy, mostly because once his motivation comes out, he tends to repeat himself quite a bit.
So, yeah, this was as good as I had heard. Not flawless, but well worth my time to read.
9.5 out of 10 alien prisoners with surprising secrets.
Now to finish this up with the story of Max Damage. I’ll hopefully have that review up soon.