Imagine if Superman went absolutely mental, turned his back on the world and decided to use his powers for absolute evil. What chance would we stand? Think about it for a second; the epitome of heroism and valor, truth, justice and the American way (regardless of what he may have said recently in one of his stories) suddenly cracks under the pressure of having to be the world’s guardian and decides to go rogue. In the world of super hero comics, I think that’s about as scary a concept as you can work with. Which is exactly what the heralded scribe Mark Waid came up with in 2009 with BOOM Studios’ brilliant Irredeemable.
If you’re a comic book fan, you’re likely familiar with Waid’s pedigree, but for the uninitiated a brief recap – Mark Waid has worked for both DC and Marvel on both the editorial and writing end of things, including stints crafting stories for the Justice League, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and so many others. However, he’s likely best known for his collaboration with artist Alex Ross on Kingdom Come, the DC Elseworld story about a retired Superman and an apocalyptic battle for the ages. It’s one of the stories, along with The Dark Phoenix Saga, Watchmen and The Dark Night Returns that has already stood the test of time. While Ross’ artwork is most cited when people talk about Kingdom Come, Waid’s writing is definitely equal to the task. His knack for detailing conflicted super heroes shines throughout that series, but in my opinion is even stronger with Irredeemable and it’s flawed protagonist, the Superman stand-in called The Plutonian.
In a world much like our own, but that doesn’t belong to either the DC or Marvel Universes, The Plutonian is the heralded hero, beloved by all…until one day he seemingly just cracks, killing millions in his adopted home of Sky City and around the world. He then systematically begins eliminating his teammates on the superhero team, The Paradigm. The series (25 issues so far) unravels the story behind what made The Plutonian go evil and how his colleagues try to take him down without unravelling whatever good there is left in their own ranks.
Being able to work in his own universe serves Waid well. He’s telling a story that simply couldn’t realistically unfold in any of the mainstream comic books worlds. The violence throughout Irredeemable is intense and brutal (within the first few pages The Plutonian uses his heatvision to kill a teammates entire family – nasty); meanwhile, the motivations for many of the characters in the story are definitely adult. There are more than a few love triangles throughout the series, but they never veer into campiness, which is another credit to the strong writing. All of this is conveyed by the solid art of Peter Krause who, along with occasional assistance from Diego Barretto, has handled the majority of work in the series.
I picked up the first 24 issues of Irredeemable a few weeks ago (another digital comic purchase courtesy of Comixology and BOOM Studios) and quickly made my way through the series – it’s a serious page turner. Not only did I want to find out more about The Plutonian, his history and why he turned his back on the world, but I was also interested in the entire supporting cast of characters Waid has created for the series, truly the mark of a great storyteller. A super hero story that isn’t afraid to cut loose and delve deep into the concepts of good and evil, Irredeemable is, suffice to say, one of the best series I’ve read in a very long time and well worth your time.