Monday, July 15, 2013

Irredeemable, Volume 1

Following my disappointment in reading Hell Yeah, this series Irredeemable shows a great way to tell a superhero story that is simultaneously familiar and novel. The concept appears simple at first glance: What would happen if the world's greatest hero suddenly became its greatest villain?

The Plutonian is clearly based on Superman, both from his characterization and also from a few scattered references such as this one:

The supporting cast also has many Super-analogues, such as a complicated triangle between his superhero identity, his secret identity, and a girlfriend he works with (a la Superman and Lois Lane - their relationship has its own Wikipedia page. It's that complicated!) and also a younger sidekick who is privy to many secrets named Samsara, a kind of immortal Jimmy Olsen.

However the superteam that he belonged to and that becomes his adversaries, The Paradigm, is full of more unique characters such as the twins Scylla and Charybdis, the brainy Qubit, and the markswoman Bette Noir. Their powers are familiar but their characterizations are interesting and fresh.

What has set off the Plutonian's change is unknown, which makes for a good mystery, but the book also delves into some pretty dark places in terms of action and also psychological horror. For instance, The Plutonian utterly decimates an island nation because it only agreed to bow to his rule because it feared his wrath.

Adding to the horror of this moment, before he completes the deed, he makes his former teammates make a terrible choice to prove a point.

This book is the creation of Mark Waid and Peter Krause. Waid is a long-time, award winning comics professional who has written many comics for multiple publishers, including notable runs on Daredevil, Superman, Captain America, The Fantastic Four, as well as the well loved mini-series Kingdom Come. He also is heading the e-comics enterprise Thrillbent. Krause has worked in comics for decades as well and is known for his work on Superman, Shazam, and Star Trek. Waid speaks more about this book and series in this interview with The Graphic Novel Reporter. Both creators speak about their work in this audio interview from 2010.

I found this volume a great introduction to a ripping superhero yarn. The art is clear and above par in showing two worlds: a colorful, bright past and a dark, murky, and fearful present. This narrative is built on some typical superheroic conventions but spun in interesting ways. As can probably be seen by now, this book is pretty dark in tone, as The Plutonian is completely brutal and ruthless, so it might not be for everyone. I have read a few more volumes into the series, and I have found it a substantive and satisfying read so far.

This series received many accolades when it debuted, including multiple Harvey and Eisner Awards. Reviews I have read have been positive. Ana from The Book Smugglers praised the book for its rollicking plot, crisp art, and cliffhanger ending. David MacMillin gave it 8 out of 10 stars. Andy at The Geeks of Doom called it "an exciting epic designed to keep you coming back for more."

Irredeemable is published by Boom Studios. A brief preview of the first pages of the book is available here from Comic Book Resources.

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