We’ve seen Mark Waid write the hero as bad guy before.  His take on heroes as villains in Kingdom Come shows the hero stepping over the bounds as a revolt against their older counterparts, and trying to figure their place in a changing world.  And while there are others who have written openly violent tales of the good guy doing bad things, no one has ever stopped to ponder the question, “What made this person evil?”   In the case of Irredeemable, Waid dives into the answer and brings readers along for the ride down that dark path.

Irredeemable_cover.jpgThe world in which Irredeemable is set is different from those we’ve seen in Wanted, The Boys, and the recent The Life and Times of Savior 28.  Here, readers are dropped into the middle of the story after The Plutonian (the first and most powerful superhero on the planet) has decided to flip sides and become pure evil.  Trying to stop him are his former teammates, who not only need to discover what made him this way, but more importantly coming up with a plan to bring him down.

In Wanted, it’s revealed the villains have taken over the world, so it isn’t a far stretch to see Wesley go down that path.  The Boys is more a demonstration that absolute power corrupts absolutely, with heroes still remaining heroes, but allowing themselves to explore how far they can go without turning to the dark side.  In Savior 28, it is the revelation that the years of duty to the cause has changed the way the hero feels about the world, and his desire to embrace peace instead of promoting violence.  Irredeemable is, in a way, a building on those themes and ideas to create a story that totally re-invents the the superhero gone bad genre.  Through the discovery by his former friends, readers get to see the little things that will eventually build to the revelation by the hero that he’s as mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore.

All of us have been the target of criticism and ridicule, and for the most part, we can brush those instances off, or use the critique  to make us a better person.  For the Plutonian, the years of backstabbing, ingratitude, and realization that he is a god among the ants of the world appears to have caused him to snap.  And it’s that part of the story that is the most interesting to this reviewer – how much is too much?  How long before the weight of the world causes the hero to break?  And if the hero does flip out, what kind of backlash can everyone expect?

For those who have seen the sneak peek of this issue floating around the Internet (and on Major Spoilers) much to do has been made over the on panel killing of children in the opening act of the story.  Yes, it is over the top, and yes, the death of children on panel is probably something many others would try and shy away from.  However, in the defense of Waid, and where he is taking the story, those on panel deaths of children is actually needed to demonstrate how far the pendulum has swung for the former hero.

In a week where I’ve read both The Incredibles and Irredeemable, it’s clear that Mark Waid can write nearly any tale he puts his mind to; from the super friendly, to the super dark.  When the Plutonian whispers in the ear of the little girl, who has just seen her family murdered, “I’m a super-hero,” it’s enough to send a chill down your spine.  Waid’s writing in this first issue is really solid, and the mystery he sets up, and the way in which he is presenting the answer to my question at the beginning of this review, make this a must read for anyone who wants a glimpse at what can happen if certain “powers” aren’t kept in check.

Art wise, Peter Krause does an excellent job of bringing Waid’s dark vision to the page, including the on panel deaths and flashback lobotomy.  While the body incineration may be shocking, Krause does keep from going to the grotesque violence trick to stir up more controversy and readers.

Ultimately, the biggest problem with Irredeemable is that it feels like it is about two years too late.  While the issue does take what has come before, and twists it in a whole new way, I feel the issue could have been even more groundbreaking had it beat Ennis, Millar, and DeMatteis to the punch.  On the flip side of that argument is that this is an ongoing series, so it will be really interesting to see if the heroes defeat the Plutonian, or if readers are presented with the ultimate cap to the genre with the hero openly declaring himself the king of the world and bending everyone and everything to his will.

The dark tale of the hero filling himself with loathing and angst has been around for over twenty years, and yet I find myself compelled to find out what happens next, and that Dear Reader is the hallmark of good storytelling – giving me a reason to come back for the next installment.  Irredeemable is not a tale for everyone.  If you like your heroes big and bright and standing for truth, justice, and all of that, you might want to skip this tale. However, if you want to see what happens when the flame burns out and all the hero has is darkness, then Irredeemable will hit the spot.  Irredeemable #1 earns 4 out of 5 Stars from me.


The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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  1. mosdef
    March 30, 2009 at 11:31 am — Reply

    thanks for the review. i didnt read the review, cause i was debating if i should get it or not, but your 4 stars just made my mind up.

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