What happens when the world’s most powerful superhero turns into the world’s most ruthless villain? Irredeemable examines the fine line between superheroes and supervillains and deconstructs the whole hero-genre in the process.
Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Peter Krause and Diego Barreto
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Cover A: Diego Barreto
Cover B: Damian Couceiro
Cover C: Jeffrey Spokes
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Previously in Irredeemable: Plutonian has been neutralized by a group of alien slave-traders after a brutal battle. With Plutonian finally off planet and the people of Earth relieved from his tyranny, a massive rebuilding process and celebration began. However, will this newfound sense of freedom lead to order or chaos? And, of course, Plutonian is sure to have some strong opinions about his involuntary imprisonment.
A Big Shift In Direction
What has always made Irredeemable different than most deconstructionist views of the superhero genre has been Mark Waid’s ability to show humanity’s struggles on an intimate level. Waid always exhibited the terror and betrayal that humanity felt after Plutonian went rogue in a heartbreaking way that is easily relatable. Instead of always focusing on super powered beings, Waid takes the time to show how the average person deals with the renegade villain. With Plutonian gone, Waid explores the immediate reactions of humanity and what they do with their newfound freedom.
Scenes involving city wide celebrations in the wake of Plutonian’s defeat are a welcome change of pace from the pervasive violence that usually follows the book. It is a brief glimpse of hope in a book that is routinely devoid of it. However, Waid is careful to portray this peace as somewhat tenuous. There are still reservations between the citizens of Earth and the superheroes and there is even some fighting amongst the heroes themselves. It’s a testament to Waid’s writing that the book doesn’t miss a beat even while the main antagonist is stuck on a different planet. In Plutonian’s absence, Waid depicts Earth in such a state of terror and paranoia that it seems like things will never fall back into order. It makes the rebuilding process seem daunting and near-impossible but makes future issues look that much more promising.
While the humans are busy partying, Plutonian is still a slave on the Vespan’s home planet. This issue provides insight into the mind of Plutonian and shows that while he does have immeasurable powers he is still as mentally fragile as the rest of us. Plutonian’s self-induced hallucinations are somewhat unsettling, especially as he imagines an adulating public forgiving him and cheering him on. To have the most powerful being on Earth reduced to slave labor is jarring and, of course, makes the last page much more intriguing.
Multiple Artists Don’t Ruin The Experience
While the art on Irredeemable has never blown any minds or converted any non-believers, it has always been serviceable and this issue is no different. Peter Krause shares the art duties with Diego Barreto and while their different styles are noticeable, it is never a distraction. Krause continues with his solid work as he portrays Plutonian as both powerful and nuttier than an elephant’s stool sample. Krause’s ability to capture pure madness through Plutonian’s expressions has always been a highlight of his work. Though a little rough and muddy in some areas, Krause is comfortable enough with these characters that his art is more integral to the book than it was early on.
Diego Barreto’s pages are much more streamlined than Krause’s with less heavy inks and cleaner looking faces. This issue of Irredeemable is a great of example of how to use multiple artists effectively. The change is noticeable but never distracting as the two styles aren’t too different.
Bottom Line: Pick It Up!
While Irredeemable could have careened off course with the apparent defeat of Plutonian, it has instead presented a brand new set of conflicts that helps energize the series. If you are an ardent follower of the series then there is absolutely no reason not to pick this up, and if you haven’t even heard of Irredeemable then go out and pick up the trades or just pick things up from #21. Waid’s sharp writing and the consistent artwork earn Irredeemable #21 a 3.5 out of 5!