This stands as the final issue of the “Crossover that Wasn’t” as the conclusion of Irredeemable #33 is patently ignored and instead we’re treated to yet another issue of (admittedly good) exploration of the linked origin of Max Damage and the Plutonian.
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Marcio Takara
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Editor: Shannon Watters
Covers: Garry Brown, and Matteo Scalera / Darrin Moore
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Incorruptible (and Irredeemable): The world’s greatest hero, the Plutonian, went crazy and killed a bunch of people, becoming the world’s greatest villain. In response, the former greatest villain, Max Damage, decided someone had to step up to bat, and if the world’s greatest hero fell off the wagon then he might as well fill the vacancy. Now we’ve been treated to a four-part crossover event telling the origin story of the two main characters.
STILL NOT A CROSSOVER
If you read my review of Irredeemable #33 a couple weeks ago and you’ve read this issue, then you know exactly what my complaint is going to be. This crossover event was billed as “The fight of the century” (even having really cool variant covers that looked like promotional posters for a boxing match), promising a huge confrontation between Max Damage and the Plutonian. Instead we got four issues exploring their origin stories. Rather than continue my rant on why I feel gypped by the crossover that wasn’t really a crossover, I’m going to try to focus on the story we’ve been told in these last four issues (and specifically this one, since it is the issue I’m reviewing).
BUT IF YOU COME TO TERMS WITH THAT, THIS ISSUE’S GREAT!
In typical comic book fashion it’s been revealed that Max Damage’s origin is intrinsically tied to the Plutonian. While most of the time the villain’s origin being tied to the hero comes across as forced or cliché to me, Mark Waid has done a good job of setting this one up. The Plutonian wasn’t always a great hero, though only two people know that: The Plutonian himself, and Max Damage, who had a confrontation with the Plutonian when he was still a feral child with little control over his abilities. When the Plutonian went legitimate as a hero, Max (originally known as Evan) recognized him as the “wolf-boy” who had attacked him as a child. This moment of recognition came as the Plutonian stopped a break-in Evan was involved in, leading Evan to belief the wolf-boy was specifically targeting him, and cementing the life-long vendetta Evan would hold against the Plutonian.
Wanting to find some way to fight him, Evan gets some sage advice and goes to the Plutonian’s other-greatest-nemesis Modeus to find a way to kill the Plutonian. Those who read Irredeemable will recognize Modeus and notice the subtle references to Modeus’ unrequited love for the Plutonian, while those who don’t will probably gloss over the nuances in the conversation (which is, to its credit, exactly the way to reward readers in a crossover). Modeus sets up Evan with Dr. Origin (an AWESOME name for a mad scientist in a superhero book), who gives Evan superpowers that allow him to turn into a very naked… MAX DAMAGE!
The newly powered and monikered Max then promptly gets himself defeated by the Plutonian and thrown into jail, but remains awake long enough to break out and kidnap the Plutonian’s girlfriend, Alana Patel. It’s revealed that Max hasn’t slept in weeks to build up enough power to go toe-to-toe with the Plutonian, and has set up the “final showdown” (still set in the past, mind you) to be in the original junkyard where the wolf-boy attacked Evan. Max’s lack of sleep catches up with him, and the Plutonian ends up beating a delusional Max (who keeps seeing the wolf boy attacking) half to death.
The thing that really made this issue a success for me was in the last few pages where Max explains to his childhood friend Katy why he chose to be a villain—because if the savage Wolf Boy can convince everyone that he’s a boy scout, then it’s up to Max to be real with the world and show them “a good, honest criminal.” There’s a sincerity to Max’s villainy that is only matched by some of the greatest villains of all time—the Lex Luthors and Doctor Dooms that are so convinced their actions are justified that they are the heroes of their own story. And we’ve seen Max Damage as a real hero in his own story, so we can identify with that.
BOTTOM LINE: A well-crafted origin story for one of the best characters in comics
Overall, putting aside my frustration with the misrepresentation of the crossover event, this was a fantastic issue. The development of Max is handled superbly in the issue, and the art (as always from Marcio Takara) is GORGEOUS—and I really like the Garry Brown cover. I’m still bitter, but not so bitter that I can’t give this issue a well-deserved four out of five stars. I really enjoyed it, and if you’ve been reading Incorruptible you absolutely should read it. Mark Waid is a great writer, and Incorruptible from beginning to now has been some of his best work in my mind.