I Finally Read It – Irredeemable Volumes 1-3

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As promised I’m back with thoughts on the series Irredeemable. Seeing that I’ve been slacking on a lot of good comics, I’ve also decided to start a new feature “I Finally Read It.” This will give me a good excuse to catch up with all the great things I’ve been hearing about in the sequential art industry.

I know WPR’s own Chad-san has already reviewed quite a few issues of Irredeemable but I thought I’d take a crack at it before I move on to my promised Incorruptible review. Besides Chad-san is a cranky old bastard and you guys need a fresh take, right? (I love you Chad. I’m looking forward to partaking of sushi and sake with you again.)

A quick refresher, if you haven’t read Irredeemable, the story focuses on a Superman-type character called The Plutonian. Once the world’s greatest hero, The Plutonian has now lost his shit. He has destroyed cities and killed millions. He’s been picking off his old super-team, The Paradigm, and generally being an evil bastard. The series follows the remnants of The Paradigm as they try to discover a way to defeat what they refer to as “a god.”

Irredeemable is written by comic book guru Mark Waid and drawn by Peter Krause.

Warning: Here there be spoilers.

I was going to just review the first volume (comprising issues one through four), but I couldn’t stop reading the damn thing. Now it seems I have too many awesome scenes to talk about. So, here’s my thoughts on volumes one through three.

The beauty of this series, and what keeps one reading, is that The Plutonian is a huge mystery. We don’t know where he came from, or even why he’s snapped really.

Issue #1 jumps right into the action. In the first scene, The Hornet (who kind of looks like Watchmen’s Comedian) and his family are killed brutally by The Plutonian. He even fries their little baby.

That's just messed up.

We learn that The Plutonian had an “awe-shucks” sort of Superman personality in public. Obviously there was some major psychosis boiling underneath. Teammates saw glimpses of his real face beneath the act but didn’t think too much of it.

We know the guys snaps, but what made him do it? Being that Irredeemable is good fiction, there is no easy answer.

Firstly, the guy never gets a break. He can hear everything happening on the planet and  it always needs saving. The one time he takes a ten-minute break on the moon millions of children die, and it was kind of his fault too, inadvertently perhaps, but man!

Instead of loving Kent farm, The Plutonian (who goes by Tony to his teammates, was Dan Anderson as a child, and Dan Hartigan in his civilian “Clark Kent” role) was bounced around from foster family to foster family; as most became afraid of him when they learned of his abilities. And he just wanted to be loved.

Then we get the “Lois Lane” scenario. When The Plutonian reveals his identity to his female co-worker (his alter-ego’s girlfriend) she freaks. She tells her co-workers, who are excited to be in on the secret until Plutonian flips. In one of the best scenes of the first volume he tells his coworkers that his enemies, “..would torture you. They would flay your partners and rape your children with hot knives.” Jeeesus!

So, no one loved him as a kid, his girlfriend snapped when he tried to come clean with her, and did I mention that the overworked bastard can hear every bad thing said about him by the ungrateful masses? Yeah, that starts to dig too.

Eventually we find out that fellow super-heroine Bette Noir had an adulterous affair with The Plutonian. And he’s a freak for her. He has an s&m/worship room devoted to her. He makes civilians put on wigs and reenact sex scenes of her. This guy has some serious issues.

If this makes it sound like the reader might feel a bit sorry for The Plutonian, I don’t think most will. There are moments when you feel for the guy, but you definitely won’t be rooting for this super-douche. (Remember the part where he murders millions and kills babies? Yep.)

However, we do root for the underdog ex-teammates. What’s left of The Paradigm is a very cool collection of characters. Waid has done an excellent job of creating distinct personalities for each of them. My favorite is Mr. Qubit; a super-genius who can manipulate machinery.

I could spend a lot of time on the characters besides Mr. Plutonian. They’re half the joy of the series. But I think I need to stop this thing before my psychoanalytical approach becomes a rant.

However, I would like to mention one other character, Modeus. He’s still a big mystery at the end of volume three. He was the only villain that scared The Plutonian. Qubit wants to find him. I find this character intriguing.

As The Paradigm hides and attempts to outsmart The Plutonian, a real feeling of tension and excitement flows through the story. When one half of the super-twins Scylla and Charybdis is killed, it sinks in that no one is safe in the world of Irredeemable.

Despite a high death count, Mr. Waid makes each kill seem poignant. The scenes flow with precision. The pacing is like Alan Moore on his best day. As a matter of fact, this author can’t help but think of Moore’s Miracleman. They are definitely in the same genre; the post-modern-violent-superman-realism genre.

Having said that, Mr. Waid’s work stands solidly on it’s own. It’d be safe to say I’m enjoying this more than Miracleman. (Read it if you can find it.)

I have two quick criticisms.

First, the art is good. Not great. Just good. Krause has excellent layouts and beautiful pacing (which matters the most at the end of the day) but his style doesn’t quite do it for me. Though, he does seem to be getting better as the series moves on.

Second, in volume three when the demon Orian shows up, he seems a bit cheesy. I had a hard time reading about a character in a grim and gritty superhero story that felt straight from the Buffy-verse.

"Now, take me to The Slayer."

Okay, negative blah, blah, blah… It doesn’t matter. Buy this book now. If you like superheroes; If you like good stories; Hell, if you’re one of those sickos that buys shit for violence sake, then pick this bad boy up too.

That does it for now. I’m sure I’ll have some more to rant about as I read the next two volumes and catch up with the single issues. (Meet me here next week for that review.)

In closing, Irredeemable is the best that comic books have to offer. It’s scary, violent, fun and a hell of a read. Hats off to Mr. Waid.

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