Irredeemable Vol. 1 Comic Review

I’m sorry to burst your bubble but Superman would kill Batman in a fight. The only reason why this debate continues amongst fanboys is because Batman’s human and the opinions of those who are participating are also human. Americans like to believe that if you work hard enough you are able to achieve anything…even the impossible. In super-hero fiction The Dark Knight is the pinnacle of humanity. Bruce Wayne has a lot going for him. He is a tactical genius, he has unlimited resources, and just happens to be the most skilled hand-to-hand fighter in all of the DC universe. But of course…none of that means a damn thing. Even with all the ridiculous gadgets, the careful planning, and that weird raspy smoker voice, Batman wouldn’t stand a chance against The Man of Steel. This opinion of mine is quite controversial in the geek community but after reading the first volume of Mark Waid’s Irredeemable it’s nice to know that I’m not entirely alone on this view.

In the first six pages of Irredeemable Vol. One a Batman-esque vigilante named The Hornet is instantly incinerated by a simple gaze from a mysterious attacker. Frozen in fear, The Hornet’s daughter weeps uncontrollably near her father’s charred remains. The murderer flies up to the newly orphaned girl and whispers “I’m a super-hero.” The killer wasn’t lying. The Hornet’s murderer is revealed to be The Plutonian, the world’s greatest super-hero and The Hornet’s former comrade. It is up to the world’s remaining super-hero team, The Paradigm, to find the cause of The Plutonian’s sudden insanity and hopefully put an end to his world wide killing spree.

This world of capes and spandex is a familiar one to any regular comic reader but writer Mark Waid and artist Peter Krause project it through a darker lens. Adding a dash of harsh realism to their characters, Irredeemable is an interesting look at super-hero mythology. The Plutonian is an obvious analogue of the world’s first super-hero, Superman. His origins, his powers, and even his relationships mirror that of The Man of Steel but The Plutonian’s experiences with humanity aren’t nearly as positive. The plot as a whole is rather tragic story. The Plutonian is a god-like being who has used his gifts selflessly to protect the world that surrounds him. At each turn humanity finds a new way to disappoint it’s caped guardian. Suffering silently through his entire life, The Plutonian’s sanity finally crumbles. His strict moral code has been thrown aside as he lashes out violently at the people he had sworn to defend. His actions aren’t methodical and remind me of an angry child simply upset with their parents. While his horrific acts of murder and genocide are completely unforgivable, The Plutonian is a character that I don’t wish death upon. As much as I’d like to see this fallen hero redeem himself I don’t see that outcome ever becoming a reality, especially since the title of the series is in fact Irredeemable.

This collection of issues are at it’s strongest when it’s acting like a mystery narrative. The reader understands the events that have unfolded concerning The Plutonian, but the reasons remain a mystery. The members of The Paradigm are desperate at finding a means of stopping their former ally’s onslaught. As they dig deeper and deeper into The Plutonian’s past the more and more tragic the story becomes. It’s clear that the focus of the series is Tony, a.k.a. The Plutonian, and the members of The Paradigm are nothing more than plot devices used by Waid and Krause to cleverly tell this story of a rogue hero. Perhaps these characters will be expanded upon in later volumes, but as of right now they are completely forgettable.

This intense critical look at the very notion of super-heroes existing in reality isn’t necessarily an original one. Comics writers and artists have been analyzing the topic for decades, presenting heroes in more modern and darker ways. The most famous work that tackles this idea is Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s masterpiece Watchmen which depicted its heroes as deeply flawed, troubled individuals. Irredeemable instead turns its critical eye towards society and states that the flaws within humanity’s very soul can corrupt even the most noblest of characters. Bleak and unforgiving, Irredeemable is a surprising piece of work from the writer who gave readers Kingdom Come, a dark but optimistic look at the fate of the DC Universe.

In a time where most super-hero stories feel unoriginal and repetitive, Mark Waid and Peter Krause’s Irredeemable Vol. 1 is a prime example that a lot can be said about the genre in one way or another. Just be aware, this super-hero story isn’t for the faint of hearts.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

4 / 5 stars      

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David McMillin

Film / Graphic Novel Reviewer David writes movie and graphic novel reviews at That's It Guys.