Comics You Should Be Reading: Irredeemable
- June 18th, 2010
- Posted in Comics You Should Be Reading . Comics/Graphic Novels . Opinions
- By Rob
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By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
“In superhero comics, pretty much everyone who’s called upon to put on a cape is, at heart, emotionally equipped for the job. I reject that premise.”
Those are Mark Waid’s opening words in his introduction to the Irredeemable, Vol. 1 trade paperback, which was my introduction to one of the most gripping and compelling stories I’ve ever read. But the premise to Irredeemable is even simpler than that, and it’s obvious just a few pages in: What if Superman became a bad guy?
It’s not really Superman, obviously. But The Plutonian, the series’ main character, seems to have all the same powers as the Man of Steel. He’s built like him, has a fairly similar costume, and acts like him (or at least he used to). During the first issue, a character even starts to say: “Look, up in the sky!” So the Superman metaphor is very strongly there, which makes the story all the more powerful.
The series starts a number of years after The Plutonian, Earth’s greatest hero, snapped and became entirely self righteous. In the process, he lobotomizes his former partner, destroys cities, and murders those who were once his fellow heroes. All the while, humanity is powerless to stop him. Humanity’s only hope may be the remaining members of the Paradigm, the book’s Justice League/Avengers equivalent, who are desperately searching for any information that might help stop him. Ironically, they find themselves seeking out Modeus, the only villain who ever scared The Plutonian, as a potential ally, erasing whatever line laid between good and evil.
The great thing about this series is that it traces back to some of the individual moments that drove The Plutonian to madness. We see portions of his childhood, his old girlfriend, etc. Waid and penciller Peter Krause make this character very human and very relatable. It’s easy for the reader to put himself in The Plutonian’s shoes, and ask himself: “If that were me, what would I have done?” To me, making the reader take that kind of introspective look at themselves is one of the greatest things a writer can accomplish in any medium.
Note that in the above paragraph, I used the word “madness” as opposed to insanity. I’m not convinced this character is insane. He strikes me as someone who’s lashing out at the world in furious bitterness. The things he does might be considered crazy by most standards, but that doesn’t make him an insane person. He’s almost like Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in that respect.
As you get into the series, you’ll find that our surviving “heroes” aren’t exactly paragons of virtue in their own right. This, combined with the main Plutonian storyline, raises a lot of interesting questions about heroism, and how doing heroic things doesn’t automatically make you a good person, or even a mentally balanced person.
It also provides what might be some interesting insights into the minds of individuals in power. In the fourth issue, there’s a flashback scene where a hero asks The Plutonian what it’s like to have all the power and responsibility that he does. Later, as he’s about to destroy a major city, The Plutonian tells this same hero to chose ten civilians to save. Out of millions of people, only ten.
“That’s what it feels like,” he says.
I don’t think Mark Waid made a major attempt to base this book in a realistic world, but don’t you think that kind of mindset might apply to someone like…the President of the United States, who has to make decisions that undoubtedly effect whether some will live or die?
Whether you’re reading deep between the lines like I do, or you’re just looking for some damn good comics, Irredeemable is a book you want to check out. Three volumes are currently out in trade paperback, and we’re less than 20 issues into the series, so new readers should be able to catch up fairly quickly.
“You don’t get it. The Plutonian has gone rogue. We’re all going to die.”