Also, this thing was riddled with type-o's. Thanks for not pointing that out.
I just finished Irredeemable Volume 8.
As much as Kingdom Come was a commentary on the state of superhero comics in the mad, mad 90's, I have to look at Irredeemable in whole, if not in individual parts, as another bit of Waid's commentary, but (for me) its a bit like trying to hold mercury. The Plutonian is not exactly a Superman analog, even when he clearly is. There are hints of Squadron Supreme here and there, which was exactly a commentary on the Justice League, but maybe less so when JMS rebooted the Squadron a decade ago. Hints of Wildstorm, bits of reflections of reflections of the JLA and DC line of books in Authority or a few dozen other replicas that mistook gloss for edge and grim violence for "realism". But maybe this book is a reflection of that dark reflection.
|In this issue, Irredeemable fights the ghost robot from space!*|
For those who aren't keeping track at home, Irredeemable doesn't just sort of ask in an Elseworlds sense, but really follows through on the question of "What if Superman snapped?". I've just completed the 8th collected edition of the series (a bit more on that later), and by now our Superman stand-in, The Plutonian (aka: Tony), has leveled island nations like Singapore, wiped out American cities and placed the entire planet into the turmoil one could begin to expect were an angry god walking the Earth, doing exactly as he pleased, where no amount of damage he did could really sate him.
Other writers have written their one-off stories here and there about Superman gone bad or mad. Heck, Superman #5 out last week played on this theme. There's always a Batman or someone to stop him by the end of the story. The Wildstorm books didn't give us Superman gone fully rogue, just an aloof Superman who practiced bits of enlightened self-interest in Apollo and Mr. Majestic (I still like Mr. Majestic pretty well). I've not read the 80's Miracleman/ Marvelman, but I suspect the stories might have some similarities. I'd be curious to see.
But what would it look like to have a Superman go mad on Earth? Maybe because writer Mark Waid knows Superman as well as any person alive today, the story feels immediate and terrifying in a way that never gets tired. His Superman is a Superman with no Jonathan and Martha Kent, no Krypto, no Jor-El or Lara. The Plutonian is a Superman untethered, who fulfills all those "dammit, if I were Superman" fantasies we might imagine in a moment of rage, where it might be nice if the rules of reality no longer applied to us (and only ourselves), and the rest of the world would just have to deal. There is no Kryptonite bullet to stop the madness in this story. Just more madness.
Its a commentary not just upon the meta or self-reflexive comics that borrowed from The Man of Steel, of those who tried to take Superman to his extremes, but upon us, and how we might be in the odd trap of our limitless power an albatross rather than a gift. What would we become?
Its not just The Plutonian who has become a menace. Its the all-too-human "heroes" with whom he'd surrounded himself. Put to the test, and without Tony at the center, they fall upon one another, fail one another, and generally look far from heroic.
Even in the 8th volume (I said I'd mention this later), the series still feels fresh. I'm not reading the individual issues, but I grab the new volumes of collections from Boom! as soon as they hit the shelf, as well as the companion series, Incorruptible, a series about a villain gone straight but with none of the items a hero usually has in their moral tool-kit to understand limits or perform good deeds without behaving just as much as a sociopath as before.
So my question, then, is: Is Mark Waid writing the comic he wants to write, or is he writing the comic he thinks we want, but taking it past our comfort zone? This series came on the heels of Waid leaving The Flash at DC and mentioning that he wasn't sure what the modern reader wanted. And I am often left wondering if this book isn't at least partially Waid's response to the dark.
He's asked superheroes to return to the light (and turned DC around for a number of years with KC), so is the antithesis intentional? Is it trying something new out and writing a different kind of story, or is it something else, and I'm missing it somewhere in between?
At any rate, sigh, I am fascinated with Irredeemable as much as I enjoy the plotting and characters, the bizarre twists and turns and the epic hopelessness of it all. Its one hell of a read to see Waid break expectations and convention, and see what you can do with a little idea like a Superman gone bad.
*that is a jokey thing. Please do not call him "Irredeemable"