February 25, 2011

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Irredeemable Volume 2

Written by Mark Waid
Illustrated by Peter Krause
Boom! Studios

Things continue to collapse in more ways than one as the Paradigm search desperately for a way to stop the Plutonian while the Plutonian searches for the Paradigm so he can end them once and for all. Secrets are revealed and the roots of the conflict start to show exactly why the Plutonian is...Irredeemable.

I continue to be impressed with Mark Waid's writing on this book and Peter Krause's illustrative decisions. I don't know how much is from the script and how much is Krause's own choices, but they compliment the book's ideas perfectly, showing much for the reader, but not everything. Violence pervades just about every page, but it's never shown in a way designed to shock. Like a good horror manga artist, Krause presents the facts as they are in the story and lets the horror of the situation do the work for him. It's not flashy, it's not going to win some Wizard "Artist Who Best Depicted a Decapitation This Month" award, and it's definitely drawn in a style more befitting of Dan Jurgens than Jim Lee. In other words, I think it's perfect.

Two examples come to mind of how impressed I am with Krause's work here. The first is when Volt is given a very dramatic lesson in "be careful what you say" that could have been portrayed with buckets of blood but is instead indicated simply by an evil glow in the Plutonian's eyes that you know represents his heat vision doing something terrible. The second is when we need to know that the Plutonian is obsessed with Bette Noir. Instead of going for as many shots of cleavage as possible, Krause instead tastefully uses shadow and object arrangement so that the reader is clear on the point but without drawing a single line that is overtly exploitative. Krause shows it can be done. I just wish other artists would listen (or just give up the pretense of being for kids and just show the nudity they're dying to draw).

Back to Waid's story, however. Most of this second set of issues is devoted to the Paradigm's desperate attempts to find a way to stop the Plutonian. Along the way, we end up finding out more of why Tony (the Plutonian's "real" name) has gone off the deep end. As with the scenes we saw in the first trade, it's clear that Waid wants you to see that it wasn't one thing that caused the Plutonian to go mad, if you can even call this madness. There's no mind control, no clone, no death of a loved one, no chuck of rock causing all this. It's just the weight of the world, slowly tearing down a good man, bit by bit until he can't take it anymore.

The Plutonian's rage is one we can all relate to. We just usually can keep it in check, and those of us who can't might end up in jail, if we do something to harm others in our rage. But the Plutonian is a being with almost absolute power. His rage just won't die, and now everyone is going to pay the price. His reality is the fantasy we don't like to admit that we ever have, and that's part of the brilliance of Waid's scripting here. Despite his monstrous behavior, Waid has linked it to something real.

At the risk of repeating myself, I'll mention again that this is what makes Irredeemable so good: Waid uses modern concepts but doesn't try to make it *all* as realistic as possible. We're in a world of super powers, which changes the rules of the world but not the concepts. People can still be bastards, just like in our world, but there's never a sense that Waid is trying to write a story of what real life with the Plutonian would be like--because such a world can never exist and trying to write one just ends in frustration for both the reader and, I think, the creator.

Beyond the meta concepts, Waid has some really clever moments in here. I was not expecting the big reveal in the final chapter in this volume, though I have a feeling I know where it's going, because I don't think the Paradigm have it in them to actually save the day. That's far too easy, and unworthy of this story. I also loved his use of Volt, who is here entirely to make fun of the concept of Black Lightning and treatment of African American superheroes in general. The general dysfunction of the Paradigm is on full display here, and I think that's only going to get worse as time goes on. Lastly, even as things move along at Flash-like speed, I love how Waid is still dropping little clues and hints in his trademark fashion that can be picked up on later, as he sees fit.

This book is that of a master at the top of his game. When Mark Waid is on, and he's definitely on here, he's just about the best in the business right now. Irredeemable is a great dark story about what happens when our superheroes are as imperfect as the heroes of history. Jill Sobule asked why they had to be imperfect. I'd answer that in the case of Irredeemable, it's to make for one of the best superhero comic reads I've had in quite some time. Can't wait to get to volume three, and if I were still doing single issues, this would be going straight on to my pull list. Irredeemable comes with a top recommendation from me, even for non-capes fans. Mark Waid is showing what you can do with the medium, and I'm definitely along for the ride!