May 21, 2011

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Irredeemable Volumes 5 and 6

Written by Mark Waid
Illustrated by Peter Krause and Diego Barreto
Boom! Studios

[Note: I read these in single issue form, digitally. I am guessing based on the 4 issues per trade pattern that this will be the content of volumes 5 and 6.]

As if dealing with a homicidal former hero isn't bad enough, now the remains of the Paradigm have to start looking at the specter of aliens. The Vespa are here, and...they were invited? Say what? Meantime, the Plutonian has issues of his own--romantic ones, to be exact. But not for long if the Vespa have their way. Can the Plutonian fight not just one world, but two, especially when the second has been dealing with his kind for years? It's enough to make you crazy. Just when you think things might start to get easier, it all becomes even more complex in the world of...Irredeemable.

One of the things that's astounded me about Irredeemable is Mark Waid's ability to take typical situations we see in superhero comics all the time and twist them into warped mirror images of the stereotype, daring to do things that might not play if we used characters who were better known. Never has this been so obvious as when Modeus makes a key revelation about the nature of his battle with the Plutonian. We all know which hero-villain combo Waid is talking about here, and it's NOT Superman and Luthor, but I can't imagine a world where DC would allow any creator to play with their toys in this manner.

(Nor should they, if I may be allowed a digression. Part of the reason why current capes comics are so messed up is that both Marvel and DC allow creators to go down personal digressions that harm the core nature of characters that should have universal appeal and flexibility. What I love about Irredeemable is that Waid is breaking no toys except his own.)

The Modeus-Plutonian interaction is definitely the high point of volume five, although the revelation that a previously unblemished hero made a potentially Faustian bargain no one knew about is a close second, because it yet again shows that in the world of Irredeemable, no one is safe from corruption, except maybe Kaiden, and I figure she's due pretty soon.

The decisions made by that one hero drive most of the action of the final four issues, which should make up volume six. The Vespa step in to take care of earth's Plutonian problem, but his extreme mental instability plays havoc with their orderly nature. Waid plays some nice tricks with this, but I do think he overplays his hand a bit with the dream sequences, an idea that's been done to death and doesn't get anything added to it here. Tony's position at the end of this volume definitely makes it clear that he's not out of the picture yet and has quite a few people to add to his enemies list. There's also the problem that Plutonian's removal is not unlike Planet Hulk, in a really depraved way. I'm hoping this part of the story gets better as we move into the next set of issues.

While I enjoyed but didn't love the off-world action in issues 20 to 23, the scenes with the Paradigm were perfect. Waid makes it clear that Plutonian's removal doesn't solve a darn thing, as the rebuilding process is not the cakewalk Surviver wants to make the world think it will be. While the Paradigm works to fix the world and its own broken ranks, Mr. Qubit keeps fretting about what lies ahead. But is he over-thinking things? It's hard to tell what Waid wants us to believe, because the players involved in deducing the truth leave us no reliable narrator to trust. I honestly have no idea if we're getting the straight story or if Waid has another surprise or two up his sleeve. My guess is on the latter.

These issues are a mix of Peter Krause and Diego Barreto art. As with the prior trade, Krause's is the far more expressive work and I'm sorry to hear he's left the series for the foreseeable future. Barreto is better here than when we first saw his work, but I just think he leaves too many fine details out, and I liked the way Krause would give us small details within larger panels. Irredeemable loses a bit of subtlety in Barreto's hands, but it's not like the art is bad. I just wish there was more going on that just straightforward storytelling. Then again, given how many bad artists DC has in its stable right now, straightforward storytelling is apparently a rare talent these days.

Irredeemable continues to have more layers than a Royal Wedding cake, and I love the corrupted complexity of the series. Waid has so many balls in the air, it's going to be a fascinating process to see how he catches them, one by one. I do hope that he starts to bring things back to earth (so to speak) soon, however. The story is really stretched thin here, and if he adds any more quirks, I'm afraid the whole thing might break. But if anyone can manage, it's Waid, because this is just what he excels at. Irredeemable is still the best "dark Superman" story I've ever read, primarily because in the world of Irredeemable, no one is innocent and no one is safe. This still gets my highest recommendation, especially for those looking for mature capes stories that don't just get dark and miserable because they can. In the case of Irredeemable, there's just no other choice--and that's what makes it so good. I'm definitely looking forward to reading this on a as it appears digitally basis going forward.