November 29, 2011

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Irredeemable Volume 7

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

The Plutonian is trapped in an intergalactic insane asylum!  Kaiden is trapped with the tranformed and tortured zombie version of her old lover!
Qubit is trapped with Modeus, searching for the Plutonian!
It's Operation:  Breakout for our players as certain plot threads weave together while new strands are formed and we get further confirmation that Tony is by no means the only character who is...Irredeemable.

First of all, I just want to say I love the idea of an intergalactic insane asylum.  It's brilliant, allowing the writer and artist to tee off with crazy character designs, quirks, and traits.  Waid and his pair of artists take full advantage, giving us everything from a Hulk-like creature with multiple personality disorder that has a physical manifestation to a "suicidal cutter with a telekinetic problem."  That's a direct quote.  It's exactly the sort of thing we've come to expect now in Irredeemable, where Waid takes the envelope, pushes it for a bit, then says "screw it" and throws the envelop out the window.  It's great storytelling, using the fact that this world is entirely under Waid's control to do whatever he likes.  It brings Irredeemable a level of unpredictability that most superhero comics can't match.  After all, even when a character is radically altered (Ben Reilly, Az-Bats, Artemis as Wonder Woman, the dual Supermen, etc.), it never lasts if they're familiar or popular enough because the suits involved want them back to marketable normal.

For Mark Waid's Irredeemable universe, there is no normal.  Just a playing field that shifts and alters beneath the reader's feet, making for a comic ride that is unique to creator-owned properties. (I should note here that I do not know if Waid owns these characters or if Boom! does, but right now, the series is being treated as though it were as creator-owned as Invincible or Hellboy.)  I love that I never know what's going to happen, because this is a world where anything is possible.

Because of that freedom, Waid can do things like explain Tony's Superman-like powers in a way that would never fly for Clark Kent or have a homicidal robot persona express his love for the main character.  He can even play with time itself, leaving a possible clue to how everything can be fixed.

Or maybe not!  That's the fun of it all!

As with prior issues in the series, Waid goes to places you might not expect and shows that all of the characters in this drama are flawed, even the previously pretty clean Kaiden, who prefers the dangerous brother and ends up being part of the madness of Survivor, who is shown really off his rocker in his only scene in these four issues.  Qubit is willing to kill indiscriminately to stop Tony, and his Faustian bargains appear ready to backfire on him.  Meanwhile Tony has formed a new team of sorts, consisting of figures that are as ruthless and bloodthirsty as he is.  He's just about hit his nadir...but I have a feeling Waid will find a way to sink him even lower, because that's what he's done in the prior six volumes.  Why stop now?

The storytelling here is definitely old-school, with Waid giving new readers a brief re-introduction to the plot of Irredeemable, doing it via in-story narration rather than one of those annoying one-page plot summaries of which we've seen so many.  I've gotten so used to the prose introductions that I couldn't figure out what Waid was doing at first!  From there, he takes several long-standing threads and places them in a story arc that finishes some ideas and starts new ones.  Some characters get only a few pages--just enough to tease future ideas.  It's pitch-perfect comic storytelling from a master.  Irredeemable is not only good--it's a clinic on how to tell a comic.

Waid is aided and abetted by Krause and Barreto, both of whom do a good job of illustrating the story Waid wants to tell.  I still prefer Krause's work to Barreto, as his details are sharper and his characters better able to give clues to the story without dialog.  However, I'm getting used to Barreto's lines and I think he is much stronger here than in the previous issues.  I appreciate that the artist shift was done gradually and with two creators whose work complement each other, rather than conflict.

I think you can make an argument that Irredeemable is the best superhero comic book being published right now.  It's intelligent, well-plotted, and keeps the reader on the edge of its seat.  I cannot wait to keep reading more!  If you haven't been reading this book, I strongly urge you to do so.  This is a classic in the making, I think, and the sooner you read it, the better.