Concluding the first story arc of “Incorruptible” and revealing how Max Damage became Max Danger, Mark Waid also provides a greater depth on the Plutonian’s fall from grace in “Irredeemable.” While not essential reading, it offers a different perspective on exactly what the great hero’s turn meant to the world, including one of the worst criminals. After all, it was shocking enough to make him turn good. More than that, we’ve begun to see a small glimpse of who Max is inside and, if his story is anything like the Plutonian’s, what we’re given here is only the beginning.
The issue begins where the last left off: Singapore, the day the Plutonian destroyed it. Max was there and seeing the world’s greatest hero become its greatest mass murderer affected him an unexpected way and revealed how even the bad guys looked up to the hero. It’s an idea that makes sense, but isn’t often voiced: the heroes, when saving the world, save the villains as well and some of them would, no doubt, take that for granted and, secretly, be grateful for the heroes’ existence. Not all would and that Max was one of them who did says something about who he is and the potential that’s there for him to be a good person. There’s something inherently selfish about him and his hero turn is an extension of that, a desire to fill the void the Plutonian has left.
That leads him to Amberjack, a villain selling an escape route off Earth and away from the Plutonian. The confrontation between the two is interesting, especially when Max’s teenage sidekick, Jailbait, gets involved the true reason for him taking on Amberjack is revealed. Even as Waid reveals the reason for his heroism, he emphasizes Max’s selfish nature and that his reformation isn’t a complete turnaround, or one that’s entirely for the good of others. Just as the Plutonian has been revealed as damaged and capable of his monstrous actions long before he turned, Max is showing the same driving characteristics as a hero that he seemed to have possessed as a villain.
The parallels to “Irredeemable” don’t stop at the writing, as Jean Diaz’s art bears a similarity to Peter Krause’s, giving this book a visual tone in harmony with the other and making that sense of a shared universe more believable. Diaz’s line work is clean, but underdeveloped in places. His figures don’t look complete all of the time, heavily detailed in some panels, less so in others. However, he has a lot of energy, particularly in the action scenes, which are also well choreographed. His art is very easy to follow and comprehend and has shown improvement over the past four issues. In this issue, his handling of facial expressions is stronger than ever and he’s definitely making this book his own.
While the ‘villain becoming a hero’ concept is an inversion of “Irredeemable,” Waid also inverts the focus by sticking with Max here while revealing him in a similar manner to the way the Plutonian’s true nature has been revealed. It’s not a simple case of a bad guy seeing the light, but his selfish desires being directed toward a different goal. This book is an interesting case where the change of character is possibly only superficial, making it a great complement to “Irredeemable.”