“Incorruptible” has always been tied into “Irredeemable” seeing that it spun out of that title, but, beginning with this new arc, the connection grows stronger as a significant person from the Plutonian’s past shows up and the hero/villain relationship between the Plutonian and Max Damage is explored in greater depth. The inclusion of Alana Patel, the Lois Lane to the Plutonian’s Superman, is a clever way to broach Max’s past, specifically through a time where he kidnapped her. With so much of the focus on how Max is now a ‘good guy,’ getting a glimpse of his time as a villain helps to reinforce that and, maybe, show that he hasn’t necessarily come as far as he thinks.
Patel catches the attention of the reformed Max when the Diamond Gang, a group of white supremacists that see the Plutonian’s turn as the declaration of a race war, has a copy of her unpublished autobiography and learns his one weakness from it. Waid touched on the Plutonian/Patel relationship in “Irredeemable” #2, but the use of her autobiography here provides another side, especially in showing how being seen as the hero’s girlfriend changed her life. That added dimension shows how the Plutonian’s influence was negative beyond his secret identity or his turn, how simply being there and known as her boyfriend changed her life irrevocably.
One big change was being kidnapped by Max Damage and Jailbait, and tortured for information about the Plutonian. We’re given a rare glimpse of Max as a villain here, a man with no apparent conscience or limit, who acts reprehensibly for the sake of it. Finally showing an extensive look at Max and Jailbait before his turn is an odd reminder that it’s been difficult to a degree to get behind him since his choice to be a hero hasn’t been as clear cut as the Plutonian’s turn. Since the Plutonian is a Superman analogue, his fall from heroism has an easier contrast, but Max has no clear predecessor beyond a vague concept of a supervillain. It’s understandable why Waid would wait this long to provide a clearer picture to make Max more relatable, but seeing him acting bad strengthens his current depiction that much more.
The new Jailbait provides a similar perspective as she reads Patel’s autobiography aloud and doesn’t react quite as Max expects. She’s definitely a change from the first Jailbait, but does show herself to be just as screwed up in her own way. It’s hard to say if Max’s insistence that she confront who he was is heroic or not. It seems like he’s trying to protect her from the life he’s chosen, but Waid suggests it could be more than that.
Horacio Domingues is a fine artist and his bulky, cartoony style is visually appealing. It’s not as polished as the writing, creating a disparity, but that’s to be expected when the writer is a longtime veteran like Waid and the artist has been working in the industry for a few years. But, he brings a lot of energy to the art. His characters are expressive in their expressions and body language. The contrast between Max then and now is done very well with Domingues communicating the cruelty he embraced then along with the visible effects of sleep deprivation.
With its third arc, “Incorruptible” comes closer to “Irredeemable” again and shows a glimpse of Max the villain. The contrast between Max then and now is stark, but not as great as you’d think, putting the past eight issues into a different light. While this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the old Max, it hits harder. And, Waid shows some of his twisted side with the issue-ending cliffhanger that surprised the hell out of me.