Writer Mark Waid freshens up the idea of the traditional superhero/sidekick team in “Insufferable” #1 alongside artist and past collaborator Peter Krause. Like Waid and Krause’s past superhero effort “Irredeemable,” the team throws a familiar concept into reverse and examines the dichotomy between the protagonist and those around him.
Nocturnus is the traditional-enough Batman archetype, but teenage sidekick Galahad is far from a selfless and obedient Boy Wonder; instead, he’s a selfish and self-glorified thorn in his mentor’s side, more interested in stealing credit for himself and promoting his presence on social media than actual do-gooding, unless it serves to increase his popularity. The generation gap is a surprisingly underutilized tactic in such superhero pairs, but Waid puts it to good use here in order to establish a very tense and surprising dynamic.
Krause puts it to good use as well in a sequence that contrasts the lives of Nocturnus and Galahad after their latest adventure, an adventure whose victory rightfully belonged to the former but is reported differently to the media by the latter. As the older hero quietly winds down for the night by taking a shower and some pain relievers, the young sidekick celebrates with champagne, hot tubs and the company of ladies. Colorist Nolan Woodard enhances this with contrasts that evoke the color schemes of the original Dynamic Duo; Nocturnus’ panels are largely darker Batman-like shades of blue and grey, while Galahad’s are brighter and more colorful.
Following this sequence, Waid and Krause make a surprisingly low key but effective transition that sheds more background on the two heroes’ pasts; this ends a little too suddenly but provides plenty of backstory to pique interest and will sell readers on next issue. Through the device of a lengthy message board chat interspersed with brief flashbacks to the duo’s not-so-happy early days, the scene moves along quickly despite the lack of any action and is a revealing peek into a history that suggests Nocturnus might not have been a perfect hero behind that mask. The final seven or so pages make for an atypical but punchy conclusion to the issue.
While Waid’s story is largely about Galahad, Nocturnus is more than just a supporting character and, in fact, may have played a large part in Galahad’s rebellious ways, at least according to Galahad’s account. Waid is careful not to assign blame for Galahad’s behavior, at least this early in the story; while rebelling against a parental figure is certainly a possible catalyst, it’s also apparent that there’s more to the tale, as Nocturnus’ side has yet to be told. Waid’s story hints that there’s an origin to be told for the older hero, too, and not just the younger one.
“Insufferable” #1 is a strong start to a slightly different kind of superhero story. Waid brings the same kind of adept strength has demonstrated in other works, like the aforementioned “Irredeemable” as well as “Incorruptible” and “Empire.” Krause gives it a bold, dynamic look that typifies the genre and, together, comics’ own Dynamic Duo proves that there are still good and original superhero stories left to be told.