With each issue, “Irredeemable” proves itself to be more complex and thoughtful in its deconstruction of not just what it takes to be a hero day after day, but also in how we treat our heroes. The Plutonian’s journey from hero to villain has been a slow unveiling and this issue adds another piece to the puzzle as we see that, while a second action is what drove the Plutonian over the edge, it had been building for a long time, wearing him down until he snapped.
The main confrontation here is between the Plutonian and Charybdis, the hero whose twin was killed at the hands of the Plutonian. The twins were thought to be like many other superhero twins in requiring one another’s presence to have powers, but Charybdis reveals that only he ever had powers, which he shared with his brother. Now that Scylla is dead, Charybdis has access to all of his power, which means trouble for the Plutonian who, since turning bad, is faced with his first real physical threat.
The fight between the two isn’t just jarring to the Plutonian, it’s jarring for the reader, because, until this point, the former hero has been portrayed as unstoppable. His fellow teammates all struggling to find some weakness as he does things like destroy cities and kill them off, all seemingly without any true exertion or effort. However, now, things have changed as the Plutonian is clearly not unstoppable and the balance of power may have shifted.
At the same time, we learn more about the tragic accident that was the focal point in the Plutonian’s turn and how it relates to the idea of being a hero. His reaction is harsh and overblown, but he raises a point about how years of good work and trust can be undone with one mistake that we would never forgive. By raising the point, it questions the fairness of our judgment — after all, what is one mistake against years of service and life-saving? And how would you react if everything you’ve worked for is brought down in one moment?
Just as Mark Waid has grown over these issues, showing how good he can be with the limitations gone, Peter Krause is the secret surprise of “Irredeemable” as he gets better and better with each issue. His clean, realistic art style works perfectly with Waid’s writing, but Krause’s art also has a more classic look to it, reminiscent of artists from the ’70s and ’80s that roots it in the superhero comic tradition. He manages to both give a feel of the real world and of comics from decades ago. The opening pages of the Plutonian/Charybdis fight show off just how good he is, particularly the emotions both characters show. The look of pain, shock, and fear on the Plutonian’s face is fantastic and makes us believe the danger that he’s in.
While “Irredeemable” may have began as a simple ‘Superman turns evil’ story (or, at least, appeared as such), it has become a complex and nuanced examination of what being a hero requires and what happens if someone isn’t capable of living up to that standard. Mark Waid is doing career-best writing and Peter Krause is proving that he will be a fan-favorite artist some day. This is simply one of the best comics month after month.