Sometimes these positive reviews just turn into love letters to the comic. But with Mark Waid and Peter Krause’s “Irredeemable,” it’s a love that’s earned. This is a well-crafted comic book, from top to bottom, and issue #9 proves that it’s not just the conceit of a Superman-turned-bad that makes this comic work so well.
Here’s an issue with barely any appearance of the Superman analogue at all. The Plutonian, the tyrannous and insane former savior of the world, has retreated underground. He’s literally left hugging the corpse of his dead sidekick, in his tiny appearance in this comic.
Sure, he appears a bit in a flashback sequence, when we see the golden boy introduce the Paradigm — Earth’s super-powered protectors, who we see in the present day as the rag-tag rebels who are cobbling together a means to stop the mad Plutonian. But the Plutonian is largely absent from this issue, and it’s one of the best issues yet. Mark Waid has created such a clearly-defined world already — based on the Silver Age comics of the past, but angled differently — that he can hold our interest, compel page turning, by showing what these supporting characters are up to.
Of course the real trick of “Irredeemable” is that these supporting characters are actually the protagonists, only it’s taken us a while to realize that. The Plutonian may be too far gone at this point, too irredeemable to be anything more than an unstoppable force of nature. The best they can do is hope to avert disaster, contain the threat, and keep the world safe from this godlike power. Though like any team of heroes, the real struggle is within their ranks.
And the big event in this issue is the all-too-familiar arc of the Charybdis character, who seems to be following in the footsteps of the Plutonian even as he sets himself up as the one man who can stop him. Charybdis, with enhanced powers after the death of his brother, has declared himself “The Survivor,” rebranding himself as humanity’s best chance. Though with his maniacal cries of “Why are you not cheering?” such a role doesn’t seem to fit him naturally.
Mark Waid has written some excellent comic books in his impressive career, but with the no-hold-barred “Irredeemable,” he’s at his very best. And with Peter Krause’s classical panel-to-panel storytelling at his side, this is a comic that just bleeds craft, and deserves much love.