"Incorruptible" #27 is a character driven think piece. There are machine gun toting goons on motorcycles, teleporting heroes and a man who gets stronger the longer he is awake -- yet at its heart, this issue is all about one man. Commissioner Armadale has been the police presence of this book since its inception. In this issue, Mark Waid deeply analyzes his mental state. The results are profoundly disturbing and drastically poignant.
Superhero comics use police presence to support vigilantism in many titles. Commissioner Gordon is the ultimate example of a man who legally stands for truth and honesty. Men like Gordon support the unhinged men who don spandex working toward the same goal from a different angle. These lawmen are portrayed with straighter backs and the greatest faith in the law -- but in "Incorruptible," Waid turns this concept on its head to display the alternative.
Lieutenant Armadale was never a great man. His flaws crack deeply through and he never seems far from plunging back into his worst moments. "Incorruptible" #27 shows Armadale in his entirety as a man who wants to do good, is in a position to do good but feels like a failure because he cannot do good on a superheroic level. Armadale has never felt like a superhero for a day in his life. He feels antiquated, superfluous and completely ineffectual. As far as results go, Armadale doesn't have the best opportunity to stand up against a man who can sink islands with his stare. Characters like Armadale are made to be beacons of hope in what they do, not what they yield. The lieutenant has opportunity to accomplish real good but can't see it through his vision of constant failure to resolve.
Waid highlights the effect of superpowers on the men who once held power; a badge and a gun mean nothing against a living weapon. The dichotomy between perceived power and effectual power is one inherent even in our own world. Here, Waid brings to light the struggle, discrepancy and the ultimately terrible path it will lead the disenfranchised down.
Marcio Takara has proven he can bring power to "Incorruptible's" pages through action and emotion. Takara knows how to make things look perfect, giving a scene resonance beyond the simple top layer of understanding. At the end of this issue, the artist structures a heartbreaking two-page sequence for Armadale. The wide panels of shock and running feet say everything without a word on them.
"Incorruptible" #27 is a bittersweet and brilliantly executed ode to Armadale as a character and his symbolic position as a man struggling to achieve justice in a world with superpowers. This standalone lesson demonstrates anyone who strives to make a change deserves a little recognition -- maybe we should give it to them.