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IRREDEEMABLE

Iredeemable

Mark Waid’s latest endeavor, Irredeemable, is the third of his studied explorations of the nature of superheroism in comics. Says Waid in the book’s afterword: “Kingdom Come was about the ethical price of heroism. Empire was about a world where heroism just flat-out didn’t exist. Irredeemable is, in a way, my third and most complex chapter on the cost of superheroics.” In this one, a superhero simply goes bad;


he changes from undiluted Good to rampant Evil and turns on his superheroic teammates. The book opens with one of the Plutonian’s rampages: he attacks one of his costumed cohorts in his home, boiling off his flesh and that of his wife and children, leaving only skeletons where once there were people. Two weeks later, the Plutonian is inexplicably saving the West Coast in an arena-like confrontation with a giant robot. When the Plutonian triumphs, the crowd cheers as if watching an athletic contest won by their favorite team.

Then the scene shifts and we see some of the Plutonian’s teammates question one of their number, Samsara, who saw something go awry in the Plutonian’s eyes. We see it, too: in the midst of an adoring crowd, the Plutonian hears a smart-mouth teenager saying, “Show-off jerk — just a flippin’ underwear pervert.” Suddenly the Plutonian’s happy face dissolves into something vaguely piqued. The team members resolve to try to find out as much about the Plutonian as they can, hoping in the details of his life to discover what went wrong with him. Suddenly he shows up and attacks; they disperse, and the Plutonian mutters, “Perfect."

Iredeemable 2

Waid’s afterword sheds some light on these goings-on, which otherwise leave us as baffled as the Plutonian’s buddies are: “No one simply turns ‘evil’ one day,” Wait explains. “Villainy isn’t a light switch. The road to darkness is filled with moments of betrayal, of loss, of disappointment, and of superhuman weakness. In the case of the Plutonian, there were sidekicks who sold his secrets. There were friends who preyed too often on his selflessness and enemies who showed him unsettling truths about himself. Irredeemable takes us down that path of transformation in terrifying detail,” he goes on. The book will explain how the Plutonian came to this. “What makes a hero irredeemable?”

Postscript:

The first issue of Mark Waid’s Irredeemable ends with a long admiring diatribe by Waid’s friend and fellow writer Grant Morrison, who expresses his approval of Waid’s “massive turns and reveals in every single scene.” Morrison is talking about the mechanics of a page-turner: how does the storyteller get us to keep turning pages? With “turns” and “reveals ”— plot twists and the steady divulging of detail. Every twist of the plot surprises us and makes us wonder where it will go next. But pure suspense, the skilled storyteller knows, is not enough to keep his readers captive; he must, from time to time, assuage the suspense by offering tiny dribbles of explanation. This maneuver keeps us turning the pages: we want to know what’s going to happen, and we feel confident from the experience so far that the storyteller will eventually tell us what we want to know.

All of which is true. But Morrison leaves out the purely human element. A storyteller’s skill as a mechanic is important, but he must also create characters about whom we care.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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