Ever start reading something and suddenly notice that several hours have passed since you’ve either blinked/eaten/gone to the loo? If that’s your gauge for quality then “Irredeemable” is worth your time.
There are those of you out there that foster the notion that Superman is a poor character. Complaints range from “he’s just a boy scout” to “he’s overpowered” and then simply to the lazy “he’s just boring”. The trouble is, we’re all different. Some of us preferring tales filled with optimism and hope, whilst others preferring a mirror being turned upon humanity so they can gaze at how ugly it is. All viewpoints are valid, as are tastes. As we’re not so binary as to be either one or the other, you may find a particular character resonates with you at different times in your life.
I’ve been a longtime fan of Superman, my first exposure to the character being that of the 1930’s cartoon where Superman would fight such things as…Volcanoes and…Circus Gorillas…or a rogue Mummy. I followed the character through to the Christopher Reeves movie, and further to the current ‘Snyderverse’ renditions. And I myself can see where the complaints about Superman come from, but I always strive to defend the character against these tired arguments. Often times though, I find myself relying on my own ‘headcanon’ wherein I perceive Superman to be a red and blue ball of contained anger and rage. My main draw to the character, it seems, is that if he wanted to, he could have anything he wanted – and simply chooses not to.
To those that fall into the category of “Superman is boring” this is my ultimate counter-argument (save for “Injustice”). If you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like if Superman finally gave in to the rage and the power, then you should read Irredeemable. Irredeemable is one such property where ciphers for well known characters are used to explore themes otherwise untouchable by stories involving characters from the ‘big two’. Instead of Superman, we have “The Plutonian” and unlike Superman, The Plutonian isn’t emotionally complex enough to deal with his own power, he’s ultimately too human; Irredeemable runs for 37 issues and one special, paired with a sister series “Incorruptible” which lasts for 30 issues and runs concurrently to “Irredeemable“.
The opening few pages of issue one of Irredeemable feature The Plutonian mercilessly hunting down and melting the Batman cipher – Hornet – along with his wife and child, with his heat vision. It gets worse, a lot worse. From there the terror of living under the watch of a being that can hear sounds coming from the other side of the planet, see atoms and such, is fully explored and unfolds at a satisfying pace. It’s up to The Plutonian’s ex-colleagues and members of “The Paradigm” – The Justice League cipher – to find a way of killing a seemingly invincible opponent, and it’s also here that the story focuses, showing us choices and alliances made in desperation and fear. It’s done in a refreshing way that doesn’t seek to portray either side as either absolute paragons of morality, or evil; Members of The Paradigm are forced to make choices that affect the planet and its populous, and at times double cross each other to achieve their own agenda. It’s storytelling like this that raises “Irredeemable” from being yet another run of the mill superhero rip off, into something more of its own flavour, a distinct property with something genuinely exciting to say.
If you enjoyed the gritty realism of titles like “Watchmen” or “The Boys” – and to a lesser extent “Miracleman” – then you’ll be familiar with the tone in “Irredeemable“; it’s grim and at times oppressive. It’s a meditation on power, and the desperation of living under tyranny and it deserves your time.
Joe Crouch is a crusty mollusc with delusions of grandeur and pretensions of artistic endeavour. His tea is served between two and four. He tweets, infrequently @Grost and Instagrams his food @Sourcrouch.