Sunday, August 11, 2013

Intriguing Role Reversal

Written by Mark Waid
Illustrated by Jean Diaz
Published by Boom! Studios
4 Out of 5 Stars

In Irredeemable, Mark Waid explores what would happen if one of the world's most formidable superheroes flips a switch and becomes the villain. The Plutonian turns his back on humanity and instead indulges in creating the violence and destruction he once sought to stop. When the superhero who once kept you in check has now bumped you down to number 2 on the FBI's most wanted list, what's a super villain to do?

For Max Damage in Incorruptible, the answer is attempt to fill the void left in Sky City when its protector goes rogue. When Max realizes the Plutonian has seriously gone batshit crazy and may never recover, it causes a bit of an existential crisis. Max reveals that, no matter how terrible he was, in the back of his mind he always knew that men like the Plutonian would keep him from pushing things too far. Civilization was kept in place by the balance between good and evil. Max understands that the scales may now be permanently tipped toward chaos and anarchy, so it's up to him to try to restore balance. 

This role reversal is intriguing, although by the end of volume 1 Max's redemption isn't very convincing. Sure, he destroys anything purchased with his ill-gotten gains, breaks off his sexual relationship with his underage girlfriend, brokers a peace with the local police, and tracks down some bad guys, but how genuine is he? This isn't a complaint as I'm hoping it leads to some complex character development while Max attempts to become the good guy and struggles with his criminal past, but, if not, then his conversion seems conveniently simplistic.

There's some punchy dialogue throughout and the characters are imaginative. Jailbait is the underage girlfriend of Max who can't quite come to grips with the fact that the man who introduced her to the thrilling life of crime and apparently mind-blowing sex has gone all white hat on her. Her reactions are often amusing, especially as we realize that while Max may have gone straight, she certainly doesn't intend to follow suit. Max himself has a peculiar superpower--the longer he goes without sleep, the tougher he becomes. Bullets can't pierce him. Fire can't burn him. However, the hardening of his physical self allows him only two senses: sight and sound. It's only after a good night's sleep that Max can feel all five senses before his body once again begins the hardening process.

The artwork is nothing special; while it tells the story, it does little to enhance it. In the cover gallery there is some work attributed to Rafael Albuquereque of American Vampire fame and I could only imagine how his gritty style might have taken a story like this to the next level.

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