Written by Mark Waid
Art by Peter Krause
Colors by Andrew Dalhouse
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
To Be Released August 5, 2009
Review by David Pepose
As the philosopher once said: I'll buy that for a dollar!
Mark Waid and BOOM! Studios have put a 99-cent price tag on the latest issue of Irredeemable, but I have to say, it stands up on its own merits even without the discount price. Acting as somewhat of an interlude after the cataclysmic events of the last issue, Waid finally hits the right balance between Silver Age tips-of-the-hat and apocalyptic desperation.
The issue opens up with a nice twist on a traditional comic's pastime - the letter column. But for Irredeemable, the man answering the questions is also the man who has been breaking the world in half: the Plutonian. Waid makes his evil Superman into someone whose menace has infected every bit of their psyche: "Finally, Caleb Albright of Vancouver, BC - and by the way, Caleb, yes, it is cancer - wrote in his journal, 'who does he think he is?'" While I don't know if that's the most effective way to show the exposition - as I wrote in my review for last issue, seeing the ruins of Singapore should be enough - this intro is a great way of establishing the Plutonian as a character. In that sense, he truly is Irredeemable.
And while I really dug Waid's intro, the story really picks up with the introduction of Jolt. I had said in previous reviews that I wasn't such a big fan of Waid's riffing on the Silver Age - but with this issue, I am more than happy to eat my words. The first line produced an unexpected laugh, and showed me that Waid still has something new to say, even on time-honored tropes: "Surprise. I'm a black super-hero with electrical powers," Jolt deadpans, as he tazes a robber. When I can name at least three other such heroes off the top of my head, I think Waid has a point.
It gets funnier when the man Jolt rescues says "you don't sound like I thought you would." "Oh, I'm sorry," Jolt replies. "Sweet fudgin' monkey-lover! Is that better?" Yet Jolt has a compelling back-story that Waid smoothly segues into, and at that point, you're hooked. Of course, Waid still has a lot more story to go - and it has all of the desperation and moral ambiguity that comes when you're facing an angry god. Whether it's Jolt's final falling out with the Plutonian - and the cost that came with it - or arguing the consequences of mass-producing a fabled criminal mastermind to take down the World's Greatest Hero, it all cranks up the tension.
Meanwhile, artist Peter Krause has really brought his A-game with this issue - his panel composition flows with some real dynamic layouts, and his characters each move with individual purpose. Furthermore, he really reins in his occasional tendency to go sketchy with his art, as most of the book has a nice clean look to its shadows and details. That said, I do feel that his scenes of destruction, such as in the newspaper page in the intro, could be more horrific - but in his defense, Waid has written this as a character piece more than a disaster story, and that's where Krause's strength really lies. You couple this artwork with some moody coloring by Andrew Dalhouse that lends a claustrophobic tone to the present-day scenes, and you've got yourself a well-crafted comic.
All in all, while BOOM! Studios bills this issue as the start of a brand-new arc, I don't know if I'd call that accurate - this is just another part of a greater whole, and if you want the full impact of the series, I'd suggest picking up the first volume trade that comes out this week (also a deal at $9.99). But as for judging this issue of Irredeemable on its own merits, I have to say that I think this book is finally starting to hit its stride, with a good mix of superhuman terror and Silver Age nostalgia. And for 99 cents? You'll never find a better deal to see a hero gone bad.