Three volumes after the Paradigm believed they’d rid themselves of the Plutonian he’s back on Earth. He’d previously been a planet-threatening menace on his own, but he’s now accompanied by several more enormously powerful beings, each almost matching his threat. The Plutonian’s first actions are monstrous, and he then turns his attention to the Survivor’s newly expanded Paradigm.

In the face of their utter lack of a capable response, those charged with safeguarding humanity reach a horrific conclusion. This is well delivered by Waid, merrily leading us down one path while having an entirely different destination in mind. This book starts the process of answering some questions that have nagged since the series started. Or more accurately, would have nagged were Waid not so adept at distracting the reader with other jaw-dropping revelations.

Unusually, one element of the plot does have echoes. The exiled character returning to Earth in the company of new allies re-runs the then relatively recent World War Hulk. Waid takes an alternative approach overall – no crossovers into a dozen other titles for a start – but the familiarity is there.

The opening chapter marks the final contribution from artist Peter Krause. His thoughtful storytelling and imaginative designs defined so much about the world of Irredeemable, but the remainder of the series is drawn (for the most part) by Diego Barreto. He’s perfectly acceptable, as has been displayed over the past two volumes, but less inclined to supply detail beyond the main figures, which is to the detriment of the series as a whole.

A remarkable aspect of Irredeemable is the pace of change from the start of each volume to its conclusion. Having constructed his own universe and planned a finite series, Waid is freed from the shackles of mainstream superheroes whose licensing value requires stability, and dictates his own changes accordingly. At this rate, though, it certainly doesn’t seem as if a sequel is high on his list of priorities.