Review by Frank Plowright
The short review of Irredeemable is that it’s a great idea, well written with constant surprises, and coasting along very satisfyingly until the final third where it crashes disappointingly due to replacement artist Diego Barreto making very little effort. The short tagline encompassing the series that Mark Waid is unable to use would be ‘Superman Gone Bad’.
The Plutonian has long been Earth’s greatest hero, a human-looking alien, yet a protector of humanity and shining example to other superheroes, many of whom are his team-mates in the Paradigm. So what would happen if this paragon of virtue decided he wasn’t properly appreciated? This idea has since been co-opted elsewhere, most prominently for the Injustice: Gods Among Us game and the subsequent graphic novels, but while others may have explored the possibilities before Waid, few have done so as thoroughly. He toys with the trappings of Superman, but once the Plutonian is established he rapidly pulls away, constructing a character we see has always been different via telling the story both in the past and the present day, and employing a wide supporting cast. They’re frequently seen, again in past and present, as they’re the only hope for stopping the Plutonian.
Peter Krause draws roughly the first two-thirds of Irredeemable, exemplifying the storytelling solidity that characterises Superman comics, and occasionally surprising with a creative design or a memorable page layout. It’s important that he’s not only able to deliver the expected superhero action, but can also fully convey the humanity so important to the story. Barreto’s opening sequence a third of the way through Irredeemable is fine, but given the job feel time he makes no effort to tell the story beyond figures. It’s a viable method, but inappropriate and disappointing when a visual richness previously prevailed. All the other credited artists are restricted to a single chapter.
Having introduced the idea of a superhero gone bad, in Incorruptible Waid supplied the reverse, and former villain Max Damage clashes with the Plutonian, but his most persistent foe and greatest problem is former Paradigm colleague Qubit. It’s not exactly a classic brains versus muscle clash as the Plutonian is smart, but Waid drops shock after shock as they attempt to outwit each other, and his bombshell chapter endings are without peer, providing the thrills wanted from superheroes.
This bulky paperback comes at a comparatively reasonable price, which to some extent offsets the disappointment of the later art. If preferred, all ten volumes collected here are easily obtained as second hand copies, and for more detailed reviews of individual segments, read the reviews of those, beginning with Volume 1. Alternatively, the entire series was also issued over five oversized hardcover Premier Editions.