Irredeemable, Vol. 1 by Mark Waid
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
You tell a man he's a god enough times, and he'll start to be believe it. You strip away his humanity by worshipping him, and eventually he'll think it's his right to lord over you. Continuously mention that his powers are the only reason the planet still turns, and one day that virtue that compels him to save you will turn into the vice that causes him to decimate whole cities without remorse.
However, despite that recipe for disaster, there's still one more key ingredient. The inner struggle that a person like this would face. Someone who struggles with difficult decisions everyday in regard to the safety of others. Out of millions of people, who do you save and who do you let die? How do you deal with humanity's capacity for ingratitude when you don't save them in the manner they wish to be saved? How do you deal with people who try to marginalize your feats by calling you a "pervert in underwear?"
The answer is simple in the case of Plutonian. You've ignored that he is human (or humanoid) and has human weaknesses and emotions. You've rejected his attempts to be normal, to give him something that anchors him to his human side. There's no longer any need for him to act like a mere human. You've made him a god, and now, he becomes a god. He has every right to judge anyone--hero, villain, and civilian--because he's your god, a monster of human creation.
I know I'm still in the early stages of this series, but the above is what I gathered from the first volume. These opinions may change as I continue to read this series, and I'll acknowledge that when the time comes. Once Plutonian turns, he doesn't discern between friend and foe--taking some lives, leaving others alive to suffer his carnage. Making a hero, a hero who questioned Plutonian before his heel turn about how it felt to be responsible for so many lives, choose ten people out of millions to save and then killing the rest before that same hero's eyes while telling him: "This is what it felt like."
While Plutonian is inarguably the greatest super-powered being on earth (I know Max Damage from Incorruptible is pretty strong himself and can, at the very least, withstand Plutonian's abuse, but I'm not sure yet if he could actually beat Plutonian at this point), this story for me isn't just about the greatest superhero on earth becoming the greatest supervillain. It's a story about a man who wasn't allowed to be human, so he became a god instead.
Waid has also taken some traditional superhero tropes and turned them on their ear such as what if a hero did confess his identity to someone one close to him, expecting their inexplicable acceptance of who he is and forgiveness for hiding his identity all this time to protect them. Yeah, this ain't Superman, honey. What if a hero didn't get all the acceptance and support he needed from the people around him? What does he do then? Waid is addressing things that I've questioned in comic stories.
And I really love this about the story.
However (you knew a HOWEVER was coming), I'm not as drawn into the story as I'd like to be even though I do like the foundation of it. And maybe this partly by my own design because instead of focusing on this series first I read the first volume of The Boys which I really, really enjoyed. When I love something and I start moving on to other similar media/genres, I expect them to keep my enjoyment buzz going. That isn't this comics fault, and as I said, it's not a bad comic. I probably should've waited a few more days when I wasn't thinking about The Boys anymore. I have a tendency to ponder things long after I've read them.
Another problem I'm having is with Volt who is an African-American superhero with electricity powers. Most of his panels include switching into AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) to prove how racist the white people are and how little they expect of him, which was true in a couple of panels. Other times, it just seems kind of random and unnecessary. He also enjoyed pointing out a black superhero with electricity powers is a cliche when nobody said anything about it, but what can he do about it? The only thing he really said that spoke to me, something that I’ve spoken about with other comic book fans of color, is the need to add BLACK to the beginning of some black or ambiguously brown heroes’ names. He’s Volt, guys. Just Volt. PREACH, Volt!
I’m hoping Waid does better than this with Volt because as it stands he feels silly, forced, and unnatural at times as if Volt is incapable of being a normal person while facing issues that concern his race. It seems he can only be one or the other, but not both at the same time. So far, instead of pointing out why such behavior is problematic, Volt would rather sarcastically respond to their micro-aggression by slipping into jive talk and leave them to their “accidental” racist tendencies. And while I think Waid is an exceptional writer when it comes to showing the moral standings of heroes, I’m not sure if I think he is capable of providing an adequate portrayal of how an African-American superhero deals with racism as a person and as a hero.
This was an interesting beginning, though, and I'll move on to the next volume, but only time will tell whether Waid handles the complex issues he's setting up expertly or not.
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