Redemption Part One is in fact a crossover in miniature between Mark Waid’s two series Irredeemableand Incorruptible. Finally readers are going to get some answers explaining the past of the Plutonian and what led to his face-heel turn from a protector of the earth to becoming a sadistic, omnicidal monster – so much so that former villain Max Damage has himself become a hero to maintain some kind of balance.
It is a credit to Waid that these two interrelated titles have mutually evolved into interesting characters pieces set in an entirely new fictional universe. The writer’s work on Daredevil is receiving a lot of commendations, but it should be remembered that with Boom! Studios Waid was given license to create a whole new world and he’s doing a great job of it too.
Issues thirty-two opens with the Plutonian captured by two extra-dimensional beings claiming to be his parents. As it is unusual for the villain to be confronted with entities stronger we are treated to a new side of the one-time superhero, as he throws a fit at being treated like a weakling.
“No. Whoever you are. Whatever you are…You’re not my parents.”
And then shortly afterwards –
“No one….holds me…CAPTIVE! No..one..move..why can’t…I move..?”
These make for some nicely revealing moments and the character’s panic comes across as quite genuine. However, despite being catapulted as far away from the Earth as possible – it turns out that these beings feel responsible for the destruction wrought by the Plutonian – he still manages to be surprisingly devious. To give away any more would spoil the surprise, but needless to say the fiend has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Waid also has the character, and the reader, witness the origins of the Plutonian and why it is these giant creatures claim a blood-relation with the human-sized, if superpowered, mass murderer. This is where the issue really blows the doors off. What impresses most is how we do learn exactly what the Plutonian is, but despite his protests to the contrary, his actions are clearly still his own. Now he simply sees that he has a great excuse for his monstrous behaviour, which in double-time is used to expose the aliens to a sense of guilt for his crimes. No facile flashback sequences here. This is a story being told to a man who then takes that same narrative and twists it to his own ends.
And that last line of the issue. Well, it was laugh out loud funny, coupled with a very sinister smirk from our ‘hero’.
For me one interesting point of comparison with Irredeemable is J.M. Straczynski’s Supreme Power. This was an update of Mark Gruenwald’s original miniseries that recast the DC Universe refugees as disaffected and volatile superhumans with personality problems and troubled pasts aplenty. While popular at the time, eventually a kind of sinking feeling set in with Supreme Power. One issue was the storyline surrounding Hyperion, Straczynski’s pre-emptive revamp of the Superman idea, boiled down to an alien child being used and abused by humans so that the readers would feel sorry for him when he goes rogue. Couple that with the writer’s thuddingly obvious satirical jabs at Bush-era American politics and you had a fairly unsubtle comic book.
Waid is a lot smarter than that. Here the Plutonian is revealed to have the most tragic past imaginable – starting with something of an anti-Nativity if you like – but regardless he’s still a monster because he chooses to be. And that’s what makes him dangerous, while also striking to the heart of the character. In effect Waid is frustrating reader expectations with this ‘origin’. Instead of revealing why he is suddenly a villain, it shows us why he pretended to be a hero in the first place.
Waid on form is a great thing to see and this is an entertaining superhero yarn with plenty of surprises still up its sleeve.