Mark Waid

Irredeemable vol. 1

Irredeemable volume 1Irredeemable is a graphic novel by Mark Waid and Peter Krause. The credits list colorist Andrew Dalhouse, letterer Ed Dukeshire, editor Matt Gagnon, and designer Paul Azaceta. It was originally published in thirty-seven single-issue “comics” from April 2009 to May 2012.  Volume 1 collects issues 1-4 and was released in October of 2009. Boom! Studios published the series.

“When the Plutonian, the world’s greatest hero, snaps and turns into the world’s greatest villain, only his former teammates have a chance at stopping his rampage.  But while on the run from the world’s most powerful and angry being, will these former teammates discover his secrets in time? How did he come to this? What became of the hope and promise once inside of him? What happens to the world when its savior betrays it? What makes a hero irredeemable?” — from the back cover

Lately, I have been carefully turning the blood-splattered and dark pages of a few graphic novel volumes that all explore some darker and badder themes. (i.e. Kill or be Killed, The Boys, etc.)  Irredeemable is, for me, the most gripping. I am engaged in the story and enjoy reading the volume. This is different than when I read The Boys or Kill or be Killed, because with those I feel I am turning a more critical, clinical, analytical eye on them. But they do not engage me; at most, I think I am repulsed or disgusted. I’m kind of splashing around in the murk currently. That being said, there is plenty of comparison between these three works in that they all delve into the worst of the worst.

Irredeemable has a storyline that has been toyed with here and there in many places in any number of comics. However, Waid really takes the idea to the extreme in this series. The Plutonian is designed as a blonde-haired white chap who wears a red and white or, later, red and black superhero outfit. (You know what I mean by “outfit.” The usual onesie!)

The series starts off with the Plutonian seemingly cruelly terrorizing a superhero/supervillain’s home. The first few pages deliver the feeling of frantic, desperate attempts to flee and the deadpan cruelty of a super-powered individual. I like that the series starts in media res without any heads up warning.  And these first few pages set the tone for the whole volume generally – a scrabbling, scrambling by everyone contrasted with the suddenness of the Plutonian.

Horribly shocking – emotionally, rather than just gore and splatter – in places. The abject helplessness of the citizens, the confusion and scattered attempts by the heroes, the suddenness and sourness of the Plutonian’s actions…all serve to make this work very gripping. The reader knows not much less than the participants of the story – why is this happening, what is going on? In chapter two, we are given a little more backstory – hints that a failed relationship with a female co-worker might be a catalyst for Plutonian’s rage. Secretly, though, I was (and am) hoping this is not the sole driving force in the story. It seems too pathetic for this level of character exploration. Even as chapter three begins, Waid complicates the former failed relationship even more – hinting at a situation involving Bette Noir (fellow hero teammate).

I like how Waid surprises the reader.  For example, the Singapore event is sudden and layered in surprising actions by the characters. Even when the reader knows how much of a bad dude the Plutonian is, still Waid is able to surprise the reader – that’s some mighty good writing in any genre.

I also am intrigued by the character Qubit. He is interesting and seems to be a good juxtaposition against the Plutonian’s over-powered skillset. Lastly, Waid keeps a key element to the storyline teased, but never presented – whomever Modeus is and whatever their relevance is, readers will have to keep reading to find out. Qubit really seems to be desperate for locating Modeus, so it must be vital.

Not for the sensitive or faint of heart. There are acts here that one would call “massive evil.”  The story is not one of happiness and even if good manages, somehow, to triumph like we all are comfortable with – too much destruction has occurred to call it a triumph.

3 stars

Daredevil #1 (2011)

Daredevil 1

Daredevil #1 cover

I have said it before:  I have high expectations for issues that are #1’s.  I demand more, expect more, and want more out of them, because if the publisher is going to put forth a first issue – he’s marketing it to me – he has to convince me.  He has to prove, right out of the gate, that there is a purpose and a goal in creating a new series/title, and that the story I am going to follow along is worthwhile, entertaining, and new. This new Daredevil title has received all sorts of acclaim.  Many comic sites have called it one of the top three new series of 2011.  Everywhere I looked, this title (and this issue) was praised and lauded.

I got interested in Daredevil with the Shadowland event.  And I am not ashamed or abashed to say that I actually quite enjoyed Shadowland – and even Tweeted the writer my thanks for his story.  Then, I read the 4-issue Daredevil: Reborn miniseries which bridges the gap between Shadowland and this new Daredevil title. The story in Reborn was not awesome, but the covers were absolutely awesomely amazing. AAA – in other words. Triple A. 5 star greatness.

This cover, which was done by Paolo Rivera, I believe, is also fantastic. It is also very representative of the interior art and story which is the essence of this new title.  First of all, I love “simple” cover art – by this I mean, not cluttered and sloppy and busy, but generally just a focus on one or two characters with a glorious background.  This cover is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time because it shows that the artist truly understands the character. I do not mean this in some sappy psychological manner. I mean, the artist actually seems to be reveling in his understanding of what makes Daredevil a unique and interesting character.

One of the main reasons that I disliked Daredevil was that he was uninteresting. This cover, alone, demonstrates to me that this series has made Daredevil an interesting and exciting character. I absolutely love the word-art onomatopoeia that is the background for this cover. It’s great! Look closely and see the birds in the scene. Read some of the words: HONK SCREECH THUD VROOOMM. However, my favorite part of the cover is the perfectly depicted smile on Daredevil’s face. It’s mischievous, cocky, and fun. This isn’t the tired and miserable Daredevil of yesteryear. This Daredevil, swinging towards us right off the page, is ready for fun, action, and coolness.

The interior art is just as fantastic as the cover art.  The last page of the main story is really phenomenal – I would love a poster of it. Several frames throughout the pages are just excellent – the artwork is clean and uncluttered, but filled with that real understanding of the character. The pink “radar” lines and the clean pencils just make the artwork in this issue outstanding and really, I cannot praise it sufficiently. Sometimes, I look at a frame and think: “Wow, yeah, that’s such a unique and creative way of seeing this scene – and totally encompasses how Daredevil deals with the world!”

The writing is pretty good, too. I mean, I like how Daredevil seems arrogant, but capable. He’s not moping around, and he’s got a fun and mischievous flavor that shows through in both the dialogue and in the way other characters react to him.  It’s a really fun story that definitely makes you want to read the next issue – which is the precise goal of first issues. The backup story in the issue is also very well done, and again really makes the title a cohesive entry between Shadowland, Reborn, and this new series’ storyline.

5 stars