Grant Morrison provides and interesting afterward to the first issue of Mark Waid’s new series Irredeemable, discussing “patterning” and how, in this instance, writers get typecast by fans. He mentions that Waid is best associated with keeping the spirit of the Silver Age alive in his comics, that wide-eyed optimism in an age of comic book super-science. It’s true, if you want someone who understands what a superhero or team is at their core, and will write to their greatest strengths, Waid is that guy. Action and adventure storytelling seems to come easy to him, and he doesn’t ever reach for the extreme, just for the sake of being extreme. He’s not Mark Millar or Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison or Warren Ellis, UK imports who often look at American superheroics from an outsider’s perspective, examining the American ideal as they absorbed it through exported entertainment. Waid is an American and a fanboy, steeped in the lore of comics but living the life, absorbing the news and culture of the country and relaying its ideal as a constant, instead of exploring the difference between it and reality.
Perhaps this is the difference between Waid and the Brits, etc. Where the bravado and arrogance and flash and spectacle of American superheroes is representative of the might-makes-right attitude that is so often embraced within the U!S!A!, that “we’re number 1″ chant, those good guys with the bad attitude and the John Wayne swagger that America earned in the early-to-mid 1900’s is the ideal that both the Golden Age and Silver Age erupted out of. It’s an appealing ideal worth hanging onto, worth championing, worth legitimizing, and I think Waid in his writing looks to bring that back to the modern era. The Bronze and Modern age exploded with the deconstructionist flair of Moore’s Watchmen, with droves of writers from the UK actively grasping onto the idea of the decaying American ideal, and exploring it through superheroes. Most American superhero writers during the 90’s seemed to only find the cool sex-and-violence of Miller’s grim’n'gritty Dark Knight Returns without any sense of social commentary and in this respect, Waid stood out amongst his contemporaries and countrymen.
But Waid is no stranger to casting the eye inward. Kingdom Come and Empire, his bleakest superhero works, peel away the idealized superhero realms he so often delves in, exploring evil with the same vigor he explores good. Irredeemable then, is a sister series to these darker dreams, the story of a hero-turned-heel. From the first issue, which arguably is a might thin on story, I would surmise the tale will be about the “why”, the “what would it take”, looking at a superman who has gone rogue, and seemingly all are powerless to stop him.
There’s not a lot yet to discuss about the plot of Irredeemable, what is presented is hardly enough to understand the direction Waid is going, nor from what perspective we’re viewing things. My initial impression of the series honestly reminded me of Moore’s Miracleman, with Waid’s Plutonian seeming more like the power-tripping, twisted Kid Miracleman than the altruistic, world-dominating hero.
Waid is joined by Peter Krause, the fantastic artist from Jerry Ordway’s Power of Shazam! series in the 1990’s who has produced little for comics in the intervening years. I recognized his work immediately and am amazed at how tight his skills have remained. With a style not too dissimilar to Ordway, with a touch of Dave Gibbons, Krause isn’t a flashy artist, but an incredibly talented one who is perfect for the superhero genre. If Waid wanted to establish this turned-upside-down world of superheroes within a classic, bright-tights feel, he’s found the right artist to go along with it.
Though Waid’s track record isn’t perfect, he’s a rarely-fail creator, which is why he’s one of the few actual brands in this industry. Irredeemable isn’t a unique set-up, but there’s little doubt that Waid has an angle here worth keeping an eye on.