Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Surfing the Bleed Review - Incorruptible #1 by Mark Waid & Jean Diaz

Incorruptible is the companion title to Mark Waid's newest exploration of the superhero archetype, Irredeemable. If you're not familiar with the books, Irredeemable is Waid's exploration of what happens when a Superman-like hero finally reaches his breaking point and Incorruptible is what happens when that hero's arch-nemesis decides to "go straight" in an effort to stop him.

Incorruptible #1 is a fantastic flip side of the Irredeemable coin. While it suffers from the unfortunate failing of many first issues (it seems to go by far too quickly), it still succeeds in offering a good introduction to the characters who appear to be the central focus of the book. Chief amongst those characters is Max Damage, a villain of the worst sort who appears to be the only man alive capable of standing up to the Plutonian, Waid's villainous Superman analog, and living to tell the tale.

Damage is a character with immediate impact. From the first moment you see a supporting character react to him (a method Waid uses to great effect to quickly paint a picture of Damage's previous life) you want to know more. There is depth to this man, there are layers, more so, perhaps, than there are even to the Plutonian himself. What Waid has done with this first issue is tap into the Superman/Batman dynamic that made Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns such a successful look into the possible future of these godlike figures. While the situation is certainly different (The Plutonian is no government stooge and Max Damage is no aging hero), the core of Miller's premise is there; casting Superman as the villain responsible for the ailing state of the world and Batman as the only man on the planet capable of stopping him.

To hammer this analogy home, Waid has even given Max Damage, his flawed Batman analog, his very own underaged sidekick and grizzled police veteran to aid him in his attempt to go straight. These are no shining beacons of justice, however. Robin here is cast as Jailbait, the overtly sexual, underaged female Bonnie Clyde to Damage's Clyde Barrow. James Gordon is represented by Lieutenant Armadale, a dirty cop trying to reform. And really that's the point of Incorruptible; reform. Max Damage isn't perfect, neither are Jailbait nor Armadale, but they're trying, which is more than can be said for the Plutonian.

There is more hidden beneath the surface of Incorruptible, a surface capably rendered by artist Jean Diaz (whose style is close enough to that of Peter Krause, Iredeemable's penciler, that a very consistent world is being built), but I don't want to ruin it all for you.

If we're to judge a book by its first issue then it would appear that Incorruptible is a story well worth investing in. What Waid is doing is along the lines of Kirkman's Invincible, Moore's America's Best Comics and Busiek's Astro City. He's showing us a world full of walking gods and high adventure, a world of vast potential and deadly greed, a world full of larger than life heroes and nasty as hell villains. In short, it's all stuff we've seen before, but with Iredeemable and now with the inclusion of Incorruptible, Mark Waid has done what those creators before him also did so successfully; he's turning our pop mythology on its head and giving us a new world to explore.

So let's go exploring.

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