That seems to be the pitch of writer Mark Waid and Peter Krause’s Irredeemable #1 (Boom Studios). The title apparently refers to the actions of the flying, invulnerable, heat vision-having Superman stand-in The Plutonian, but it could just as easily apply to the comic itself.
At $3.99 for just 22 decompressed, not-even-enough-to-go-on pages and bearing three different covers, Irredeemable is, as a package, a distillation of pretty much everything wrong with comics.
The story inside is full of so many clichés that I can’t even properly source where I’ve seen many of them before, as I’ve seen them in so many places (Miracle Man, The Sentry, Superboy-Prime, Hyperion, The Authority, Invincible, The American Spirit, a half-dozen of DC’s own Elseworlds stories…).
We open with The Plutonian—who is blonde and shoots orange eyebeams, so as to let us know that he’s not actually Superman—attacking the home of a superhero and his family, ultimately skeletonizing them all. Including a baby. (Ha ha, Geoff Johns! Waid beat you to that punch!).
After the tense opening scene, we jump to a panel that says “One Week Later,” even though it’s actually a flashback to years earlier, in which The Plutonian saves a ball field from a nuclear robot, and meets the Justice League stand-ins (Waid does a less lazy route and eschews stocking the team with a speedster, a woman warrior, an alien, a water-based hero, choosing more original superhero types. Unlike a lot of analogue-based comics, one can’t assign each and every one to a DC or Marvel forebear).
Back in the present, we learn that The Plutonian’s then allies are now all on the run from him, and are plotting to get him before he gets them. Then he shows up and they run away, and he sneers “Perfect” while a “Continued…” appears below that last panel.
Perhaps there’s a lot more going on with the story—there must be—but as for characterizations or motivations or even a solid premise, none of that’s here. Maybe Waid will get to it in #2 or #3, but he just asked for $4 for this, why would anyone want to give him $4 to $8 more to decide if they want to read the damn comic or not?
Perhaps because Grant Morrison vouches for it. The book contains a two-page afterword by Morrison, whose name appears just as big as Waid or artist Peter Krause’s on the cover/s (if not bigger than).
“It’s a simple, elegant and terrifying concept and better yet, it’s in the hands of someone who knows exactly how to make the most of it,” Morrison writes, along with another half-page or so of effusive praise. It sounds like Morrison and I read a different comic, and, in fact, I think we did—Morrison seems to have read at least the first few issues, where all I’ve got to go on is these 22 pages, and there’s nothing in them that I haven’t seen in dozens of other evil and/or crazy Superman stories over the past twenty-some years.
The Morrison afterword is, by the way, perhaps the most annoying piece of writing I’ve ever seen from Morrison. It starts out discussing an article that he and Waid discussed, about the phenomenon of “patterning,” in which people make up their mind about a person and then, no matter what that particular person may do to the contrary, the person in question will always be seen according to the pattern.
For Morrison, this means he’s stuck with being “the madcap purveyor of free-form gibberish” and “incomprehensible.” He is regarded as such, perhaps because he’s written some actual free-form gibberish and some incomprehensible stuff, but anyone who’s actually read more than a few of his comics knows he’s a lot more than that.
For Waid, well, here’s how Morrison puts it:
For some reason, towards the end of the last decade, Mark Waid was saddled with an inexplicable reputation as the Sterling Sentinel of Silver Age Nostalgia comics. Curiously misrepresented as defender of Kenney-era values, the exemplar of the devoted fan-turned-pro, Waid became the go-to geek as the vogue in funnybooks turned briefly to unironically old-fashioned, Julius Schwartz-style sci-fi dad fests.
Why, wherever did this miscategorization of the writer responsible for 1998’s 12-part series about the Silver Age Justice League, and for co-writing its 1999 six-part semi-sequel and for spearheading a 2000 suite of stories about the Silver Age which was fucking named The Silver Age come from?
How dare fans think of the writer of a bunch of high profile, best-selling, well-regarded comics set in The Silver Age as someone into Silver Age Nostalgia comics! (And that’s not mentioning Waid’s runs on The Flash and Fantastic Four ongoings, the two most quintessential comics of the Silver Age, or his most popular work, Kingdom Come, which Morrison calls a “state-of-the-art farewell to the old guard.” Morrison obviously read Kingdom Come differently than I did, because I thought of it as a rebuke of 1980’s superhero deconstruction and early ‘90s industry excess and the reassertion of the Silver Age icons of Ross and Waid’s childhood. Silly me).
The point is that Waid argued against the patterning theory, pointing to Elvis as an example, but Morrison remained unconvinced until he read Irredeemable (which I think weakens Morrison argument that Waid has always defied categorization, if Morrison himself can point to a point at which Waid obliterates the category he was trapped in, but whatever).
Before getting to that though, Morrison shares his and Waid’s distaste for the Internet which, okay, fair enough, the Internet is an awful, awful place, but fuck man, what do you expect? It’s basically a pornography delivery system that has some beneficial side benefits, like instantaneous worldwide communication.
Here’s Morrison again:
Those…conversations developed out of a brief discussion on the corrosive effects of relentless Internet criticism on human self-esteem. Waid had jokingly referred to the Internet as the “Zone-O-Phone” and it seemed to me a chillingly-apt comparison. The Zone-O-hone was Superman’s window onto the Phantom Zone,
Oh hey, a comparison of an everyday fact of life for modern human beings to an obscure gadget from Silver Age Superman comics! God it’s unfair how the Silver Age haunts Waid!
A twilight world of bodiless murderers, serial killers, war criminals and madmen, where the greatest criminals of the planet Krypton endured permanent exile in a disembodied hell. The Zone-O-Phone was Superman’s hot line to a jeering crowd of phantoms with nothing better to do than to insult, taunt and threaten the Man of Steel for all eternity.
If Morrison were joking, that’s actually a pretty amusing way to describe the Internet…at least the first part of it. But he sure seems serious, and he’s complained in recent interviews about being bullied by the Internet, and the Us vs. Them, Waid and Morrison vs. The Internet conflict he sets up is pretty irritating.
Morrison’s a smart guy. He reads New Scientist. He’s written some of the most brilliant superhero comics anyone’s ever written, as well as some damn good not-superhero comics. But Jesus, does he not realize that the Internet is comics at this point? Ninety-five percent of all comics criticism occurs online, and ninety-nine percent of the good comics criticism occurs there.
Where would Morrison and Waid—and you know, all comics professionals everywhere—be right now without all those jeering phantoms? Are two-sentence reviews of All-Star Superman in Entertainment Weekly and whatever Wizard magazine can think to say about it (they do still publish Wizard, right?) really all he needs to promote the singles until a collection rolls out two years later and then maybe a half-dozen newspapers write reviews of it? Are comics conventions and word-of-mouth in the comics shops all it would take to get people to give a shit about Final Crisis?
Good God, the direct market is—no offense, direct market—a withering, anemic husk trembling under the shadow of a constant existential threat, something so fragile that three or four shortsighted, stupid and/or greedy decisions by the folks that run two goddam companies could end it.
Sure, Morrison’s popular enough that he could quit the direct market and try to get a deal for original graphic novels from a book-book publisher instead of cashing checks for working on Superman, Batman and X-Men comics and rely on non-electronic media to interview him, annotate him and argue over whether he’s a genius or an obtuse hack, but come the fuck on man, who reads newspapers and magazines any more? Who will read them in five years?
Anyway, what was I reviewing here? (Of course, if this were an article in a print publication, my editor would have kept me on topic, and certainly not allowed me to spend twice as long arguing with an afterword then I spent on actually reviewing the comic it followed. But then, if this were a print publication, they wouldn’t want to run an article about Irredeemable #1 at all).
Irredeemable #1 is an over-priced mediocre, unoriginal comic book completely lacking in anything you haven’t seen before which just so happens to be written by a pretty great super-comic writer. It features pretty decent artwork and a depressing woe-are-us afterword by a guy who makes one of the smartest writers in superheroes look like a complete putz.
It might still turn out to be a pretty great superhero comic, I suppose, but anyone who doesn’t wait for the trade on this is a sucker. And/or wealthy.