Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Incorruptible by Mark Waid and Jean Diaz

Way back in February I wrote about Mark Waid's Irredeemable, a twist on the classic Superman-style superhero comic where the pristine, nigh-indestructible good guy (called The Plutonian) finally gets fed up with the world and unleashes all of his pent up demons upon it. Irredeemable is an object lesson in the old adage, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely," and it works because of its willingness to pervert our notions of good and evil.

While Incorruptible continues as a monthly series (and a nice back library of collected trade paperbacks) Waid has added another title and storyline to the mix with Incorruptible. Occurring at the same time and same continuity as Irredeemable, Incorruptible tells the story of Max Damage (where does he get these character names?) another indestructible, super-strong character who has devoted his life to debauchery, crime and a general maladjusted sense of self. At least, Max DID live a life of crime, until The Plutonian nutted up and destroyed an entire city. Max disappears following the disaster, only to return a significantly changed man - no more illicit sex (with his underaged sidekick, no less), drugs or crime of any kind. In most respects, Max undergoes a religious transformation, minus the religion (Waid may eventually take the series in this direction, but don't look for it in the first collected trade). He returns, in essence, as a super powered monk.

Never one to let a character off the hook easily, Waid challenges Max's transformation over and over again with multiple temptations. Turning good, it seems, has as many negative implications as suddenly becoming evil, and there are few, if any, who accept or believe in Max as a newly-incarnated super-savior. Thus, this new series allows Waid to further explore the odd, often unstable line between what we consider good and bad, right and wrong, and our own willingness to accept change in others.

It's not a perfect series, and in many ways it is inferior to Irredeemable - most notably because it all but requires that you have read the other series - but it is intriguing to see Waid play out a "Saul of Tarsus"-like conversion in a landscape filled with comic book conventions. Can we accept that someone so bad can suddenly embrace goodness? If we can't, what does that say about us?

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