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Patterns of Patterning: David Takes a Look at Irredeemable #1 (With Capsule Comments on Other Stuff From This Week)

David Uzumeri

In Grant Morrison’s afterword to Irredeemable #1, he discusses an email exchange he had with the book’s writer Mark Waid regarding patterning, or the practice of essentially permanently categorizing and cubbyholing a person’s potential and MO. Morrison goes on to relate this to himself being “patterned” as a factory of insane gobbledygook – and while that’s an opinion of him that may be held by many, I’d hardly call it a complete majority, so I was surprised at how defensively that came off – and of Waid being “patterned” as a dude who writes Silver Age throwback stories, which, well, is pretty true. A lot of people don’t remember Empire.

And it’s difficult not to compare Irredeemable with its seeming spiritual predecessor – they’re both stories where Mark Waid, Biggest Superman Fan Alive, writes about really nasty people doing shitty things to each other, so some people seem to initially view it as a sort of novelty thing, like Avenue Q or that YouTube video with Bert & Ernie performing M.O.P.’s “Ante Up” – hey, Mark Waid’s writing about bad people! Empire succeeded creatively, though, because it relied on more than shock value – Waid’s a superb character writer, and all of his skills in that arena were on full display. So it’s disappointing that Irredeemable #1 seems to sidestep the issue of character entirely so that Mark Waid can try to break his pattern.

I’m not saying it’s a bad comic, not by any means, but the Plutonian (the I’m-sick-of-being-called-of-a-fag-so-fuck-you-guys spiteful, homicidal Superman analogue that drives the action of the book) isn’t really a character yet, he’s a just a guy flying around blowing shit up while people panic – something which takes up a decent chunk of the issue’s bulk. It’s a lot of shock and sadism, and it’s certainly well-executed (and, I must admit, not overly gory or fetishistic in any way – credit to artist Peter Krause on the opening sequence especially), but throughout the issue we’re only teased with a glimmer of the “why” for all this. It’s certainly Waid breaking out of his pattern, but a part of me wonders if it isn’t going too far in the other direction – if it’s trying so hard to be mean that it loses sight of that human element that marks the best of Waid’s work. Or maybe I’m just patterning the guy.

Peter Krause does a great job with the art – it reminds me a lot of Steve Epting in Captain America, except with a far more varied and vibrant color palette courtesy of Andrew Dalhouse, just the right mix of mythological iconography and creepy stalker faces for a book that’s all about perverting the supposedly incorruptible.

None of this is to say that it isn’t a Good comic – it is, and I’m fairly confident that my complaints about the book’s lack of a human hook won’t last long, since this is an ongoing series and I doubt he’ll stay away from that for long. I think it’s going to make for a really good ongoing series, and I’m incredibly happy Waid’s finally in the position where he can give himself a canvas like this. But taken as a hermetically sealed first issue, I’m still going to be buying the second issue more on my trust in Mark Waid as a creator than in me being hooked into the story so far.

Also, if you ever wanted to see what a two-page four-star verbal blowjob was like, Grant Morrison’s afterword sure is something.

On to some other stuff – it’s a shame Geoff Johns’s run on Justice Society of America is ending with such a whimper, since the first few issues of this run were superb and really seemed to be showing a ton of promise, but the endless droning of the Kingdom Come storyline killed so much momentum that I can really see why Johns chose to leave the book. It just doesn’t have as much energy as his other work, and has that same plodding, co-written feeling that his late issues of Teen Titans did, where the car was just running out of gas. I think next month’s Eaglesham-drawn Stargirl spotlight will probably be a winner, but other than that this issue and run overall have been fairly disappointing. Okay.

In terms of superhero fun, I’m really enjoying the “Messiah War” storyline crossing over between Cable and X-Force – this week’s Cable #13 is the second part, sort of rearranging all the pieces of the stuff I remember loving as a kid (Cable! Deadpool being funny! Wolverine slicing shit up! Archangel flying! Stryfe’s awesome blade armor! Copious time travel!) into a story that actually has some degree of forethought and coherence, unlike the flying-by-the-seat-of-the-pants plotting of the Liefeld/Nicieza/Lobdell stuff I inexplicably loved as a kid. I really wish Olivetti would draw his own backgrounds instead of using 3D models and Quake II screenshots, but Duane Swierczynski writes quite a Good comic here.

Lastly, I’ve got to admit I’ve really turned around on Daniel Way recently – I thought a lot of his early Wolverine: Origins work was fairly awful, horribly paced stuff, so I’m really surprised by how much I’m enjoying not only that book these days (the focus provided by Dark Reign certainly helps, though) but also his Deadpool, which pushes out its eighth issue this week, the third part of the “Magnum Opus” crossover with Andy Diggle’s Thunderbolts. It’s a fun madcamp romp more than any sort of high art to be sure, but for God’s sake the story is titled “Magnum Opus” in full self-awareness, and as a superhero comedy that manages to stay within the bounds of seriousness I can pretty much say that I laughed a lot and was genuinely surprised by a number of the plot turns, so that’s a pretty Good comic to me.

I’ve also got quite a lot to say about the first issues of Flash: Rebirth and Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye, one in review form and one in a sort of annotation-esque form (I’m not sure yet), but I owe some love to my homies at Funnybook Babylon so make sure to keep an eye out there for those and other great articles.

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