Does it matter that this issue costs only 99 cents? Maybe. But this isn't a cost/benefit analysis type of review. This would be a four star comic even at the normal $3.99 price. Still, at less than a buck, you probably can't go wrong in checking out "Irredeemable" this month.
I'm sure you already know that "Irredeemable" is Mark Waid's take on the anti-Superman, or the Superman gone bad. This is a twisted version of the DC Universe in which all those "adorable" tricks Clark Kent played on Lois Lane to protect his identity have come back to haunt him. This Superman -- the Plutonian -- finally revealed his true identity to the Lois analogue and instead of throwing herself in his arms and agreeing to marry him (which is kind of what happened in the real DCU), she freaks out and rightly calls him a manipulative monster. He hasn't taken rejection well.
The fun of this series is seeing how far Mark Waid will go -- how the Plutonian will use the powers of a Silver Age Superman to commit atrocities. There's no chance for redemption here. This isn't about a Superman character going all Parallax on the world and then learning that some alien infection has driven him mad and all will be forgiven in the end. No, this is about the most powerful being on Earth -- a god, practically -- terrorizing the planet, and a few remaining superhumans banding together to stop him.
This band of superhumans haven't been particularly effective so far. This isn't the Justice League all-stars teaming up to stop Darkseid. This is, as best, Justice League Detroit. And they don't seem to stand much of a chance against the Plutonian.
Waid introduces a Black Lightning analogue in issue #5 -- a guy called Volt who is very much in on the joke that he's yet another black man with electrical powers. He's also constantly in the position of adding a bit of jive to his speech, because people expect the "Sweet Fudgin' Monkey Lover!" kind of exclamations from him before he heads back to his "hood." It's an easy thing to parody about the depiction of African American superheroes, but because Volt is so knowing and likeable about the role he grudgingly plays, it works well.
And just in case we forgot how evil the Plutonian is, Waid gives us an opening scene in this issue as the Plutonian commandeers the air waves and answers "viewer mail." Responding to complaints he's heard from around the world with his super-hearing, the Plutonian calls individuals out in his broadcast, and instills more than a little terror into their hearts by letting them know that he hears, and sees, everything. And he preys on people's paranoia by pointing out that he still maintains a secret, human, identity. And he could be anyone. "I know what you're thinking," the Plutonian says, "that at least at this moment, I can't be standing next to you. There is that. But I should add one thing. This has been a pre-recorded message." Peter Krause provides a suitably chilling close up on the deranged hero as the Plutonian adds, "Sleep tight."
Like DC's "The Mighty," this is a comic that plays with our knowledge of Superman. Unlike "The Mighty" (which is also a very good comic, and one that I reviewed this week as well), "Irredeemable" is about a Superman the whole world knows is a maniac. And there's nothing they can do to stop him. Not yet. Maybe not ever. And Mark Waid seems to be reveling in the evil. If he had a fancy moustache, he'd no doubt be twisting it as he writes this comic. And I mean that as a compliment.