This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Incoruptible
Last wek we looked at Irredeemable, Mark Waid’s exploration of Superman snapping and going from the world’s greatest hero to its most despised villain. That series ran for just shy of 40 issues, and also spawned a spin-off series called Incorruptible that asks the same question but in reverse; what if the world’s greatest villain became its greatest hero?
After seeing the atrocities commited by Waid’s Superman analogue the Plutonian, Max Damage decides that somebody has to stop the rampaging villain – somebody has to give the world hope. And so he sets about becoming everything he isn’t in order to try and save the world, much to the confusion and annoyance of his former gang.
But Max Damage doesn’t have a moral compass; he sees the world in a strange black and white, and so his idea of heroism is to, literally, do the exact opposite of what he once did. He destroys all his ill-gotten gains, rather than anonymously donating it to a charity or those in need (or even returning the stuff), and takes down his old gang.
The switch from villain to hero is so abrupt that when he arrives on scene to help police with a situation, their reaction is pure terror, even when assured that Damage is no longer a villain. Much like the series it span out of, there’s some dark humour on display here as Waid gives us a psychological study of a damaged person trying to atone for their mistakes without actually understanding why what they did was wrong.
As a person who deeply enjoys redemption stories, this is one of the more enjoyable ones I’ve read. Max Damage’s journey from villain to hero is as amusing as it is fascinating; he never quite understands what makes a man a hero or a villain, leading to the question of if an evil man does good things, does that mean they’re not actually evil?
Max Damage’s power set itself is also interesting; the more sleep deprived he gets, the more invulnerable and strong he becomes, which leads to its own set of problems as he realizes just how much the Plutonian was pulling his punches in their earlier encounters, and has to find a solution to the power imbalance if he’s ever to go head to head with his enemy.
Between both Irredeemable and Incorruptible Waid has a great deconstruction of the nature of heroism and villainy that holds up nearly a decade after it debuted. If I’m honest, I prefer the spin-off series, but you can’t really enjoy one without the other; they’re each a side of the same coin, and reading them both concurrently enhances each series more than you would initially expect.
As a series, this is very much loved by many, but it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. That’s why it’s Underrated.
Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.