By: Mark Waid (writer), Marcio Takara (art), Nolan Woodard (colors), Ed Dukeshire (letters) & Matt Gagnon (editor)

The Story: With Plutonian kidnapped by aliens (from the pages of Irredeemable), does Max Damage have a reason to be good anymore?

What’s Good: There is a lot of good character work in this issue.  The town of Coalville is having an impromptu street party as the news of Plutonian’s downfall sweeps the world.  Anna decides to go have a good time and be a party girl.  Alanah has guilt issues to deal with.  Armdale has his sobriety challenged.  And….everyone wonders if Max will still have a purpose now that Plutonian has been kidnapped by aliens.

Just to set the stage, Max was one of the world’s A-list villains and supposedly the only dude who could go toe-to-toe with Plutonian.  Yet, he was so horrified by the wanton destruction when Plutonian went evil and started destroying entire cities of normal folks that he turned good.  While his stated goal was to do something about Plutonian, the comic has never felt like it was headed in that direction if only because there was no confrontation between the two.  Plutonian wasn’t that hard to find, so if Waid had wanted that conflict to happen it would have been easy to engineer it.

What I like is that Max is truly born again hard (as the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket would have said).  He is a hero now and demonstrates that by taking down some 2-bit bad guy he spots in the crowd.  But what is really cool is that the Paradigm (the JLA-like heroes from Irredeemable) makes an appearance right at the end.  It is a bit of a SPOILER, but by having the Paradigm (esp. Survivor) attack Max, you can see that Waid wants to continue to play with this concept of what it means to be good.  Can Max’s past atrocities be forgiven because he has been good for the past few weeks?  Is Survivor doing a noble thing by trying to force Max to pay for his past crimes or should he allow a new hero to help out since much of the world has been destroyed by the Plutonian?

The whole thing reminds me of the Trial of Magneto back in Uncanny X-Men #200.  But, it really is something that superhero comics should explore more often.  Why is Wolverine never held to account for all the times he’s gone nuts and killed people?  What about Daredevil’s actions in Shadowland?  By going down this path, Waid is continuing to keep his stories unique in the superhero genre and that is smart because Marvel/DC already produce MORE than enough “standard” superhero fare.

The art is perfectly fine.  I’m not going to rave about it and say that it is the greatest thing ever, because it isn’t.  But I also never lingered over a panel and thought how screwed-up someone’s face looked or how awful the backgrounds were.  That in itself is actually a compliment.  If art can’t be awesome (and Boom seems to not like their artists to be too experimental), sometimes it is good to just “not be noticed” as you’re reading the story.  Takara has a very good handle on his storytelling and I hope he keeps it up.

What’s Not So Good: Well, it’s kinda a boring issue right until the end.  That’s going to happen when you have a title like Incorruptible that is telling an ongoing narrative (vs. 6 issues written for a trade paperback).  You need transitional issues and that’s what this is.  I understand it, but it still isn’t exciting.

I’m also wondering where Jailbait is.  She’s been gone for a number of issues and I’m curious as to whether she has been banned from the series (for the implied pedophilia) or whether Waid just had a plan to remove her from the story for a while.

Conclusion: There’s nothing really “wrong” with this issue as long as you understand its transitional nature.  So, it’s not the most exciting.  That happens in drama.  Next issue should really kick ass and I do love the story even though I really can’t give this single issue too high of a grade.

Grade: C

-Dean Stell