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

The Story: Max Damage battles the Paradigm OR No body is going to tell Hardcase what to do!

What’s Good: This is very much a transitional issue as Max Damage completes his journey from villain to anti-hero (who exists only to undo the Plutonian) to full-fledged hero who is interested in helping the common people.  One of things that bugged me at the end of last issue when the Paradigm (this comic universe’s answer to the JLA) shows up to fight Max is that over in Irredeemable, they have been granting amnesty to all sorts of nasty villains if they will only help with the global rebuilding effort (now that the Plutonian has been kidnapped by aliens).  That “inconsistency” gets resolved pretty fast in this issue and in a way that is very much in character for both Max and Cary/The Survivor (from Irredeemable).

Waid continues to make the women around Max much more interesting than Max himself.  His current sidekick Anne/Hardcase is a grade-A nutter due to losing her family and has been seeking solace in her role as Hardcase.  However, she has no powers and that makes superhero work pretty dangerous for her.  Does Max or the Paradigm have the right to tell Annie that she can’t be a hero?  Who decides who gets to be a hero?

All of this runs up to a pretty shocking end.  I don’t want to spoil it, but you’ll be caught by surprise.  You’ll be 99% sure that one thing will happen, but something very different will occur.  Can’t wait to see what happens next!

I continue to enjoy Marcio Takara’s art on this series.  Ever since he took over art duties 5-6 issues ago, it has really stabilized this series (after a LOT of artistic bouncing around in early issues).  I’d call his style: cartoony-realism.  It isn’t as cartoony as something you’d see from someone like Chris Bachalo or as realistic as someone like Steve Epting.  It is also very clean and straightforward.  Very much an example of knowing what lines are important on the page.

What’s Not So Good: This series is still searching for a mission.  First it seemed like we were building up to a Plutonian/Max Damage brawl, but that is at least on hiatus due to events in Irredeemable.  I’m sure that Waid has interesting plans for this series and its characters, but whereas Irredeemable feels like The Main Title, this feels like a sidecar.  The stakes are just never large enough to make me hugely involved in Max’s transformation from villain to hero.  It also doesn’t help that Max’s supporting cast is way more interesting than he is.  In real life, it would be easy to respect someone with the mental/emotional fortitude to just flip a switch and say, “I shall be a hero from this day forth, no matter what!”, but people like that don’t make for interesting stories.  It’s like making a movie about an alcoholic who has been sober for 30 years: admirable, but not very exciting.  Watching the alcoholic fail is more dramatic.

Once again, I light a candle for Jailbait to come back.

And, while I generally like Takara’s art, I could use a little more detail.  The long shots are a little sparse with most of the detail being added via color.  Not a huge fan of that technique.

Conclusion: This continues to be a good series.  Knowing Waid, we know that something is going to happen in Max’s journey.  I just wish I knew when that would be.

Grade: B-

– Dean Stell

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