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What would happen if a superhero with powers as great as Superman’s turned criminally insane? That is the premise of Irredeemable, a comics series that was created by writer Mark Waid and artist Peter Krause for BOOM! Studios, a new comics company based in Los Angeles, that was founded in 2005. Waid became the company’s Chief Creative officer, and the first issue of Irredeemable was published in April 2009.
The series centers on Daniel Hartigan, alias the Plutonian, the greatest and most powerful superhero on Earth, whose powers include vast superstrength, invulnerability, and flight. He was the leader of the Paradigm, the superhero team that is this series’ equivalent of the Justice League. But, according to Waid, the Plutonian lacked the “emotional capability” to wield such immense power responsibly. As a child, he was adopted by a series of foster parents, each of whom ultimately rejected him out of fear of his superpowers. As an adult superhero, the Plutonian repeatedly became aware of how people feared him, and was appalled to discover through his superhuman senses the depths of evil to which some human beings could sink. When his sidekick, Samsara, discovered that the Plutonian had made a lethal error, inadvertently releasing an alien virus that killed hundreds of innocent children, the Plutonian lost his sanity.
Overwhelmed by rage at humanity, the Plutonian turned into his world’s most powerful and dangerous supervillain. He used his powers to lobotomize Samsara. He obliterated both Sky City, the city that was his home base, and the nation of Singapore, killing millions of people, thus becoming “irredeemable.” The Plutonian also began stalking and killing the world’s other superheroes, who had to find a way to stop him.
Among the members of the Paradigm was the Hornet, a non-superpowered crime fighter, who was the Plutonian’s friend and partner; their relationship parallels the one between Superman and Batman. In the first issue, the Plutonian murders the Hornet and his family, but not before the Hornet sets into motion a plan to bring about the Plutonian’s defeat.
After the Plutonian goes rogue, Mr. Qubit becomes the Paradigm’s unofficial leader. A genius, Qubit has the psionic power to mentally assemble machinery parts into any invention he can conceive. Other members of the Paradigm include Gil-gamos, a winged superhero who loses his wings in the course of the saga; his wife Bette Noir, a costumed crime fighter who is a superb markswoman (although married to Gilgamos, she had an affair with the Plutonian before he turned villain); the twin brothers Scylla and Charybdis (the latter who is later known as Survivor), who both share the energy that gives them super-strength; Kaidan, a woman with the power to summon spirits from Japanese folklore, and who discovers that she can also raise the spirits of superheroes whom the Plutonian has murdered; and Volt, an African American hero who can discharge electrical bolts, and who is killed in the series.
Max Damage, a superstrong supervillain who was an adversary of the Plutonian, turns into a superhero, renaming himself Max Daring. He became the protagonist of a spinoff series, Incorruptible, also written by Waid, which BOOM! Studios began publishing in December 2009.
In 2010 BOOM! Studios also began publishing a line of new superhero comics in collaboration with Stan Lee and his company POW! (Purveyors of Wonder) Entertainment. Kronus, the hero of Stan Lee’s The Traveler, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Chad Hardin, is a time traveler who can slow down and speed up the flow of time, and battles time-traveling assassins called the Split-Second Men. Stan Lee’s Starborn, written by Chris Robertson and drawn by Khary Randolph, centers on Benjamin Warner, an aspiring science fiction writer who learns that he is the son of the former ruler of a galactic empire. Stewart Trautmann, the protagonist of Stan Lee’s Soldier Zero, originally written by Paul Cornell and illustrated by Javier Pina, is an Afghanistan war veteran who is confined to a wheelchair, but bonds with a super-strong alien warrior to become the “shared being” Soldier Zero.
Another BOOM! superhero series is Hero Squared, created by writers J. M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen and artist Joe Abraham, about Captain Valor, who travels from his alternate Earth to the “real world.” The series debuted with a special from Atomeka Press in 2004; BOOM! began publishing Hero Squared in 2005. —PS