Review: Incorruptible #18

Max Damage tries to recruit a new mayor for the city as an army of supervillains prepares to move against him.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Mark Waid's original superhero universe at Boom! Studios sometimes seems to be overlooked by the wider comic audience. But for readers who are willing to try something new, Incorruptible and Irredeemable are some of the most solid monthly books from any company.

Irredeemable is the parent book, which follows a Superman-like being called The Plutonian, who snapped and became Earth's greatest supervillain. For Incorruptible, the story follows Max Damage, a former supervillain who took The Plutonian's fall as sign to take his place as humanity's greatest hero. And Max is completely sincere in his goal, he just doesn't know how to do it properly.

At 18 issues into the story, Max still seems to be a long way off from winning over anyone's trust, except for The Plutonian's ex-girlfriend, Alana Patel and a recovering alcoholic cop named Lt. Louis Armadale. This issue is as good as any to drop in, since Waid is kicking off a new story. Basically, Max is warily accepting aid from Hayes Bellamy, a billionaire with dubious motives. Bellamy offered to help the city rebuild its government infrastructure if Max could find an honest man to run the city as mayor. As it happens, Max knows just the guy to ask: a former prosecutor named Mike Whelan.

The issue spends a few pages on a flashback sequence to show us Max's days as a supervillain, back when Whelan was the Harvey Dent to Max's superpowered Joker. Those pages are actually some of the best of the book and it's oddly fun to see a completely different Max in action. The only problem with Max's current plan for Whelan is that he seems to have hurt someone close to his former rival. And given the statement that Whelan makes at the end, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Max really did commit one of the more heinous crimes that he's been accused off.

In a certain way, Max is a very admirable character in his current incarnation, if still somewhat naive about how he can expect people to react to his new outlook. But this new piece of info about Max might be a game changer, if he really is guilty of that crime. As a reader, it's easier to forgive Max for some of his sins because they were mostly crimes that we didn't see or hear about. Having Max come face-to-face with someone he's wronged so badly makes it more challenging to root for him as a hero. I applaud Waid's attempt to give the book a moral complexity, but I'm curious how the readers will react if the next issue confirms Max's responsibility for this latest crime.

The B-storyline with Alana is a little less successful. In a new base of operations funded by Bellamy, Alana starts digging up dirt on the billionaire even though he demonstrated that he could remotely control the facility just moments before and she ignores the possibility that he can spy on her. Naturally, when she finds what she's looking for, Bellamy pulls an old James Bond villain trick and gases the place. I'm not sure that moment was meant to be funny, but it was.

There's also another sub-plot building about an army of super-villains gathered by Bellamy to possibly take on Max Damage. Their introduction at a closed football stadium is effective when they literally take a man's head and use it as a football. But for the most part, the designs and characters felt a little pedestrian. However, I did like the name and costume for Tiger Beetle; a supervillain who once ratted out Max to Whelan by wearing a wire.

A few people have complained about the art of Marcio Takara, but personally, I like his style. There are some pages that have an unfinished look to them and I wonder if it's because Takara's pages are being colored over his pencils. His art style remind me of a mix of Bruce Timm and Mike Oeming. Takara also has some strong sequential action skills and I think it's only a matter of time before Marvel or DC swoops in and picks him up.

I don't have any major issues with the book aside from the pacing. That's also one of my major frustrations when reading the series as a whole. Sometimes, it doesn't seem like Incorruptible isn't in any hurry to get anywhere. This was an entertaining issue, but I still felt like there was something missing when it was over. I really like this book, but it might read better as a trade.