This issue sees Max trying to stop a white supremacist’s super weapon from taking out Max’s home city of Coalville. The public thinks Max is still a villain, he’s got a drunken, delusional teen sidekick named Headcase, and he’s pretty much public enemy number one. And how’s this for a high-concept superpower: the longer Max goes without sleep, the tougher he gets. This issue might not be the best display of all the moral underpinnings that are hinted at in the book’s summary—it contains a lot of wrap-up, after all—but it’s still solid superhero work. What I’m saying is, this isn’t a jumping-on point, but it is the kind of chapter that makes you want to go back and pick up the beginning of the arc.
At this point, Max seems like he’s somewhat reformed, if not a little ruthless. If I’m picking up where Waid is going with the plot, it seems like Max’s problem at this point is convincing the world that he’s changed for the good. He’s really only got three(ish) people in his corner, including the appropriately-named Headcase, Lt. Armdale with the Coalville P.D., and Alana Patel, the former girlfriend of the Plutonian, recently rescued by Max. It’s a remix of old elements: taking the hero, moving him off the board, reconsidering why the villain is the villain, and what makes either side especially different and worthy of the public trust. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it deconstruction, but it’s at least an evaluation of what makes the capes and tights stuff work. What I’m curious about at this point is how the types of threats are different now for a reformed villain vs. your everyday superhero? I wonder if this is the kind of thing being addressed in other issues of the series.
Art for this issue is handled by Marcio Takara, who does draw a mean, white supremacist-driven, atomic-powered death machine. He renders Max as the square-jawed brawny-type: with that type of physique, the character would have had to become either a hero or an actor. He does provide a great deal of variety to the supporting cast and background characters, which is always welcome. Colorist Nolan Woodard gives Coalville a sort of pastel hue. In fact, I don’t recall seeing any primary colors throughout the book—that’s not a complaint, mind you, just an observation. It does cut down on the grittiness, moving it out of the realm of grim “real-life” superhero fiction and into somewhere a little closer to mainstream comics that we’re all familiar with—even if the premise is a few miles away from traditional comics.
Check out a preview of Incorruptible #12