Boom Studios! recently announced that a movie adaptation of its 2009 comic book series Irredeemable is in the works. The Harder They Fall director Jeymes Samuel will helm the film, working from a screenplay by Soul’s Kemp Powers which will also cover Irredeemable’s spin-off, Incorruptible.
Superhero fans unfamiliar with Irredeemable will no doubt be eager to learn more before the movie arrives – but where should they start? Why, with this handy primer, of course! It covers everything you need to know about Irredeemable and Incorruptible – including the two series’ shared plot and characters, and the recommended reading order for both – before the live-action version debuts on Netflix.
What is Irredeemable about?
Irredeemable was written by Mark Waid and drawn by Peter Krause, Diego Barreto, and Eduardo Barreto. Its basic premise is simple: What if Superman went bad? Of course, superheroes abusing their earth-shattering powers isn’t exactly the most original concept to grace comics or the screen – heck, Amazon Studios’ adaptation of The Boys is mining a similar storytelling vein to good effect already.
But what sets Irredeemable apart from other deconstructionist takes on the genre is how Waid and his collaborators chart the downfall of its central figure, the Plutonian, into villainy. You don’t go from the greatest hero in the world to a mass-murdering monster overnight, and Irredeemable excels at bringing depth and nuance to the Plutonian’s heel turn.
Then there’s Incorruptible, which was also written by Waid, with art by Haracio Domingues, Marcio Takara, Damian Couceiro, and Jean Diaz. This spin-off series follows the efforts of reformed supervillain Max Damage to transform himself into a hero capable of defeating the Plutonian. Max’s character arc serves as a deliberate counterpoint to that of the Plutonian, and the characters’ intertwined stories slowly build to a climactic showdown between them.
Who are the main characters in Irredeemable?
As you’d expect from a single story spread across two comic book series, Irredeemable and Incorruptible collectively boast a huge cast of characters. Key characters across this overlapping roster include:
- The Plutonian: one of the most powerful beings on the planet, the Plutonian was once Earth’s foremost champion of justice, until he snapped and used his god-like powers to obliterate his hometown, Sky City. Things only got worse from there, with the Plutonian slaughtering many of his former crimefighting allies and even plunging Singapore to the bottom of the sea after the nation’s representatives unwittingly insulted him! Before he transformed into a supervillain, The Plutonian’s everyman secret identity was Dan Anderson. As Anderson, he dated one of his news station co-workers Alana Patel, while as the Plutonian, he had a brief fling with his superhero colleague Bette Noir. The Plutonian’s powers include flight, invulnerability, super strength, super speed, enhanced senses and more – and later expand to include other, more powerful abilities, too!
- Max Damage: Max boasts superhuman strength and durability, however, these gifts come with a cost. Not only do Max’s abilities increase the less he sleeps, but they also rob him of his sense of taste, smell and touch the more powerful they become. These unpleasant side-effects initially made Max bitter at a world filled with people who take physical sensations (not to mention afternoon naps) for granted. He soon became one of the world’s most dangerous supervillains, going head-to-head with The Plutonian on several occasions. All that changed after Max witnessed his archenemy’s transition from invincible good guy to unstoppable bad guy, though. In that moment, Max committed himself to becoming the hero the world needs, and one of humanity’s greatest threats now stands poised to become its greatest hope of survival.
- Qubit: A super genius, Qubit is a former teammate of the Plutonian from when the fallen hero was still with supergroup the Paradigm. Qubit takes a level-headed, logic-obsessed approach to costumed adventuring, although he also favours non-lethal methods – which extends to his refusal to kill the Plutonian. He is unshakable in his belief that his former ally can be redeemed, although Qubit’s colleagues have made it clear they don’t share his optimism. Aside from his considerable brain power, Qubit can also create highly advanced technology out of nearby machinery using only his mind.
- Jailbait: Max Damage’s underage girlfriend, Jailbait soon finds herself single after the newly-reformed Max ends their illegal relationship. Undeterred, Jailbait declines to leave her ex-boyfriend’s side. She also refuses to renounce her lawbreaking ways and does her best to convince Max to abandon his redemptive journey, too.
- Bette Noir: a master markswoman whose superpower-enhanced bullets can level entire buildings, Bette Noir fought alongside the Plutonian as part of the Paradigm. The pair also had a brief sexual relationship at one point, and because of this, the Plutonian maintains an unhealthy fixation on Bette Noir. The newly-minted baddie’s affections aren’t reciprocated any longer, though, and Bette Noir – perhaps more than any other member of the Paradigm – is committed to bringing the Plutonian down by any means necessary.
- Louis Armadale: a police lieutenant who reluctantly joins forces with Max Damage after becoming convinced that the former supervillain’s apparent attempts to reform are for real.
What comics should I read before the Irredeemable movie comes out?
Unlike other superhero adaptations, the reading list for Netflix’s Irredeemable is downright simple. All you need to read to get the full story are the full runs of Irredeemable (natch) and Incorruptible. You can pick both series up in their original single-issue format or, if you want to keep things more manageable, you can invest in the collected editions, instead.
Boom Studios! has collected Irredeemable as 10 softcover volumes, while Incorruptible is spread out across a further seven trades. Where things do get a little tricky is when it comes to working out what order to read the volumes in – a by-product of the two series’ interconnected narrative. For my money, the best reading order is the one compiled by the folks over at Reading Orders which I’ve recreated in condensed form below:
- Irredeemable Vol. 1
- Irredeemable Vol. 2
- Irredeemable Vol. 3
- Irredeemable Vol. 4
- Incorruptible Vol. 1
- Incorruptible Vol. 2
- Incorruptible Vol. 3
- Irredeemable Vol. 5
- Incorruptible Vol. 4
- Irredeemable Vol. 6
- Incorruptible Vol. 5
- Irredeemable Vol. 7
- Incorruptible Vol. 6
- Irredeemable Vol. 8
- Irredeemable Vol. 9
- Incorruptible Vol. 7
- Irredeemable Vol. 10
Alternatively, you could make things even simpler by buying the Irredeemable and Incorruptible omnibus editions. If you go with these two tomes, I’d recommend using Reading Orders’ more detailed series outline to determine when you should switch between volumes as you read.