Insufferable by Mark Waid, Peter Krause

Insufferable is what I come to hope and expect from the modern comics/graphic novel industry: a nuanced story, interesting graphics, and very contemporary presentation (horizontal panels intended for E readers and screens). Now that the Big Two publishing houses have huge studio publicity machines backing them and many versions of their canon characters hitting all-time popularity levels, the anti-superhero is timely and popular again. With Insufferable, we have the dynamics of a relationship gone wrong (reportedly based upon the break up of two comic artists’ business relationship) – this time a father and son superhero team.

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Story: Superhero Nocturnus raised his son carefully to survive the cruelty of the superhero world. But the son wanted a father, not a teacher, and eventually a wall of emotion fatally breaks the relationship. Modern son that he is, Galahad overtly uncovers the identity of both to the public – forcing his father to desperately scramble for the shadows. But the sudden explosion of Nocturnus’ wife/Galahad’s mothers ashes – and the message that she might still be alive after all – send both into a tailspin for very different reasons. Someone is dredging up their past and divided, they may not have the strength to face it.

Although the blurbs initially describe the son as a ‘douchebag’, I honestly felt the responsibility of the relationship breakdown sat firmly on both men’s shoulders. It’s a kudo to the author for writing the story in such a way that we can understand the problems each have with the other. It’s a bog standard “son doesn’t want to follow his father’s footsteps’ story that also greatly illustrates the difference between the hyper modern world (publicity, sponsorships, the high life) and a reserved, self effacing, grounded past.

The two men’s stories are contrasted in colors – Galahad is colored in bright warms where Nocturnus is a study of muted blues and greens. Of course, Nocturnus is drawn in the costume stylings of a bygone era whereas Galahad is all about the flash and glamor – a Ray Ban ad of “Never Hide.”

The plot does take a backseat to this first volume’s story of a dysfunctional family. Villains aren’t given much time and the aggressive vs passive-aggressive grandstanding of both father and son is the focus. But a mystery is afoot as to who is targeting the two – and why. And in bringing the superheroes back together, setting up the situation for either a reconciliation or a very big implosion. I’m looking forward to either. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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