Comics Review: Insufferable

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Years ago, Nocturnus and his young son Galahad were a crimebusting team. But when Galahad got older and struck out on his own, Nocturnus was faced with the question “What happens when your sidekick grows up to be an arrogant celebrity douchebag?” Now they can’t stand each other – but someone has found the one way to reunite them for one last case… in hopes they’ll kill each other before it’s solved!

InsufferableTitle: Insufferable: The Complete Season One
Author: Mark Waid
Artist: Peter Krause
Colourist: Nolan Woodard
Genre: Comics, Superhero, Dramedy
Publisher: Thrillbent
Pages: 558 pages (digital comic format)
Copy Origin: Purchased from Comixology

I bought Insufferable when Comixology had it on sale, but didn’t get around to reading it due to technical issues (the app would let me download any comic in my library except Insufferable. Grr.). I knew very little about it, but hey, modern superhero story about a falling out between father and son and I really wanted to read more by Mark Waid (I’d read Superman: Birthright as part of Gender Through Comic Books and really enjoyed it), so I snapped it right up.

Later I’d learn you could read it on the website for free. Oh, well. It was worth it.

Whether you’re an old comics fan or new to the medium (or somewhere in between) there’s plenty here to recognise. The dynamic is naturally that made famous by Batman and Robin, only if instead of Dick Grayson heading off to become Discowing Nightwing, after a fight he revealed his secret identity in front of the media and went on to independent heroing fueled by celebrity. And then there’s the added problem of them being (biological) father and son and how that affects the dynamic between Nocturnus and Galahad.

It’s very easy to see what archetypes all the characters have been taken from – the dark brooding hero, the brighter and lighter young sidekick, the cop, the, uh, dead mother – they all stand out independently of characters who came before them, commanding their space on the page and carving out their own identity. They’re all three dimensional, full of things to love and hate (and frankly, you will switch between multiple emotions… and often just find them plain insufferable frustrating).

While there is a lot in Insufferable that is very classic superhero comic, it is a very modern take on it. Modern celebrity is a major theme of the book – how it aids and hinders the modern hero, for example – and the comic really shows well how the way a hero or celebrity is viewed can turn in an instant. The use of Twitter is a genius touch, both as an in-universe tool by Galahad (I will give him this: the way he recognises the fanbase’s desire to help their hero is a very useful tool is genius) and a meta-tool showing us how the events are being perceived outside the main circle.

One of the great strengths of Insufferable is how well it (like titles such as Batman ’66) uses the digital medium. There are often “slide panels” where the base is the same but dialogue, colours and more change over that base. It shows movement in smaller time periods and different views of the same scene, which Waid utilizes to amazing effect in his scripting and Peter Krause in bringing that to life.

Insufferable - Panels One and TwoAs you can see, it’s a little thing but it adds a lot.

Peter Krause’s art is absolutely fantastic and on point all the way through the book. Each character is readily identifiable and has their own little quirks that makes them really stand out. It’s smooth and full of detail right from the very start, great on both the action and the emotion. And Nolan Woodard’s colouring is the perfect complement to the art and story, the beautiful greens and purples in particular making just wonderful to look at.

Unfortunately, there are a few things that I did not like about the book. While the murder mystery is interesting and has me hanging on, it’s once again a comics story driven by the death of a woman. Although in Insufferable it is written with respect and honest emotion, it’s still an unfortunately overused trope, so much so that even the “good examples” feel a little tainted. (Maybe one day we can get a father-daughter, mother-son or even mother-daughter combination in a story like this.) In addition, there is the repeated use of a certain word (a portmanteau of “celebrity” and the R Word) that I just wish did not happen – especially since it’s from an external narrative voice (the recap section) rather than coming from a character within the story.

All in all, I highly recommend Insufferable to both new comic readers and old fan of the medium alike. You can read it for free on the Thrillbent.com website, name your price on the site or purchase the complete first season on Comixology.

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