Cool Things: Insufferable

Imagine, just for a moment, that there was a man driven to fight crime. Although he has no special powers he still dons a cape and dark clothing, goes out every night and pummels injustice. In time he takes a grieving boy under his wing and they fight crime together. Sounds familiar, right?

Except this caped crusader isn’t Batman, he’s called Nocturnus. And his crime fighting companion isn’t an orphaned boy who takes the name Robin, it’s Nocturnus’ son and he takes the name Galahad. And he’s not exactly easy to get along with. In fact, Galahad and Nocturnus eventually split ways when Galahad unexpectedly reveals his identity in front of the press and things get ugly. Galahad becomes a grandstanding, glory mongering ingrate more concerned with building his own image than actually fighting the good fight. Nocturnus continues to do things his own way, working on his own once again, until someone finds just the right button to push in order to get the two of them to work together again.

When the urns each man keeps containing ashes of the woman who was wife to one and mother to the other mysteriously explode leaving the message “help me” behind differences will be set aside to find the culprit. While neither man ever seems to indulge the idea that a ghost could be at work they both know there are people out there who wish them harm and both loved the woman who’s remains have been desecrated. So, like it or not, Nocturnus and Galahad are together once again.

Insufferable is a variation on themes for author Mark Waid. He’s looked at what it means to be a hero in many of his previous works, contrasting modern notions of the antihero and the protagonist with the heroic archetypes more common in the early days of comic books. He did this in his DC Elseworld series Kingdom Come and then again in longer form with the twin series Irredeemable and Incorruptible. However, where those books were concerned with notions like accountability, justice vs. revenge and the dangers of power Insufferable is all about humility.

Simply put, Nocturnus has it and Galahad doesn’t.

The fact that neither man has traditional “superpowers” and must rely on his wits and training to solve problems really lets the difference in attitude shine through. While Nocturnus is verging on obsolescence – he’s not as strong or fast as he used to be and he doesn’t get the electronic side of crime fighting at all – he still outperforms his son almost every time because he’s willing to listen, ask for assistance when he needs it and always takes people seriously, be they friends or enemies. Galahad gets technology and uses Twitter to help collect tips but he gets too caught up in himself and his image to stay on top of what’s happening in the real world and he abuses those around him to the point that very few of his staff can stand to help him out when he really needs it.

And this series is funny. Galahad’s the only one in the series that seems to lack a sense of humor, or if he has one it falls so flat as to be effectively invisible, but better yet the comic seems to be aware of it’s own absurdities and revels in them. There’s a piranha tank sequence for crying out loud – you only do those for laughs these days. Most of the humor hangs on the characters themselves, particularly the weird relationship between Nocturnus, Galahad and Meg, Galahad’s assistant and the only person who can tolerate him for any length of time. This well written, character based humor is timeless and will appeal to most everyone, except for all the real Galahads out there, and it’s one of the things that has always set Waid’s writing above most of his peers in the industry.

If you like your comics to be serious, well written examinations of human nature without being self-important handled then Insufferable might be right up your alley. You can read it as part of the subscription portion of Waid’s publishing website, Thrillbent.com, or you can buy it off of that same website. Either one will give you a great story although the comic is formatted for the website reader and the PDF layouts are a bit wonky.

But seriously, layout wonkiness is the one thing against it I can think of. Check this thing out, it’s well worth the price.

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