IncognitoSummary: From the creators of Criminal and Sleeper comes the most insane and evil super-villain comic you’ve ever read! What if you were an ex-super villain hiding out in Witness Protection… but all you could think about were the days when the rules didn’t apply to you? Could you stand the toil of an average life after years of leaving destruction in your wake? And what if you couldn’t stand it? What would you do then? Incognito – a twisted mash-up of noir and super-heroics – by best-selling creators Ed Brubaker (The Death of Captain America) and Sean Phillips (Marvel Zombies) with Val Staples on colors. Collects Incognito #1-6.


Incognito, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips 8.25

Decidedly, I’m a fan of Ed Brubaker’s work. With ‘Incognito’, he’s convinced me that he can even make superhero comics feel fresh and vibrant. Or… ahem… supervillain comics, as is the case.

But, whereas, ‘Incorruptible‘ had an excellent concept but gaping plot holes, ‘Wanted‘ was intriguing but crude (if not juvenile), ‘Incognito’ takes a simple premise and fleshes it out marvelously:

Zack Overkill was once a high-ranking super villain. As part of the witness protection program, his powers have been sapped away and he is forced to work under a different identity as a mailroom clerk.

Oh, the glamour.

Zack can barely stand his existence. Feeling comparatively weak, ignored by women, and bored to death, he makes it through his days hanging out with a questionable office buddy and smoking  up.

However, as he experiments with various drugs, he discovers that they are actually negating the effect of the power-blocking ones. In no time flat, with power coursing through his body, he begins to roam the streets again.

But little does he know that he is no longer off the radar: his old cohorts, thinking that he was killed years ago, now realize that he had a hand in the downfall of their leader, The Black Death. They will do anything to find him and get revenge.

Zack’s situation suddenly becomes critical.

What I like about ‘Incognito’ is that it’s a superhero/villain comic that is rooted in realistic dynamics and situations. Or, as realistic as such a setting will allow, anyway. Stripped of superpowers, the characters would act the way that they do, make the choices that they make here.

Brubaker is excellent at getting us inside the head of his characters, again using internal monologues to explain our protagonist’s thought patterns and giving us a much-needed back story. It not only avoids awkward exposition but it also makes him three-dimensional.

Actually, Brubaker is great at making all his characters distinct and very real, even when they’re just secondary ones – and without internal monologues. I’m not quite sure how he does it, but I always feel like I understand what they’re about, what motivates them.

Sean Philips’ artwork is perfect imperfection, in that it lacks the polish of many of his peers’ work, but its grittiness is so perfectly suited to the material. Even though it would fail to impress on its own, combined with Brubaker’s storytelling, Phillips shines. They play off of each other remarkably well.

‘Incognito’ is a super hero comic that has action but refuses to center itself in contrived violence. What there is of it is realistic, even necessary at times, which is something I appreciate – there’s nothing I hate more than comics that are merely vehicles for grandiose fisticuffs and nothing more.

Brubaker, as per usual, penned a story that holds up from start to finish – it just so happens to have superpowered characters in it. His writing is intelligent: he fleshes out his characters, makes us understand them, but also gives us thrills galore. A book like this one shouldn’t fly under the radar.

Comic book readers should make a point to check it out.

Post scriptum: The ending leaves it wide open for a sequel (which, in fact, did get published), but it’s a perfectly satisfying ending as is – so much so, in fact, that I am loathe to read the rest of the story. I think that it’s fine as is, and would hate to see it spoiled.

What do you think?

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