Part of the appeal of “Incognito” is its simplicity; a former super-villain enters the Witness Protection Program, given drugs to suppress his powers, and hidden among a populous who have no idea that super-powers even exist. When the super-villain suddenly regains his powers, it seems like the answer to his prayers, but that’s when everything begins to go hideously wrong.
From that standpoint alone, “Incognito” is an elegant comic. Ed Brubaker sets up the situation perfectly, as Zack tries to wiggle his way out of being blackmailed. You can just see things about to shift from bad to worse on the horizon, even as new characters begin to appear and upset the delicate balance that was already eroding at the start of the issue. It’s a classic downward spiral, and Brubaker plays it out perfectly in this story of the dark and ugly side of super-powers.
What really stands out for me, though, is watching Zack try and find solutions for his problems. His struggles with Farmer are funny, don’t get me wrong, but there’s more to it than just the problem of someone knowing Zack’s secret. Zack’s dilemma of how to get rid of Farmer is fascinating to read, because it starts to unfold and grow from, “How do I hide the body?” into something more. Zack’s moment of clarity on how to handle the problem grows from something much smaller at the start of the issue, and it says a lot about the kind of guy that he’s become when forced to survive for some time without his super-powers.
Sean Phillips’ art, just like on past books such as “Sleeper” and “Criminal,” brings Brubaker’s script to life beautifully. There’s a pleasant roughness to his art that helps set the tone for the dark and dirty scripts that Brubaker writes. From the stubbled face of Zack looking like he’s tolerating a bad situation in his opening scene while Farmer drunkenly laughs in the background, to Zack’s worried and pensive expression while walking through the parking lot, Phillips just nails every scene perfectly. Val Staples’ colors work excellently with Phillips’s art, too; the idea of using deep reds, yellows, and purples may sound strange on the surface for a grim take on super-powers, but Staples’ instincts hit the mark perfectly.
In a perfect world, people who pick up “Incognito” will go on to buy “Criminal” as well, and vice versa. “Incognito” is a wonderfully sharp comic, just like “Criminal” which they’ve put on hold as to create this. Trust me (and everyone else who’s been saying great things about them), this is so worth your time.