There are a lot of things to love about “Incognito,” Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s take on a super-villain going into the Witness Protection Program. The basic idea behind the comic is great, of course. The art is beautiful. But in the penultimate issue, it struck me that not only are we getting a pretty fast-paced run to the finish, but with each issue we’ve gotten a larger glimpse into the world of “Incognito.” Quite frankly, it’s good enough that I wouldn’t say no to more.
It’s a smart tactic if you think about it. Brubaker started small, focusing mostly on Zack and his own personal story. Once we got to know him, though, the story began to expand. We started meeting other villains that existed in the world of “Incognito,” and how they all interact with one another. From there, it was only a matter of time until heroes began to show their faces, too. And last but not least, origins and the history of powers themselves. In other words, it’s a well-thought out world building process, with Brubaker easing us into every step of the journey.
Because Brubaker parceled all of this information out in pieces, though, it means there’s still a lot of room for that fast-paced plot I mentioned earlier. And, oh, what a plot it is. It’s not often that I am almost at the end of a mini-series and I genuinely have no idea how it’s going to end, but that’s the case with “Incognito.” There are twists and turns left and right, but they never feel out of place or hard to swallow. Best of all, Brubaker’s had me build up a lot of affection for Zack and all of his bad decisions along the way. He’s not someone I’d ever want to hang out with or even meet, but as a protagonist he’s fascinating to read about.
Of course, Phillips’s crisp art looks as good as ever. Matched with Val Staples’ colors, it’s beautiful. Looking at panels like the blue-and-red tinged scenes of Zoe, you can practically see her shove her arm back towards the policemen as she walks away angrily, her character popping off the page towards the reader’s eyes. Everything here just looks great, from old houses to abandoned lairs, and Phillips makes it all just feel right.
“Incognito” seemed at first like a brief lark between arcs of “Criminal,” but the reality is clearly anything but. This is a great project in its own right, and another fine addition to the Brubaker/Phillips/Staples library. If you’ve been reading “Criminal” but decided to pass on “Incognito” because you liked their pulp noir stories, give “Criminal” a shot and you’ll see it’s just as excellent as their other book. And of course, if you’ve been reading “Incognito” and loving it, make sure to check out “Criminal.” Haven’t read either? Hurry up and fix that. You’ve got some great comics ahead of you. “Incognito” is a fantastic comic, period.