Incognito #6

Story by
Art by
Sean Phillips
Colors by
Val Staples
Letters by
Sean Phillips
Cover by
Marvel Comics

The truth is revealed about the origin of Zack Overkill in "Incognito" #6, setting up promised future stories in an interesting and unexpected way. The expanded 32-page finale has Zack confront who he is and what he wants, reconciling his past and his recent crime-fighting activities, causing him to wonder "Is he really a bad guy?" Wisely, Ed Brubaker leaves that question hanging, focusing on the journey to him asking it instead.

Zack's unknown 'brother,' Yuri has been tasked with ruining Zack's name even further by not just robbing a bank but by also making a bloodbath out of the endeavor. However, things go from very bad to somehow worse when Yuri deviates from the plan set out by the Black Death's men and attacks City Hall as well. Meanwhile, Zack and Ava Destruction are being held by Doctor Lester who looks ready to do some very horrible mad scientist things to them. It's a classic situation for a protagonist to be in, but Brubaker and Sean Phillips give it a fresh angle through their storytelling.

Phillips, as always, is masterful here. His use of light and shadow mixes with his facial expressions to lend characters a weight of reality that most comics lack. While these people may be in fantastic, unreal situations, Phillips's depictions of them always reminds us that they are people, which makes Brubaker's characterizations work that much more. This is a brighter issue than most of Phillips's recent work, but that gives him a chance to alter his compositions and show that he doesn't just work in the shadows, he can draw, well, anything anywhere anytime. The man is just that damn good.

Brubaker's writing here is more reminiscent of his "Captain America" work than "Criminal" despite the story's pulp roots and his partnership with Phillips. That's not a bad thing by any means, but it has seemed to have thrown some readers of "Incognito" since they expected something more in line with "Criminal." This issue features extended fight scenes that focus on hand-to-hand combat, which is the natural conclusion to this story, and both Brubaker and Phillips pull them off very well.

The progression of Zack Overkill from the first issue until the final page of this issue is a subtle one that's happened in degrees, much of it beyond what the reader could see directly. The end point isn't unexpected, but it's also very satisfying because it suits the character so well. On the way, there are lots of small moments that further establish this world and its people as viable for future stories. My favorite moment is Ava's revelation of why she chose Zack's brother Xander over him -- it's funny, sad, and perfect.

While Brubaker and Phillips are returning to "Criminal" next, "Incognito" #6 sets up future stories very well and puts Zack in an interesting place for them. It's hard to say where the two will take these characters next, but, based on this opening story, wherever that is, count me in.

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