Incognito: Bad Influences #1 - Untitled - Brubaker & Phillips
Story - When there's a new Brubaker/Phillips comic on the shelves, it's an event. It doesn't matter whether it's Criminal or Incognito or Sleeper or Little Lulu, this creative team is one of the most fertile and exciting in comics, and has been for the last 7 years. When it comes to these two, you expect quality.
And the first chapter of Incognito: Bad Influences certainly doesn't skimp on the quality, this is top-notch stuff, and I already can't wait for the next instalment.
Incognito has always been superheroes at their darkest, at their most noir, it's so dark that it's almost not even superheroes. Brubaker is playing a lot here with notions of heroism, and in the world of Incognito, the line between good and bad is a very murky one. Zack Overkill may now be working for 'Good Guys', but he sees very little difference between his work for S.O.S. and what he did before as a 'villain' with the Black Death. Zack Himself has remained largely unchanged by his switch of allegiances, he is still filled to the brim with disdain for non-powered people, and he hates his secret identity, it seems that regardless which side he is on, his life still sucks. These parallels with the first series are interesting, but Zack's neverending pessimism, and frankly, his whining, do serve to make him quite an unlikeable protagonist. But that's just one of the things that sets Incognito apart.
The murky line between good and evil theme continues with Zack's new mission, to go after an S.O.S. Agent who went undercover in an Evil Organisation and went native. Yes there are shades of Sleeper here, with allegiance upon allegiance being played opposite eachother, but obviously Brubaker knows the similarities, seeing as he wrote both stories, and I'm willing to bet things will go in quite a different direction.
Another aspect of Incognito I love that gets a good outing here is the fact that it's rooted in the world of the old Pulp magazines, and full of nods and homages to them. This is played somewhat for laughs with characters like 'GI Gorilla' and 'The Nuclear Nazis', but we also get a more detailed exploration of what the Shadow-analogue Lazarus was actually like, and we see the correlation between the Pulp world, and the present world, in the story of Ignatius Beekman. I love the sort of secret, hidden world Brubaker has built into this story, mainly teased through subtle hints in the first story, and then expanded upon in Jess Nevins' fake articles. Now thankfully it seems that Bru will be exploring the Pulpy past more in Bad Influences, and that can only be a good thing. Noir is all about the past catching up with you, and unfortunately for Zack, what's catching up with him are things he didn't even do!
Incognito is plain and simple, just good comics, so reader may gripe that we're getting this instead of Criminal, but to me, a Brubaker/Phillips joint is the same quality regardless of genre, and rest assured, this is quality.
Art - It seems kind of silly to do these as separate sections, because there's such a strong relationship between Ed Brubaker's words and Sean Phillips' pencils, it's hard to really get one without the other. It's the perfect fit for this kind of story, and we even get some nudity!
Best Line - 'Only thing we're sure of is you're not a clone', not the most snappy of lines, but it really threw me for a loop, what the hell is Zack if he's not a clone?