Incognito Bad Influences #1
After “waiting in the wings" for 2 years, this reviewer gets a chance to jump into this world of madcap pulp? Was the first impression enough to call this comic a winner?
Depending on the Entertainment medium, each era is defined by works that transcend all other elements to be revered as true classics. It is at that point, each work is judged mostly on its merits, and other factors become less and less relevant. Whether the work did well at the Box Office/Store Front/Newsstand/Book Store probably Is probably the least important factor as to what becomes a classic when put against this standard. Other factors like relevance, message, “originality” and overall quality take center stage in the discussion. For some, it is usually when “Justice” is served in the entertainment medium, which is not always fair to the best works, when they are released, no matter the medium. The overall fate of the book reviewed is still being decided, but one piece of work that is considered one of the front runners for becoming a Graphic Novel Classic, is the Ed Brubaker Written Series “Incognito”
As someone who didn’t jump on the initial bandwagon, I decided to do some research on the title in question before I wrote my review, so I could better understand the overall storyline that I was going to be right in the middle of. It also gives me some knowledge to give a short background on the series for those who haven’t been following this series, as well. In the world of “Incognito” the pulp Super Hero and Villains have existed since the early 19th Century, and have become a fixture in society. The story we are told follows one of these pulp “icons” in former Villain Zack Overkill, who is trying to reform from his past. In exchange for turning in his former Science Syndicate “The Black Death”, he is put into the Witness Protection Program, which proves to be unsuccessful, as his former employers hunt him down. In an effort to protect himself, Zack joins the SOS agency which is in charge of Superhuman Regulation, which brings us to where we are today with Bad Influences #1. With such a reputation behind it, I came into the book with expectations of fulfilling its hype, something that his book does in spades.
When it comes to Ed Brubaker, I have no misgivings in saying he is my favorite Comic Book writer working today. His work on Captain America has been one of the reasons why I’m still reading Super Hero Comic Books, and despite some missteps (Another hearty F*ck You to Marvel Corporate for Mandating that Steve Rogers come back “5 years too early”), it has been one of the most consistent books on the stands for my money. To my surprise (though I shouldn’t be shocked), Incognito Bad Influences is probably my favorite thing I’ve read of his this year, despite not reading the first series. From the beginning, we are dropped into a story where we not only get an extremely good look at the main character, but the world he is now in as he deals with a life geared towards redemption and the struggles that go along with it. What is more impressive still is the world that is built around the story in question, and how everything matters in its own way, especially how an old man serves as a way to uproot Zack Overkill’s life. When you sit down and take in all of the nuances of the story, it’s a joy to see how layered and well written everything is.
For someone who thinks the writing of a Comic Book is the most important ingredient to the worthiness of the overall product, I personally need reminders as to how important Art is to shaping the story we are reading, something that Sean Phillips does in an empathetic manner. From face value, the art itself doesn’t stand out, as it is not drawn in a way that is meant to instantly grab you. That isn’t to say the art isn’t good, because it’s definitely well drawn, with attention to make each character look unique, but most people would say that it couldn’t hold a candle to the drawings in Green Lantern or New Avengers. However, like the writing, the art is something that is appreciated when looked upon with a nuanced eye. From everything Brubaker has tried to create with Incognito, the art brings that vision to life, as the drawings help bring the pulp world to life, giving us an environment of wonder, but of cynical wonder as it feels like the world’s people have burned too many times by Super Powered Humans who have abused their great powers. A theme that is shown throughout the whole story, as people fear the inevitable ruination of their lives whenever one makes his or her face known by their own volition, or not.
With everything else that has been said, another thing that the creators should get praised for is how accessible this book is. It doesn’t tell you everything, but it gives you more than enough so this Issue stands on its own, and can be read without prior knowledge. In fact, I say it does such a good job, that those who are interested enough to catch up, will be compelled to do so after reading this book. The only flaw that this book has is that it seems slightly better than average on first read, and doesn’t get appreciated till one sits down, and takes a good look at what’s being presented. Despite that, Incognito Bad Influences is a great comic on its own, and an even better introduction into this world. Bad Influences #1 is a beyond worthy addition to a series that’s going to be a top contender to be named a classic.
Story ****3/4 (9.5): It’s very rare for a first issue to be rated this high in this category, but it deserves it. From first page to last, you are engaged in the story.
Art **** (8): While the art does not “WOW” at first sight, it delivers us into a World that’s had enough of Supers, which only enhances the story told
Accessibility **** (8): I was surprised at not only how well I could follow things, but how good of a first impression this was of the Incognito Universe. No one should be intimidated by starting here.
Final Judgment: ****1/2 (9 out of 10)