Incognito is bad-ass. Just face it.

I finally got around to finishing Incognito, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. It's not that it was slow going, or even remotely boring. The main problem was that I couldn't ever get my hands on the single issues before the trade paperback came out. I think I own 1-4, but it took me most of a year to get even those. Even at Meltdown LA, which probably sells more comics than 95% of comic shops in America, that title generally sold out within hours of being stocked.

Man, was it worth the wait, though. The combination of these two rare talents succeeds once again in creating a new perception of superheroes and villains that never relies on clichés or stupid genre tropes. Brubaker's rich character development elevates the superhero comic to a place that many may think is not possible. By focusing on crazy things like motivation, internal conflict, and the duality of man, he breathes life into a world that is generally so stale and boring.

And Phillips adds amazing emotion and understanding to the panels. By using a more impressionistic art style, influenced more by Noir film than Stan Lee, he manages the difficult task of leaving something to the imagination. The character on the page stays vague somehow, rough, despite being visually exceptional. I don't know what their process is like, but there is a reason that Phillips and Brubaker sell comics on their names alone. They consistently create comics that elevate the medium.

Incognito takes place in a near future where the government has taken steps to eliminate the presence of superheroes, both good and bad. Those that cannot be reformed are forced into maximum security prisons, while those that they feel can be reintegrated into society are put on power-draining drugs and forced into menial positions, such as the protagonist's gig as a file clerk.

Although we may have seen this in well-known projects such as Watchmen and even The Incredibles, it is done with such nuance and creativity, with such a different vibe, that it almost seems unrecognizable. By focusing on character instead of the constant obsession with action sequences, the story feels full and rich, and the characters seem very real.

As we follow the story of the Overkill Brothers, we quickly fall completely into a new world of drug use, failure, despair, longing, vengeance, where the only disappointment is that it eventually ends.

Although I definitely have enjoyed the Criminal series by this fantastic pairing of artist and illustrator, Incognito is the first series I've read that is as satisfying as Sleeper, which, in my opinion, is one of the best comics I've read.