Book Reviews

In Review: Incognito

IncognitoIncognito by Ed Brubaker

My rating: 3.5 of  5

I am not quite sure whether to give Incognito three or four stars, so I’ve settled on 3.5.

Incognito started slowly, which is kind of a weird thing to say because it started right in the middle of the action. You know, one of those I’m-the-main-character-and-I’m-currently-in-the-middle-of-a-fight-but-I-shouldn’t-get-ahead-of-myself-so-let-me-go-back-to-the-beginning-and-explain-how-I-got-here situations. But Brubaker spent a long time slowly unraveling the story- and there was a lot to unravel.

Overall, I loved the ideas that Brubaker played with. The main character is an ex-criminal who is a victim of whatever crazy science led to his creation. There are extra-terrestrial beings who form secret organizations-both good and bad. There are government cover-ups of superheros and super villains. That’s all very interesting.

The characters all had individual quirks, but I didn’t identify very strongly with any of them. I would have liked the series to explore the characters’ backgrounds in more depth. There’s clearly crazy stuff that happened in the past and Brubaker basically just said, “This is the way it is and you, the reader, just need to accept it.”

As for the story, I’ve certainly never read anything quite like Incognito. There were elements that I’ve seen in other places but I’ve never seen this whole package. That’s definitely a plus. However, there were so many moving parts that it took me about four full issues before I felt like I had a solid grasp of everything that was happening. Because it took me a while to catch on, it took me a while to really get invested. If I had gotten this as a monthly publication, I might have given up halfway through. There was enough happening to keep me interested, but not necessarily enough to keep me invested.

I guess Incognito pretty much just followed the same story formula as a lot of other comics. There was a lot of exposition with just enough action and character development to keep the reader interested, and then all the real action happens in the last issue when everything comes together and is wrapped up with a nice little bow. I accept that this is a tried-and-true storytelling technique but I’ll be honest, it gets stale. Actually, I’m going to stop myself from going off on a rant/tangent here. If you want a rant-gent, check out my blog for my review of The Shadow Hero.

The best thing about Incognito was the overall story and the way it’s written. As I said, there was a lot going on. You figure out enough along the way to understand what’s happening, but there are still a lot of holes in the information that Brubaker gave you. Having to figure things out as you go was part of the fun. And the ending was pretty good. I think everything came together well and all the ideas Brubaker threw into the story were pretty well realized.

The writing was good on the whole and there were some quotable moments. One quote I enjoyed was, “Half of winning any fight is luck… The other half is not hesitating when you get lucky.”

The art was also great. while not a big factor, I liked that all the panels were very square. There was no ambiguity about how to read the story and it also looked cool.

In the end, I’m still undecided how I feel about Incognito. I loved Brubaker’s ideas, but I would have liked greater exploration of the characters and their backgrounds. That might have meant a longer series and I would still have enjoyed this if it was twice as long (12 issues instead of six). While I wouldn’t give it a glowing review, I would still recommend Incognito to others based purely on Brubaker’s unique collections of ideas.

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