Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Incognito" #6, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Final Issue! Feel the thrill power! As you will recall, this is the one about Zack Overkill, a supervillain who grassed up his old boss and then was put in a witness protection programme for the superpowered. Following a complicated series of events, Zack found himself on the run with Ava Destruction, the hot yet psychotic girlfriend of his late twin brother, being hunted by both the agents of the former boss (a terrifying unkillable maniac the authorities are just about managing to keep locked up) and Zoe Zeppelin, leader of the government agency that deals with superpowered crims. As expected, this features a lot of superpowered bad-asses laying into each other, providing a suitably explosive climax to what has proved a most excellent series.

One great thing with Incognito has been the essays at the back by Jess Nevins, discussing different pulp characters and themes from the early to mid-20th century. This time round he talks about the little-remembered genre of the Zeppelin pulps (an expanded version of this essay appears here. The greatest of these (and the one that spawned the genre) was Professor Zeppelin, who appeared in Complete Zeppelin Stories. The Prof was basically a knock-off of Doc Savage, except that he flew around in a zeppelin. I would love to see these stories reprinted, if only to see if the Prof's villains live up to their names. I am thinking of such astonishing characters as The Black Death, "the living disease"; Wu Fang, the Helium Mandarin; Baron Nosferatu, the Flying Vampire; Amenhotep, Simian Pharaoh of the Congo; and the most awesome of them all, the Nazi aviator Pontius Pilot – truly they do not make them like that anymore.

Brubaker-Phillips fans will be excited to hear that their ordinary bad-ass title Criminal is resuming later this year. I get the impression that Incognito has maybe done better commercially (as supers strike more of a chord with comics fans), but Criminal's noir-tinged tales of low-rent crims seems a lot closer to their hearts. On balance, I think they are producing better comics over time. The first few Criminal stories I read started well but maybe trailed off a bit. That was definitely not the case with either Incognito or "Bad Night" (the most recent Criminal story). So I urge you to climb aboard the crime-bus.

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