by Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (art), and Val Staples (colors)

The Story: The S.O.S. has finally caught on to Zack’s night-time activities as our “hero” finds himself trapped in an unenviable situation.

What’s Good: Showing, not telling.  This phrase has haunted more or less every creative writing hopeful at one point or another, but in this issue, Ed Brubaker proves his mastery of the well-worn adage. Rather than have Zack tell us how his psyche is developing through textboxes, Brubaker uses his scenes and images to make these internal shifts all the more significant.

Two notable occurrences in this issue are the surprise office memorial for Farmer and the encounter with Amanda directly afterwards.  The former is a scene that shows Zack on the cusp of acknowledging an inexplicable positive in humanity and the “average Joe” he has so derided, yet due to letting the scene speak for itself, the reader almost seems more aware of this moment than Zack himself.  Meanwhile, the scene with Amanda plays up the feeling of paranoia that pervades this comic, making the reader actually share Zack’s anxiety right alongside him.

This is just a further nuance to the great writing that has continually propped up this series.  Paranoia is the game in this issue, and Brubaker plays it well.  Enhancing this is a further graying of the “good-guy/bad-guy” divide; not only is Zack hazy, but so too are the S.O.S., who turn out to be a far cry from SHIELD.

The character that sees the most development this issue is without a doubt Ava Destruction.  On the few pages that she appears in, she is utterly infectious.  Despite being terrifyingly insane and completely homicidal, she carries an undeniable charm and likeability.  The fact that we will be getting even more of her next issue has me excited.

Art-wise, Sean Phillips fans no what to expect.  The same dark, heavy pulp fare continues in this issue with no sign of slippage.  Phillips is nothing if not consistent.

What’s Not So Good: I didn’t feel that the internal monologue/textboxes were up the standard set by previous issues.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re still fantastic and were this any other comic, I would be enthralled; it’s only due to the unbelievably high bar that the series has set for itself that I find myself writing this.

I think a good part of it comes from what I mentioned about “showing, not telling.”  Due to Brubaker allowing the scenes to tell Zack’s emotions rather than the textboxes, the internal monologue becomes much more event-centered.  You don’t get the sort of overarching ruminating that you got in past issues.  It’s just feels simpler and more down to earth, with Zack more focused on his predicament than on the nature of his existence.

Also, I’ve always had a bit of a pet peeve for misleading covers.  Know that nothing close to a super powered battle between Zack Overkill and Zoe Zeppelin occurs in these pages.

Conclusion: Incognito remains an example of one of the top writers in comics today doing what he does best with complete freedom.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans