Fantastic Four 285 (December 1985)


Holy shit. I thought Byrne was going to do some kind of responsible story about a kid lighting himself on fire to be like the Human Torch but he does not. There’s certainly an element of that story in this issue, but there’s no responsibility. Byrne turns it into A Christmas Carol (but with only one ghost and the Beyonder being that ghost) and instead tells the reader since the kid was lonely and read Fantastic Four comic books and all, lighting himself on fire at the ripe old age of thirteen and dying is thumbs up.

I mean, I get what Byrne’s trying to say, the Torch isn’t responsible, but the way he magics away Johnny’s guilt and feelings of responsibility? Wow. It’s incredible.

It’s so incredible, it kind of has to be read to be believed. Along with Byrne’s awful artwork. Is the man incapable of drawing faces?


Hero; writer and penciller, John Byrne; inker, Al Gordon; colorist, Glynis Oliver; letterer, John Workman; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Robocop vs. the Terminator 2 (October 1992)


This issue is definitely better. There’s very little of the future warrior woman’s narration and a lot of Robocop versus Terminator action. Miller’s sense of humor even works a little–even if he overwrites–with the ED-209s being, basically, Robocop’s obedient lapdogs.

His exposition here is still terrible, laughable really. But he comes up with some really effective moments, rather cinematic (it’s a shame his Robocop 2 script wasn’t as good as his Robocop vs. the Terminator script). Even with the stupid flying through the internet (on dial-up) scene with Robocop and his squeeze (from Robocop 3, natch), it’s a decent job. Robocop isn’t overly humanized, for example.

Unfortunately, Miller does give the Terminators thoughts and it’s real stupid. He individualizes them, instead of treating them more as a hive mind. Cameron wisely never went into how the Terminators thought in terms of society–Miller comes off idiotic.


Writer, Frank Miller; artist, Walt Simonson; colorist, Rachelle Monashe; letterer, John Workman; editor, Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Robocop 4 (June 1990)


Grant runs a subplot throughout this entire issue–riots caused by poisoned soda pop–just to fill in time and to give a sense of time progressing. It’s a technique way too nice for a Robocop comic, especially one featuring a fight between Robocop, a cyborg gorilla (what did I just read with a cyborg gorilla–B.P.R.D.: 1946) and a cybernetically enhanced fight promoter. Yes, I really did say cybernetically enhanced fight promoter (Grant gives him noirish narration, but whatever).

Again, the weak point of the comic is Grant’s Robocop characterization. He’s unstoppable in mind, just not unstoppable in body, so at least there’s some chance of danger for him, but the infinite mental resolve is… well, I can’t decide if it’s annoying or lame.

Grant’s making him too perfect, without the slightest tinge of regret over being stuck in his cyborg body.

Still, it’s readable for discerning Robocop aficionados.


Dead Man’s Dreams; writer, Alan Grant; penciller, Lee Sullivan; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Steve White; letterer, Richard Starkings; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Incognito 6 (August 2009)


Doesn’t Nick Fury want his flying car back?

Incognito ends with an abbreviated fight scene (if only Brubaker and Phillips had abbreviated the one in the third issue, when everything started to go bad) and no real resolution to any of the subplots. In fact, it introduces some kind of romance between protagonist Zach Overkill and Zoe Zeppelin. Tension. Romantic tension with the woman who thinks torturing helpless people is okay. And Overkill’s supposed to be a good guy now.

If Brubaker had run twelve issues with this one, he might be able to pull off this ending, with Overkill headed into the bright sky of an anti-hero crime fighting future or something, but he only ran six and he wasted three and a half of those with loose narrative.

There are some decent moments throughout, but some weak ones (the office girl slapping Overkill’s cheap).

A major disappointment.


Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Val Staples; publisher, Icon Comics.

Incognito 5 (July 2009)


Wow, did Mark Waid read Incognito before starting Incorruptible or what? I think Brubaker ought to say something–the underage girl villain sidekick is just too much.

That pithy opening, unfortunately, is the most enthusiasm I can get with this one. I could really care less at this point, so when Brubaker turns in an issue like this one, which reads like a summary of a real comic book, what’s the point in getting upset?

Whatever Brubaker had going on with Incognito for the first two issues is long gone here. He’s lost any sense of his protagonist–still well-written narration though, just not enough of it–as he skips from character to character. I think he’s going for memorable names and appearances just because he knows his writing isn’t establishing them on any other level.

It’s a weak series and it could have been strong; very, very disappointing.


Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Val Staples; publisher, Icon Comics.

Incognito 4 (June 2009)


Ok, so for whatever reason, I thought Zoe Zeppelin was black (or half-black) and so I was going to do another Tom Strong reference (since Zeppelin’s dad was the one who started the whole science-hero thing in the Incognito universe) and maybe even point out back in the good old (pre-Marvel exclusive) days, Brubaker did a Tom Strong story. I think I’ve decided his pre-Marvel days were his best. He’s really just not putting out the same level of stuff at Marvel.

This issue is another poorly paced, fast read. It’s a setup issue following a setup issue. It’s like Brubaker doesn’t want to have to do his rising action, he just wants to do some action scenes.

The superheroes in Incognito, by the way, are real shits, which he doesn’t explore here, unfortunately.

I’m just reading to get through at this point.

Great art, though.


Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Val Staples; publisher, Icon Comics.

Incognito 3 (April 2009)


I’ve read Incognito before so I know it eventually falls apart. I just didn’t remember where it started crumbling. Apparently, it’s this issue.

Instead of his delicately paced narrative, here Brubaker dedicates the majority of the issue to a superpowered fight scene in a mall. Then he brings in Zoe Zeppelin, a superhero (with a name straight out of Tom Strong, though I’m sure he got Zoe from Zoe Bell, who stars in his worthless motion picture writing debut, Angel of Death), for the cliffhanger. There’s about a page of setup for that cliffhanger, by the way; Zeppelin’s only mentioned in passing the previous issue.

There’s still a lot good about the issue. Brubaker’s first person narration for the protagonist is still rock solid (I think Brubaker’s only ever faltered on the first person narration once, on Criminal‘s first arc) and Phillips doing superhero fight scenes is real cool.



Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Val Staples; publisher, Icon Comics.

Incognito 2 (February 2009)


The way Brubaker weaves his plot and subplots (he uses a modified Levitz Paradigm) is beautiful. There’s so much nuance to it, little things being introduced, percolating gradually then rapidly (this issue introduces a Plot C and heats it to a Plot A, all while keeping other subplots cooking steadily). Brubaker’s “independent” work is so much nicer than his current mainstream output; he doesn’t have time to do his fourteen issue story arcs with only a Plot A and a Plot B (which is why I stopped reading his Daredevil, for example).

However. And there’s a serious however to Incognito. While the protagonist is some kind of cool, hip supervillain, all of the other ones seem like they are out of Tom Strong, like Brubaker didn’t just lift the science-hero and science-villain terminology from it, he took the somewhat goofy bad guys.

And they don’t fit in Incognito.


Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Val Staples; publisher, Icon Comics.

Incognito 1 (December 2008)

Am I supposed to think Tom Strong when I read the term science-villains? Brubaker’s take on a “realistic” superhuman villain is nice–well, he does have to do the whole history of this universe thing, which gets tiresome since every new superhero book has to get it established–because it’s not a metaphor for anything. His protagonist in Incognito isn’t a Superman stand-in or a Batman stand-in (or whatever the villainous equivalents would be), it’s just some guy and Brubaker’s telling a story about him.

There’s not a lot of superpowers on display here, instead Brubaker concentrates on a first act. Phillips, of course, does beautiful work, and his static action shots do well. But he captures the mediocrity of “normal” life so well, it’s like too much action would ruin it.

It occurs to me–Incognito is like a well-written Wanted. Intelligent instead of idiotic.


Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Val Staples; publisher, Icon Comics.

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