Despite the fact heads are incinerated, buildings explode, and fight club becomes something even nastier, this issue is a cerebral exploration of the true center of our lead character. This sequel series to the smash hit “Incognito” might not be anywhere near as good as the original, but this issue is pound-for-pound one of the best from Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips/Val Staples. This is a dark study of who Zack Overkill is and what he truly wants, or at least can expect, in this world.
If you take this issue on its own, as a standalone comic of one month, it is brilliant. Strange, then, that it doesn’t work necessarily as well as a penultimate issue. That’s partially because what has come before barely feels like prologue. Once we finish this series, it won’t feel like enough happened but that shouldn’t taint the masterful quality of this instalment.
Overkill just wants to get to the end of this whole mess. While the good guys clean up his villain massacre on the courthouse steps, he’s off in a Frank Miller inspired sequence of gritty noir that shows Overkill the bad guys took it too far. A “Sin City”-esque leap takes Overkill to ‘Frank’s’, a bar where the leather clad rapist from “Daredevil” #173 wrestles with himself, Selina Kyle tends bar and serves Marv’s drink, and the basement fight club is a cyber-enhanced version of the kids in “300”.
Is Overkill’s reaction to this violent and oppressively depressing scene a statement on the grim and gritty phenomena, perhaps, or more likely it’s just the creators showing that Overkill is not a man who fits into that over the top genre. He’s still grounded, or at least wants to be. This isn’t a moment that defines comics but rather it defines this character. There is good inside him he can no longer ignore.
The final sequence is not only kind of scary while being exhilaratingly, fun but it’s a perfect example of what Phillips-Staples are capable of when they put their mind to it. Overkill is on a bad trip and the panels warp off the page while the colors pop and dazzle in a way that makes the scene look like fun but drip with the same dread as Joe Dante’s “The Twilight Zone Movie” sequence with the cartoon-mad kid. It’s visceral and deadly and makes the final pages play out with a different vibe than if played straight.
There is so much to enjoy in this issue that you should read it more than once. Phillips gets plenty to play with and Staples knows exactly how to make one focus of a panel pop with hypervibrancy while leaving everything else a darker and more shadowy tone. Brubaker paints his lead man across a violent landscape and no matter how much Overkill wants a peaceful resolution he will never find one. As he looks around the burning factory office, a location reminiscent of the place in which he hid for so long, he mutters that it is a waste of time. He’s right, living low isn’t the answer, violence will be his only resolution. He might not like it but he’s certainly accepted it.