When I saw that Duane Swierczynski and Eric Nguyen were teaming up to bring back “X”, I was excited and interested to find out how they were going to update and modernize this character after almost a decade off the shelves. The issue is brutal, uncompromising, and violent and it hits on all cylinders which was both good and bad for me.
As far as introductory zero issues go, they do a great job of showing exactly what “X” is all about, and it’s a ruthlessly efficient, simplistic formula; If you do something bad enough and you get a photo of yourself in the mail with an “X” across your face, you know that “X” is coming for you.
The story is really well executed and fast paced. In this issue, we see “X” take on and take out three hulking, vile crime bosses in the fictional city of Arcadia. I couldn’t help feeling these three were variations of the Kingpin from Marvel Comics and they’re sort of flat, one dimensional characters that do a lot of tough talking with each other and their respective henchmen, but then do a lot of begging later on when “X” arrives for them individually. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since the point of the issue is to introduce “X” and not spend a lot of time on guys that are going to be dead by the end of the issue. As the series progresses, we’ll likely see more about who the villains are and the ins and outs of what they’re all about so it’s not just so much mindless slaughter.
There are a few humorous moments contrasted against some moments of high drama and terror for the bad guys. I was most interested when we hear “X” and some of his internal monologues about his tactics and I hope that’s a trend for the series. To me it was the most interesting part. I hope we also see some modernization of “X” and his methods. Using good old snail mail worked back then, but now seems outdated. Sending out pictures to people’s phones might come off a little more high tech and actually more intimidating to reach them in such a personal way. An envelope in the mail just doesn’t seem to measure up to that.
I’ve been a fan of Eric Nguyen’s art, and in many ways he doesn’t disappoint here. There is some really compelling storytelling going on in his art and he moves both perspective and layouts around in a clear, meaningful ways. There are little details that stand out in nearly every panel along with very subtle bits of artistic flourish that make him a great artist. However, the subject matter and content of what he draws in this issue left a little to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against violence in comics. I’m a big boy. I’m ok with gore and blood and limbs and heads being chopped off and guys being turned into hamburger by machine gun fire. It’s just in this case it’s just page after page and it’s so prominent and in your face that, to me, it loses its effectiveness after a while. It stops being shocking and outrageous and effective and it causes me to skip ahead to the next scene instead of taking in all the gory details.
Taken as a whole, it’s an interesting start to what potentially could be a great character with methods and tactics that provide a solid counter point to Batman’s non-lethal tactics. If it’s a revenge tale, it will be interesting to learn what started it. It will still have an audience if it never dives into these deeper, headier issues, but hopefully it will and if it does, I’ll follow.
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artists: Eric Nguyen
Colorist: Michelle Madsen
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: 4/10/13