Review: X – Vol. 1: Big Bad

If revenge is a dish best served cold, X is the head chef at a five-star restaurant.  This masked vigilante patrols the decaying and corrupt streets of Arcadia-a city where crime is king and harbors a real sense of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’  Let’s just say X isn’t trying to join them.  Money talks in this city, and the only other way to get by is taking things by yourself.  The way X operates is this: if you do something he doesn’t find to his liking or are involved in illegal activities he knows about, you get one slash which you’ll find promptly in the mail (he puts a red slash over a photograph of you).  Now you’ve entered the underworld and you’re on X’s radar.  If you screw up again, X will find you.  And he will kill you. This trade collects the #0 issue, which collects his appearances in Dark Horse Presents, and then through issue #4.  The #0 issue really wastes no time in giving us a glimpse into the dismal, bleak world of Arcadia and those who control it.  It also shows us what X is capable of-one of the guys he ends up killing he turns into sausage links… this is not only as disgusting as it sounds, but it also serves a metaphorical purpose.  The guys he’s tracking down are referred to as ‘pigs,’ and their physical features are drawn so they resemble pigs.  I found this very clever and almost served as a comedic relief if you have a funny bone for dark comedy.

The only other main character that spans over these issues is Leigh Ferguson, an unemployed blogger who’s trying to expose the underbelly of Arcadia for what it really is.  Since X took down one of her associates, it was only a matter of time until they met.  All of her ‘muckraking’ seems to have made her bite off a bit more than she can chew.  Will she become someone X can trust, or will she become marked by this psychotic do-gooder?

X vol. 1 CoverI loved the art throughout this trade-I took a look through some of the first series’ issues of X, and I think Eric Nguyen’s art style is similar to the original book.  That said, it has a more updated feel that I think it really needed.  He makes it so that Arcadia is a believable place.  For example, when an original member of Arcadia named Mr. Lanzetti is walking his dog, the dog smells something in a warehouse near the docks.  When they open the door, they get to see a bit of X’s handiwork.  This scares Lanzetti so bad that he packs his bag and skips town.  The fact that an old man like him who thought he’d die in Arcadia because it was his home was that spooked by what he saw means that Arcadia is even more distraught than he thought.  He doesn’t hold back on the violent parts in the slightest-from a nailbomb killing to a crowbar through the face, you see it all.  The coloring brings all of this carnage and deadbeat town to life.  I think the writing is very strong as well, and this volume read like a breeze.  I’ve been following this series issue by issue, but this reading experience made the non-stop, go-for-the-throat style story that much more exciting by being able to read a chunk of issues at once.

The only negative thing I can say about this book is the lack of character development.  I can give X a pass because we don’t know a ton about him yet… although it was very interesting he seems to know some of these bad guys on a personal level.  He’s also obviously reserved and doesn’t say much at all.  But I didn’t necessarily feel connected to any of the characters.  It would have been nice to see a human side to some of the pigs in order to feel sympathy for X killing them.  After a while it just seems like he’s killing for no reason rather than killing for a purpose.  It would have been nice, too, to see a human side to X so we can empathize with him.  I also wish we knew more about X’s past and Leigh’s past other than her job.  I think this pairing will prove to be interesting moving forward as Leigh can help X since she’s been exploiting the bad side of Arcadia through her journalism for a while now.  Overall, if you don’t overthink this series and just enjoy the brutal and bloody ride like I have, you’ll most likely enjoy your stay in Arcadia.

Score: 4/5

Writer: Duane Swierczynski Artist: Eric Nguyen Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $14.99 Release Date: 1/15/14