There are some individual comic book titles that for personal reasons I just can’t handle reviewing on a month-by-month basis. It isn’t that I don’t feel I have any relevant to say in the customary thirty day window; it’s just that – as a reader – I’m far more excited about seeing more detail about where this whole train is heading. In order to do the work justice, I tend to wait for a handful of issues or – better yet – a completely collected storyline to be concluded so that I can sound-off on the greater thematic nature of the piece, instead of just giving lesser blurbs as the story progresses in chunks. Occasionally, I’m able to overcome this personal deficiency, but when I’d read the first two glorious installments of Dark Horse’s rebooted X title I knew this would be one I’d have to use my best ‘wait-and-see’ approach as I didn’t want to spoil anything for myself or for those who might find my review.
Now that the first arc is available in a trade paperback format, get ready for both barrels.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
The city of Arcadia hasn’t so much fallen on to hard times: it’s crashed, burned, and is smoldering in its own ashes. Crime has picked the city clean, and what morsels of wealth and power are left only attract the vilest filth imaginable. Scum like Mr. Berkshire will strip the place clean, feeding his illicit machine so long as there are crumbs worth scavenging. However, X has returned from the city’s dark past – a masked, one-eyed crimefighter who necessarily operates outside the restrictions of the legal system – and when a muckraking cyber-reporter draws the attention of the criminal elite, the man will join forces with her in order to see a bloody reign of terror brought to a fitting end.
So far as this reviewer is concerned, X is the ultimately vigilante read. Just to be perfectly clear, Batman will always (for personal reasons) be my individual favorite monthly read – with Superman being a very close second – but when I want my fill of over-the-top, theatrical violence, I happily turn to X. He’s part Dirty Harry, part samurai, part Charles Bronson in DEATH WISH, part Snake Plissken, all wrapped up into the total badass package. He’s an unstoppable killing machine who shows up crawling out the darkness behind you when you least expect it. As frightening as he is, he’s precisely the kind of monster you’d want on your side should the chips go down.
Duane Swierczynski’s take on X might be one of the single greatest re-imaginings this forty-year-comic-book veteran has ever seen. There’s a kind of organic chemistry to all of it – one part violence plus one part redemption equals nothing but quality reading – and it’s all been concocted in such a way that one simply can’t wait for the next chapter in the man’s brutal full-frontal assault on the big city’s underworld. Arcadia might be dead, but, so long as there is breath in X, he’ll be fighting for its resurrection.
All praise aside, I have to say that I honestly didn’t much care for the appearance of a kinda/sorta sidekick to this seminal slugger. I have nothing wrong with Leigh – as a character, she’s just fine for most of the purposes she served – but I find it very hard (almost inconceivable) to believe that X would take her under his wing so easily, bringing her in so close so that she can be a yin to his yang. In X’s world, there’s no need for a reporter. But I suppose as it looks like she’s put down roots I’ll just have to see what develops. So long as it doesn’t bud into anything resembling love, I might be able to swallow that dirty pill.
X – VOLUME 1: BIG BAD is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Duane Swierczynski; the art is provided by Eric Nguyen; the colors are by michelle Madsen; with lettering done up by Richard Starkings and Comicraft. This volume collects the story previously published individually as Chapters 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. Lastly, this collection includes a handful of sketches as a postscript which shows the various versions of character profiles of those featured within the covers. This collection bears the cover price of $14.99, and, yes, that’s a bargain if this kind of gloriously gory material is your cup of tea.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. You might wanna leave your stomachs at home, kiddies, because this first volume of X’s triumphant return is likely to leave you tossin’ your cookies if hardcore blood, guts, and violence isn’t to your liking. X is the ultimate masked vigilante who’ll stop at nothing to rid what’s left of his fair city of the scum who’ve robbed it deaf, dumb, and blind. Despite being shackled with a bit of a know-it-all sidekick in this incarnation, he’s still punishing evil the way evil is best left: stone cold dead unless it’s barely breathin’.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital reading copy of X – VOLUME 1: BIG BAD by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.