Most of today’s comics readers have probably never even heard of Arcadia, much less visited there graphically. X ruled the roost there – a masked vigilante who dished out an entirely uncompromising brand of street justice. There were a handful of other characters who hit the shelves – all of them new creations of Dark Horse Comics – but, alas, they never quite made an impact. Of them, X was the most interesting to me. You never quite knew who he was; you never quite learned an effective origin; and you never knew what he was going to do next in keeping criminals at bay … but, boy, those of us who watched him couldn’t look away. Violent, bloody, and determined, X hung on for 25 bruising issues, but, eventually, he vanished … only to now find his way back in business when Arcadia needs him most.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
I’m going to dispense with my usual writing theatrics by not boring you with the plot. Suffice it to say that there really isn’t much of one here, and that’s because X was never about ‘the story.’ Of course, it goes without saying that there was a bad guy – usually, he was one over-the-top nefarious dude who had it coming in more ways you could count – and, inevitably, he suffers his comeuppance at the hands of X, a masked vigilante who stops at nothing to dispense his own brand of bloody fairness. Issue #0 serves up three of them – think of them as a wicked ‘Three Little Pigs’ with X serving as the Big Bad Wolf whose about to turn their day from ‘bad’ to ‘nightmare.’ That’s what fuels these pages – a kind of ‘Death Wish’ mentality that promises the baddies are gonna die, but they’re gonna suffer first.
You can think of X any way you like, but I always saw him like Batman … but without all of the moral shackles. He’s Dirty Harry … without all of the niceness. He’s Charles Bronson … without all the politeness. He’s Judge Dredd … with absolutely no concern for the law.
I read X in his original run, and I loved it. I was sad to see him go, but I’m thrilled to have him back. Under the direction of successful novelist Duane Swierczynski (I’ve read a few of his books – only one struck me as truly inspired, but the others weren’t all that bad), I have high hopes for this title. Eric Nguyen is aboard for this issue, and his artwork is wonderfully perceptive and deceptively depraved as he depicts the Pigs as Kingpin-style heavies just waiting to be blown to bits like those massive balloon floats in a Macy’s Parade. Michelle Madsen turns in some wonderfully dark colors – some of it as twisted as the pencils she’s filling in.
I’ll say this: that’s quite a team. They’ve come together in some very dynamic ways. I can only hope that, with their input, X will finally get the big, brash, and bold treatment he deserves as well as the thankful reception of a waiting audience.
This one looks like a hit.
X #0 is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Duane Swierczynski; the art is by Eric Nguyen; the colors are by Michelle Madsen; with lettering is by Richard Starkings and Comicraft. For those who need to know, X #0 is actually a collection of three-serialized (and interconnected) X stories that appeared previously (in separate installments) in Dark Horse Presents #19 - #21. The issue bears a cover price of $2.99 … and, yes, it’s properly draped in the blood of villains.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. X #0 is a great re-introduction to a classic Dark Horse character – one that arguably never got the respect it earned in his first incarnation. That may not have been Dark Horse’s fault, however; nowadays, with urban blight taking over so much of the once great American Heartland (can anyone say ‘Detroit?’) and a rising daily body count in cities like Chicago where crime reigns supreme, now may very well be X’s time to shine. Certainly, it’s his time to take to the streets again in high vigilante fashion and dispense justice – like he does at the end of a steel crowbar – in this inaugural edition. X is back; ain’t life grand?
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with an advance digital copy of X #0 by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.