(Dark Horse Comics, 2013)
Review by Cory Thrall
STORY BY: Duane Swierczynski
ARTWORK BY: Eric Nguyen
COLOR ARTWORK BY: Michelle Madsen
Dark Horse’s recent relaunch of the tile “X” has been a good ride so far. I was hesitant at first, as I had not read the 90’s incarnation. I just didn’t seem interesting to me at the time. Beginning with issue #0, the story of our mysterious ‘anti-hero’ X is one mixed with Mobsters, heavy amounts of crime, and lots and lots of bloody violence. Sound like a rehashed idea? Maybe in a way it is. Whatever it may be, it works in a way I hadn’t expected. After reading issue #0 a bit ago, I was excited for #1’s release, and had this excitement rewarded with a high quality book. While it seemed to step away from the ultra-violence of #0 in a way, it had the needed good set up and enough action to make it a solid beginning. The issues to come, leading us here to issue #3 – have been a little more troubled.
X is a vigilante of the masked variety, one eyed and with a scratchy red ‘X’ slicing down from his forehead. He’s dressed in a somewhat basic black combat ensemble, adorned with red straps and a scraggly red cape. A padlock on his neck locks his mask into place, and this hangs from below his chin, dangling and shifting during action scenes. He is after a group of Mobsters, and in a mysterious move sends them photographs of themselves with a red ‘X’ scrawled across their face. Eventually they begin to understand that this was a death warrant of sorts, sent by the vigilante. They begin dropping one by one, and this is the set-up. We meet what really serves as the main character at the moment – a blogger who goes by the name of ‘Muckraker’ – who is bent of discovering the secrets behind X. This is a nice way to get he story moving, with Muckraker constantly posting her adventures onto her blog, and the book uses it as a sort of narrator. As the story progresses to the newest issue, ‘Muckraker’ is deeper into X’s world than she intended, and finds herself the target of the very same criminals X had been exterminating. Her ‘behind the scenes’ view of the whole situation has now shifted, making her a visible target. The things she has learned and posted have gotten the attention of all the wrong and worst people. This all boils and blows up as the search for her becomes much more intrusive, and she finds herself facing goons attempting to abduct her. X saves her throughout this series with bloody, violent, and highly graphic sneak attacks, and this issue is no different.
I want to be a bit light on the story content, as it’s a mystery at its heart and, though it has some problems with the unfolding the story, the clues and moves are there to be read and I don’t want to spoil anything. While this is true, the story as a whole moves a little too slow. It has maintained my interest and is certainly not badly written, it’s just the pacing that bothers me. It feels like the series is already spinning its wheels in some areas, and while I love the action and the hints at mystery and drama, I feel as if things should have moved further at this point. I understand that this is only the third issue, it just feels like there should be more. Not too much, as its been holding a pretty good balance between the character building and the violence scenes, but just a small amount. This early into the title it feels a bit meandering, kind of lost in the clouds, drifting from the development of the plot. Issue #3 does take a few large steps in the right direction. This book is a great read and I in no way want to sound like I’m not enjoying Swierczynski’s work. This just needs a tiny shot of meaty drama to fully make it an amazing comic.
The artwork by Eric Nguyen has been fantastic, with images so strong that at times you can feel the swift wind of a sword slash or the impact as X slams his way through a window. The city of Arcadia has a menace and design that feels tight, almost clutching at the citizen’s throats. The atmosphere in this book is thick, and perfectly so. The city is as corrupt as they come, and crime syndicates rule the land. While some of this might not sound like the most original base ideas, the handing of the of the inner layers of the city has a shadowed feel all it’s own, brought on as much in the tone of writing as in the artwork. Nguyen’s work looks great, and really fits the title. It mixes classic styles and an interesting modern look, giving criminals heavy vile designs while keeping the rest of the characters loosely detailed and lively. It really feels like writer and artist are on the same exact page when it comes to the look. The creative use of a perfectly fitting wide array of colors gives the book even more cohesion, making the individual scenes strikingly different while still being a whole. The team works so well that you instantly know Arcadia the moment you step in.
While I have been having a great time with this title so far, I would have to say its weakest point is the slow pacing. Otherwise it is very well written, and with art that will surprise you. I would recommend this book to any readers who enjoy hyper, bone crushing action with a good dash of substance and emotion. So, I give “X” #3 a score of 3.5 out of 5 which is not a low score! Go get this comic. I guarantee you this title with be scored a lot higher down the line.
Follow Cory Thrall on Twitter: @FeralFang27