X #0 Written by Duane Swierczynski
Illustrated by Eric Nguyen
Colored by Michelle Madsen
Lettered by Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover by Raymond Swanland Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: April 10, 2013
Cover Price: $2.99
I love a character that doesn’t necessarily follow the typical path of the superhero; one that might be more inclined to cause a bit of pain before getting any answers; or someone with a dark past who may not have any powers, but believes in and fights for the notion of justice. This, I believe, is what Dark Horse is aiming to offer with its re-launch of the 1990’s comic vigilante, X. The problem, however, is that this particular anti-hero seems highly un-relatable in the initial issue, X #0.
Written by Duane Swierczynski with art from Eric Nguyen, we are immediately immersed into a dark, seedy criminal underworld within the city of Arcadia. While packaging up sausage links made from the meat of a previous associate, crime boss Duroc receives an envelope with a very disturbing image: his mug-shot crossed out by a large red “˜X’. Duroc meets in private with two other men, Pietrain and Hereford, both of whom have been given the same frightful letter. We learn through their conversation that other men have received letters and were murdered shortly thereafter by someone they’ve dubbed the “X-Killer.” The three men come up with their own schemes of how to either avoid or take down the X-Killer.
While I enjoyed parts of Swierczynski’s first issue “” namely the pacing, sequence of events, and disgustingly, morbid characters (because let’s be honest, making someone despicable gives us a reason to want them gone) “” I did have issues with some of his choices. The concept that Swierczynski is creating may sound intriguing “” albeit, not too original but with some fresh ideas immersed throughout “” but it fails to deliver. I don’t know anything about the X-Killer. I don’t know who he is, his motivations, where he comes from, or what he’s after; and he’s the title character! I see a more compelling story if the roles had been reversed and it were from the protagonist’s perspective. I can only assume, from the conversation between the three men we meet early on, that they are all very bad individuals and that the X-Killer is after them because of whatever it is they’ve done; however, the fact that I couldn’t relate to the “protagonist” in any way, made it hard for me to care that he’s brutally murdering these bad guys (and I mean brutally). I wasn’t rooting for him: I was simply waiting to see if I would find out any information about the man behind the mask. As the reader, I feel cold and distant from the story.
On the other hand, Nguyen’s art is spot on. He plays with a variety of dark colors and shadows that make the grim underworld of Arcadia come to life. The style makes Arcadia gritty and real. His depictions of action and ultra-violence helped further the feel of this grotesque world. I felt creepy just looking at the pictures. For all of the praise that I can give to Eric Nguyen, the writing just doesn’t match up with the art. The men talk about being afraid, but the fear is unseen. The X-Killer visibly issues pain to his targets, but they remain emotionless. Swierczynski tells us what we are to believe, but it is not followed through with action.
Though I believe Swierczynski made some poor choices in the structure of this issue, it is clear that he is a talented writer. Perhaps issue #1 will reveal more about the “hero” of the story, and save X before its too late.