By Davey Nieves
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Art: Eric Nguyen, Michelle Madsen
Letters: Richard Starkings
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
There’s X-Men, Xzibit, the band X (if you get the reference I’ll buy you a soft pretzel if you’re onsite at SDCC), and there’s Dark Horse Comics vigilante simply known as X. Since the characters reboot under writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Eric Nguyen the series continues to be a rollercoaster of highs and lows. X #21 marks a good jumping on point for new readers but needs a little polish to keep them.
Issue 21 kicks off the “Marked For Death” storyline and like any good Steven Segal plot our anti-hero finds himself in the middle of a fight he has to kill a lot of people to get out of. We pick up on the continuation of X’s battle with the underworld crime armies of Arcadia as he tries to take out a major weapons cache. However, the hunter finds himself the hunted by the end of the issue when he comes face to face with The Archon; a being of superhuman strength that’s already beaten X within an inch of his life. His saving grace this time is another super-being known as The Mark, whom Archon believed X to be at first due to their horrible choices in eye covering fashion.
The issue’s furious pace is kept up like a rocket car that doesn’t run out of fuel. It’s so fast; it almost nullifies X’s internal monologue as he’s killing all those bad guys. No man could have that many thoughts over instincts when slicing that many vocal chords like someone had thrown cucumbers in the air. Action sequences are crisp, but there’s very little backing it up to make me care about the character or his predicament. He spends the issue setting himself up as the ultimate badass and by the end seems to change his tune. Ultra-violent brooding vigilante characters (Punisher, Judge Dredd) typically work best when they don’t bend, but instead let all the emotion work through the supporting cast. Which could be fixed as the story carries along.
Nguyen’s art feels like an anime game cut scene. (Google search: Gungrave) The brutality of the action is on point with explosions and sword slashing which has that freeze-frame feel at just the right moment. It’s in the sequentials that move the story along where the art suffers a bit. For example, characters feel like they lack expression during dialogue sequences causing hiccups when reading panel-to-panel. One thing I’d really like to see going forward is more risks with panel layouts. Experimenting a bit more in that area could polish Nguyen’s style.
Upon first glance, it’s easy to write off a character like X as a Punisher clone but this character has quirks that make him very unique. His one mark warning, second mark death rule plays well at times showing a code that lacks in other vigilante characters. “Marked For Death” is probably best taken as a whole as opposed to monthly chapters. If you’ve been reading the series then keeping issue twenty-one in your pull is definitely a reward. If you’re looking for a new series to read; I can’t really recommend X #21 because it just doesn’t do enough to get me interested in #22. Although as the arc continues it could warrant a trade pickup since there’s definitely a spark to it that has the potential to turn ablaze if some daring chances are taken.
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