3 / 5 – Worth a Shot if you like this type of book/creators
Zero issues are always an interesting proposition, this one re-presents the X story originally presented in Dark Horse Presents #19-21. As a zero issue (or re-introducing story arc) a comic should, at a minimum, give a feel for the book and some introductory material, yet not be essential for those that just start with the number one issue. Further complicating the matter is these stories have to provide enough of a hook to get us back for the first issue. Here we have the creative team of Duane Swierczynski (known for his gritty take on crime in nonfiction novels and Marvel/DC books) with art by Eric Nguyen (and colors by Michelle Madsen).
The Arcadia setting (& the character X) are re-introduced from Dark Horse’s “Comics Greatest World” of 1993. It is your standard action movie backdrop city without many discernible unique characteristics. Mainly it is corrupt and provides an endless stream of flunkies to be killed by our hero X. X is pretty much a less loquacious Punisher type who only speaks to get information/admonish the bad guys. His character design is a mix of super hero and utilitarian. X has a mask that covers his entire head with an “X” over it and a tattered red cape. There is a giant padlock connecting a spiked collar but the remainder of his look appears standard paramilitary style garb. The art is solid, conveys characters, action and mood appropriately but does not strike my particular aesthetic sensibilities positively or negatively. I do like his exaggerated, overweight bad boss villains. We see him treat his own gunshot wounds silently and alone, reinforcing his bad-ass status. He is not much for ironic action man quips (except one comment before he cuts off a man’s arm). Two of the three plans of the bad guys are clever but X is able to overcome them (often without much explanation). He is able to almost too easily overcome the second boss’s plan.
This is the type of book where you have to disengage some of your critical thinking components. X has a seemingly endless supply of weapons, explosives, and was able to think ahead a few steps to trap the second guy. Personally I have read/seen plenty of these comics/movies. While we have some clever set-ups, X is so generic that I feel he adds little to the mix. At this point, my familiarity with the Punisher character means I would likely rather just read another one of his books. There is nothing wrong with this execution or set-up but it provides nothing to tempt me. Without getting me to buy in early, I had the most trouble with the final boss battle. He already has a treated gunshot wound in an earlier battle, he then gets acid dumped on him, shredded by a batch of razor blades shot at him and then electrocuted. Those things barely slow him down yet we have no indication that he has super powers. They seem to hurt him but he just wills himself on. To be fair, I have levied this criticism against more than one action movie as well. If you are engaged with the story or characters, I think those story conventions are more easily accepted. There is a twist at the very end that raises some questions but I was not able to puzzle out the significance. There is an audience for this book but for me I have other similar ones that scratch that itch more to my liking.
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