When you think of Dark Horse, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? I immediately think of Star Wars, or Aliens vs. Predator, or even Hellboy. The last thing on my mind is their super hero universe. During the 90’s, when the comics world got a major boost from consumers looking to make a quick buck or find the next big thing, new universes were springing up left and right. Malibu had the Ultraverse, Image was fresh, and Valiant its own reality based universe of heroes and villains. Dark Horse, not to be left out, carved it’s own nitch in the realm of heroes and villains. They called this Comic’s Greatest World.Characters like Barb Wire, Ghost, Nexus, and many more fought in an erielly similar setting to our modern day Earth. In one section of the world, in a place called Arcadia, a new hero began to grace the pages of comics. He would be called X. Let’s take a look now at his first issue.
The Llewellyn Brothers are corrupt businessmen. They have waterfront property that they are going to uproot and develop, but not for any good reasons. A week prior, they received pictures of themselves with one single red line drawn on it. A warning. This has prompted them to seek the help of a professional that goes by the name Gamble. The name says it all. Though dressed like a well deserving businessman, that is only an image. He doesn’t believe in luck, nor does he ever take a chance. It’s all a gamble to him, on
everything. The Llewellyn Brothers are scared, as they should be. Stories of this X-Killer have been circling the city of late, and nobody is taking any chances anymore. Gamble is payed, but not before he tells the brothers that they really don’t have a choice in anything. If X comes for them, that’s the gamble they have to take. Weather they like it or not, they’ve put their money and lives into the hands of someone that could be just as insane as they all think X is.
This is how the issue starts. Immediately, I got the feel of a great gritty pulp story. It almost felt like an old Shadow story, but with alot more teeth. Steven Grant’s script is very well written. It’s unlike anything else I’ve read from the 90’s. How could I have missed this? Oh, I know, I was blindsided by the likes of Superman and Spider-Man. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in all the mainstream characters that you forget all about what else could be out there. Steven, once he gets hold of you with his words, makes you forget all that nonsense. You are immersed in the story. Each part fits very well with the other. Though we don’t ever see X’s face, you feel that sense of mystery about him. Could the rumors about him be true? Steven never lets on, and you’re even inclined to speculate for yourself. Though there is a large Batman feel to the story, it doesn’t take away from the overall sense of the plot. X is definitely his own character, and I would take it as an homage to a great character like Batman that he could even be used as a template. It really ends there though. Steven crafts a world where X is needed, and the reader really is lost in its fantasy for a short time.
As for the art, it complements the story very well. I’m not sure about the girdle that he wears, but other than that, Doug Mahnke’s pencils really add to the noir feel this tale requires. It doesn’t feel stiff, nor is it excessively over the top, it falls somewhere in between. Nothing feels like it was rushed, and you can see that some real effort was made to have this look good. The inks and colors make a big part of this issue as well, for without them, I think a good part of the story, and it’s feel, would be lost. James Palmiotti, for his inks, and Pamela Rambo, for her colors, really shine in that aspect.
I absolutely loved this story. I don’t know what I was expecting going into it,but I was definitely not expecting it to be what it was. I guess I’m so used to comics being set in this fantastic world with all these amazing powers and gadgets, what with gods walking amongst men and the fate of the world resting on the shoulders of a select few. X really brought it back down to basics for me. A man, regardless of what his motives are at this point, is fighting to take his city back. It’s corruption and death have gone on long enough, and he is the one to bring it back from the brink of destruction. What a great tale it was, and it left me hungry for more. Dark Horse needs to focus on characters like this and let comics like this push it’s boundaries and help to bring in new readers. X is different from anything you’ll expect it to be, but when you read it, you’ll want more. Give in to that, and enjoy something different than mainstream. Spend a night in Arcadia, and see how X takes back his city.
Parental Concern: Orange for some blood and violence.