"X" #0 from Duane Swierczynski and Eric Nguyen is a fitting for a #0 issue, which lays out the main character and his overall quest and modus operandi efficiently and brutally. X is a vigilante committed to violently killing and wiping out a mob family. In this issue, previously serialized in "Dark Horse Presents," X takes out a series of bosses in inventive and gripping ways. By the end of this issue, readers know enough about the character and the tone of the title to decide to continue. I certainly want to know what Swierczynski and Nguyen can do with this concept on a larger scope.
Readers don't meet the man beneath the mask or peer into his back story in this issue. Swierczynski and Nguyen push X into one murder and waste little time setting up the next. The pace of this issue is well metered as the fear and the closing walls around the villains is thick on the page.
The mob bosses aren't the deepest of characters, but it feels good for the story and allows readers to quickly and simply loathe these men on a base cliché level. When they are dispatched, readers can cheer and move on. The violence on display is a large part of the book and it doesn't take many page turns until there's another kill. Intricate and inventive deaths are portrayed starkly by Eric Nguyen's blood-spattered art that makes this feel more like a snuff viewing that a shoot out in a cop procedural. This is a graphic story and nothing is obscured for lighter stomachs.
Nguyen's art is unique and matches the tone of the characters and their actions well. The same way Bill Sienkiewicz made villains and violence feel loose and raw in "Elektra: Assassin," Nguyen's exaggerated facial proportions and active camera angles make this book feel as much a study of violence as a presentation. These pages are nasty to look at and touch. Cold, hard colors from Michelle Madsen help as the deaths often pop vibrantly against the bleak background of this tired world.
"X" is a hard, rated-R crime book with a masked killing hero in the lead. Mob goons are wiped out nonchalantly and without much narrative explanation. While readers can assume that the eponymous masked man must be the hero, it's actually just as much fun thinking he might be another villain. All that readers will see is Swierczynski and Nguyen finding fun ways to wipe out comically thin bad guys -- which I have no problem with. This is a gleeful bloody spree that executes bullet pace writing and splatterhouse art to bring out one of the most brutal vigilantes in comics today.