In many ways, "X" #5 is the most crucial issue of the series to date. The "Dark Horse Presents" stories (reprinted as "X" #0) set up the series, and "X" #1-4 let Duane Swierczynski and Eric Nguyen give us a feel for what the initial status quo of the comic would be. "X" #5, though, takes place once the dust has settled. And there, Swierczynski and guest artist Tony Parker give a better glimpse of where the series heads from here.
What's nice is that Swierczynski avoids some of the obvious pitfalls. With X keeping Leigh around in an alliance, there's an obvious route for the comic to date with Leigh operating as X's eyes and ears, his presence in the rest of the world. And at first, it looks like that's exactly what we're going to get. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it feels a bit clichéd and predictable. With "X" #5, though, Swierczynski quickly turns that on its head. Not only is Leigh not a very good agent to act for X, but it's something that she quickly grows to find repellant. That's a much more interesting tactic; it wouldn't have made sense for Leigh to have become instantly hardened and tough from her experience, and what's presented instead has a lot of potential.
Then again, I'm generally pleased with Swierczynski's take on "X." It's a nice mixture of crime noir and a dark vein of humor. I had to laugh when he introduced members of the Mothers assassination team; having killers named Mother Nature and Mother Invention that just blend into a crowd by looking like housewives is that sort of twist that makes "X" entertaining and from falling into a bleak spiral. And while X himself is still a bit of an enigma, I appreciate that we're starting to see just a tiny bit into his head. If we keep getting these little peeks into what makes X tick, that should be good enough to keep us going.
Parker's guest art is good overall. It's a little looser than regular artist Nguyen, and a little more cartoonish. Sometimes that works well, when bit parts are almost caricatures, or the evil snarl on Mother Nature's face as the car is bearing down on Leigh. Leigh on the bicycle also works well, with Parker drawing her in a deliberately awkward manner to match the difficulty she's having with the sudden exertion. On the other hand, Leigh falling off of the bike doesn't look even remotely natural, and it's that every now and then shift from loose and cartoony into something that's over the top that keeps me from 100% embracing Parker's pages. Still, on the whole they do the job just fine, and for now that's good enough that I'd welcome him back for another guest stint down the line.
"X" #5 continues the overall quality of the series to date, and it makes me interested to see where the series will head next. Swierczynski and Parker are keeping the bar set well, and if you still haven't picked up "X" but are interested, this is actually as good a place as any to start. It's a bit of epilogue, sure, but it's also a launching point for the series heading forward, too. If you want a dirty gritty crime comic, you should be reading "X."