Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Examining X, Dark Horse Comic's vigilante protagonist

Thanks to a recent Humble Bundle of electronic comic books, I got to read the early issues of the obscure Dark Horse comic book X. 

In the early 90s, Dark Horse tried to break into the super hero market. This was at the heart of the whole anti-hero craze, which helped me lose a lot of my interest in comic books. Dark Horse was known for making good use to licensed properties and weird stories. Super heroes seemed like going outside their wheelhouse.

A friend loaned me an issue of X at the time and I was very underwhelmed. A remorseless killer with zero emotional depth and a fashion sense that mixed bondage gear with a Lucha Libre outfit. Really, since Lucha Libre is cool, that was the best part of the character.

Reading the early issues in one go, that description still holds. In fact, X crosses the line from anti-hero to villain main character. And since he has virtually no emotional depth and shows so little weakness that he borders on always being right and unstoppable, there's almost nothing to empathize with.

But now I wonder if that's the point. That X isn't supposed to be cool or admirable or even a hero. Maybe he is really a mass murderer whose pretensions of morality don't hold up under scrutiny. Maybe X is supposed to be the 90s anti-hero stripped of illusions and revealed to be a monster.

If that's the case, the book stops being about superheroes and becomes a thriller noir that almost seems like a throwback pulp heroes like the Shadow. He even has a Zoro like signature of slashing Xs on his victims' faces.

I'm left with the conclusion that Dark Horse wasn't jumping on the bandwagon but trying to deconstruct the bandwagon. In that case, their real problem was not going farther.

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