If you’ve read the first two issues of “X,” you’ll already know that in many ways the real main character of the title is Leigh, an unemployed journalist who posts her investigations on a blog. With “X” #3, Duane Swierczynski and Eric Nguyen let that blog come back to haunt her, and it makes her choices up until this point suddenly a lot more interesting.
What’s nice about “X” #3 is that it takes the idea of the crusading journalist and gives it a big splash of vinegar. It’s easy, after all, to hide behind a computer screen with your opinions and beliefs. (The irony of this review being published on a website is not lost on me, of course.) Here, though, Leigh has found herself right in the middle of things because of those posts. It’s one thing to write a story, it’s something else to find yourself the new subject. Swierczynski does more than just show us the dangerous side of being a journalist in this issue, though; he makes Leigh a much more interesting protagonist by showing the cracks in her faÃ§ade. I like Leigh when a little less bravado and a little more self-awareness has sunk in. It makes her more relatable, more human. If she is going to continue to be one of the leads, that’s an important shift, especially since X is more figuratively and literally a faceless enigma.
“X” #3 also gets to expand the web of corruption throughout Arcadia. With each turn Swierczynski exposes another person who’s fallen to Berkshire’s bribes, threats and other forms of coercion. On the one hand, it’s hard a little hard to believe that a city could truly be this rotten to the core. On the other hand, people also said that about Dennis O’Neil’s scripts for “The Question” with Hub City, which turned out to have been based on two real-life places. There’s no denying either way that it makes for a more exciting comic, though, and I look forward to seeing more of this dark and twisted town. Abandoned malls that connect to the subway are the sort of things that help give it some character, and I like that each issue has added another location to the overall map.
Nguyen’s art in “X” #3 is good, using a lot of thin, almost sketchy lines next to each other to help create texture and a distinct look to the world of “X.” The hairs on people’s arms, the dirt on the walls, the bunches of cloth on X’s sleeves all come to life here and make it feel a bit more real. There’s lots of detail in some of the less enticing moments too; when a gang member is shot up, the blood spray in all of its hundreds of little drops looks properly disgusting courtesy Nguyen and Michelle Madsen. There’s also room for Nguyen to go over the top, most notably when Berkshire’s new face is revealed. Is it a little ludicrous? Absolutely. At the same time, it fits with that nasty, in your face, no room for subtlety place that is Arcadia. It’s ridiculous, but it fits so well that I couldn’t find myself complaining about it.
“X” #3 is another good issue, and is a strong lead-in to next month’s wrapping up of the series’ first storyline. Swierczynski and Nguyen have marked their spot quite well in “X.” I’ll be back for more. It’s dark and twisted, but it’s fun, too.