March 24, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Case Files #25: X

"I hope you didn't need that window!"
“I hope you didn’t need that window!”

Last week I covered Night Man, a hero from the now defunct Malibu Comics’ Ultraverse line.  Malibu was hardly the only comic publisher to try out a superhero line in the mid 90s.  Dark Horse got involved with something they called “Comics Greatest World”.  At a time when a single issue would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.25, Dark Horse offered weekly introductory comics for $1.  Each week for four months, there would be a new issue continuing the storyline in one of four fictional cities, namely Arcadia, Golden City, Steel Harbor, and Cinnibar Flats.  The last of those locations was where a mysterious Vortex had opened up after an alien scientist was caught doing advanced experiments in a place that humans were conducting simultaneous atomic bomb tests (oops).  The Vortex caused weird mutations and eventually superpowers for select individuals.  Now, granted, these $1 comics tended to be shorter than most comics, and when the regular line started for some of the featured characters, the prices went up, but as an introductory offer it was a good idea.

At any rate, each city had its own feel and distinctive characters.  Golden City, run by the superhuman Grace, the most powerful human hero on Earth (and a woman, Jenny), was a veritable utopia of advanced science.  Steel Harbor was a down-on-its luck blue color city with an industrial feel.  Its best known resident was a woman named Barb Wire that appeared in a movie played by Pamela Anderson.  Cinnibar Flats had sci-fi weirdness going on.  And Arcadia, the first city featured, was a festering cesspool of corruption on every level.  This place made Gotham City look like Disneyworld.

That was where the man called X decided to call the shots.

X, sometimes called the X-Killer, was a mysterious man who decided he wasn’t so much going to clean up Arcadia as run it.  In that sense, he was basically a cross between Batman and the Kingpin, with a dash of the Punisher thrown in for good measure.  Mostly seen in his full costume, X actually had his mask padlocked to his face.  At the end of the initial Arcadia mini-series, X unlocked the mask to reveal that the “X” on his mask matched a scar on his face, and he was blind in one eye, so let’s add a little Deathstroke to the guy while we’re at it.

X’s mission was to eradicate opposition by way of intimidation.  He couldn’t seem to die himself (more on that in a bit), and may have been left for dead at one point as one of his few memories from before he began his masked crusade was of a crazy guy with a knife taking his eye while quoting Bible verses, so now we need some Wolverine in the mix as well.

The more I write, this more derivative this guy gets!

Anyway, X would sneak around the city and leave warning marks on people who broke “his” law.  Whatever it was.  The victim would see a slash mark somewhere, or, you know, half a letter “X”.  It might be across a photograph, or a mirror, or something where the perpetrator could see X had left his warning.  X didn’t discriminate either.  He left it for cops, mobsters, the mayor, anyone with power who broke his law.  What his law was, I don’t recall, but I suspect it was, “Not knowing X is in charge of the city.”

And he really did seem to be unstoppable.  He’d shrug off bullets and punches and just keep on going, so there’s that Wolverine thing again.

Anyone who broke his law a second time would be killed, and a second slash mark would appear, completing the “X”.

Don't gloat or anything...
Don’t gloat or anything…

X didn’t really have friends or allies.  That seems to fit in with the Dark Horse superhero.  The man from the Vortex didn’t want any either, and many of the intro comics seemed to present loners.  Arcadia, for example, also had a woman called Ghost who was, well, a ghost that was out to get the guys who killed her.  X left her alone.

Heck, the closest thing he had for a friend was the…and I am not making this up…giant monster in the city’s sewers.

Creative name.
Creative name.

Eventually, readers learned X’s background, something even he didn’t know.  It seems that when the above-mentioned Vortex accident occurred, a young soldier found his arm infected by a mysterious virus, so it was amputated.  Then…and I really am not making this up…the arm didn’t die.  Blood from the still-living arm was injected into a young man, the future X, after government men killed his parents, since his scientist father stole the arm.

Man, I really wish I was making this up.

With the blood in his system, X can’t die.  His memory gets a bit screwed up, but he can’t die.  So, Wolverine again.  And Deathstroke.

The more I write about this guy, the less creative he seems.  He had a cool look, though.

Dark Horse’s X series originally ran for 25 or so issues before it was canceled.  Since then, they’ve revived the book, but Comics Greatest World had other, more interesting characters than a guy who was, when you get right down to it, a typical 90s-era rip off antihero.

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