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Agent X #10

Posted: Thursday, May 1, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Evan Dorkin
Artists: Juan Bobillo (p), Marcelo Sosa (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens with Agent X returning from a job, sporting numerous horrific injuries that have his healing factor working overtime. However, when he finds Taskmaster waiting for him, Agent Xs wish for a quiet evening pretty much goes out the window. Oddly enough though it's not the Taskmaster who spoils Alex's plans for the evening but rather it's the discovery that while he was out on the job, Sandi inexplicably accepted a job. After she calls him up and states that she's having a bit of trouble, we see Agent X rushes to the scene expecting the worst, but upon arrival he discovers her problem is that she's having trouble pulling the trigger, and ending the life of another. With Agent X's help this problem is quickly resolved, but the next morning Agent X discovers that Sandi was taken captive when she went to pick up the payment for the hit, as the person that they pumped four bullets into is still alive & kicking. As Alex learn the target is a former super-hero who is pretty much invincible, we see he's given a deadline that if the man isn't dead by midnight, Sandi will be. After explaining his problem to the man he's trying to kill Agent X is surprised to learn the man is willing to help him, as he's not exactly enjoying his life. However, killing a man who is impervious to every attack makes killing him a rather difficult task to pull off.

Comments:
A single issue of Evan Dorkin's "Milk and Cheese" is pretty much all the proof one would need to feel secure in the knowledge that he would make be an ideal fit for this series, as both properties are quite similar in tone. They both draw upon darker humor, they both offer up biting & often hilarious insights into pop culture, and most importantly they both embrace the concept that extreme acts of violence can be hilarious. I mean the basic premise of this issue has Agent X hired to kill a man who is invulnerable, and this fact combined with the fact Agent X has a healing factor that enables him to bounce back from any injury, results in an almost cartoonish display of over-the-top violence. In fact the only real disappointing part of this issue is that Evan Dorkin is only here for a two issue arc, so we're left with only a glimpse at what might've been. Now perhaps Evan Dorkin wasn't willing to commit to the book full time, but I'd hate to think his time on the book was cut short before the sales numbers came in. I mean, the humor is a sight darker in tone than Gail Simone, but truth be told it's just as funny, and one of my only complaints about Gail Simone's work on this book is that there were times when the humor wasn't nearly as biting as it might've been.

The one area where this issue does make a fairly noticeable deviation from what we had been getting is with the supporting cast, as one almost gets the sense that Evan Dorkin has thrown out the book on what these characters were like before, and grafted on his new improved personalities. So this results in a Sandi who is suddenly heads over heels in love with Agent X, and so desperate to catch his eye that she's decided to take on a hit. There's also the Taskmaster who conveniently forgets that he's spent every waking moment watching over Sandi like a ever loyal guard dog, so when she decides to head into a situation where she could find herself in serious danger he decides to get hammered. I mean I realize ever writer will bring their own ideas to a book, and these new ideas will often include a new outlook on the supporting cast & the role they play within the book. However, this issue offers up some behavior changes that are so far removed from what we had been getting that one wonders why Evan Dorkin didn't simply create new characters to fill these roles, instead of trying to shoehorn Sandi & the Taskmaster into them. Still, I will give the book credit for keeping Agent X his regular psychotic self, and since he's the lead character I guess this is the most important detail.

Juan Bobillo certainly has some fun with Agent X's healing factor in the opening pages of this issue, as I don't think I've ever seen the character looking this bad in the entire series (including the Deadpool issues). I mean the various injuries that he's sporting in the opening pages of this issue are so horrific that I was surprised the Taskmaster had to wait until the severed head came out of the bag to make him lose his lunch. There's also some rather cute bits of dark humor, like the reveal shot that shows us Agent X has about a dozen knives buried in his back, or the page where the little kitty is busy messing about with the severed head. There's also some fun work on the sequence where Agent X is trying to kill his target, as one can't help but smile at the scene where he attempts to run him down with a car, or the page of failed one-panel attempts that quickly follow. The bridge scene goes a little too far though, as it shows cars careening off the collapsing bridge, and one is left with the sense that other people have died during this latest attempt. One does have to wonder why they didn't try drowning him though, given he does look like he needs to breathe, and it seems like a rather obvious opinion that one would consider before some of the more elaborate plans (e.g. sawing his head off).

Final Word:
A very entertaining exercise in bad taste, gratuitous displays of violence, and several hilarious pokes at pop culture. All in all it's pretty much all one could ask for from a book that is slated to be cancelled in a couple months, as Evan Dorkin has come on board for a couple issues, and he looks to be having a grand old time of it. The comedy is dark and somewhat disturbing, but it also made me laugh which is all I really ask from a humor based series. From the explanation that the fallen hero gives for why he no longer fights crime, to the Wile E. Coyote style attempts made by Agent X to kill the man, this issue is unabashed fun, and I hope the book makes a nice jump up the sales charts, as Evan Dorkin is a very funny writer, and he's a near perfect fit for this book. My only quibble with the book is that the book's supporting players are a bit out of character, and the book makes no attempt to explain why.



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