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District X #4

Posted: Monday, August 23, 2004
By: Adam Volk



“Mr. M” Part 4 of 6

Writer: David Hine
Artist: Lan Medina

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
NYPD Officer Ismael Ortega and his partner X-man turned Special Agent Lucas Bishop, continue to investigate the trafficking of a deadly new street drug known as Toad Juice. But in the mutant inhabited urban slums of District X, the enigmatic and powerful Mr. M is playing a dangerous game of his own.

Comments:
These days it seems like you can’t hock a loogie in a comic shop without hitting one of Marvel’s many “X” titles. And yet, while books like the underrated X-Statix and promising Weapon X are being cancelled left and right, loyal comic geeks are subjected to titles like the coma-inducing X-Force reloaded, and the bile-churning wretchedness of Chris Claremont’s Excalibur. In other words, it’s a strange time to be an X-fan.

Fortunately, there are titles like District X to placate mutant aficionados looking for both substance and style in their comics. That being said, readers expecting to find well manicured X-men in cleavage exposing spandex are likely to be rather disappointed with District X. What District X does have is an incredible story with strong, believable characters and some of the finest writing being produced by Marvel today.

District X #4 opens with its now familiar single-page recap of the previous issues; a welcome change from the a-typical comic book solution of having characters conveniently rehash the plot through forced narratives and dialogue. It would be nice to see more comics adopting this approach, as it is an ideal way of recapping the story for regular readers as well as introducing new readers to the series.

The story itself then delves into the continued exploits of Ortega and Bishop. The previous issue witnessed the deadly effects of the street drug known as Toad Juice on a non-mutant, and now Ortega and Bishop are left picking up the pieces at one of the Districts more seedy night clubs. The two soon find themselves dealing with local crime lord Daniel “Shaky” Kaufman, who has his own interest in Toad Juice after kidnapping the mutant known as Toad Boy--whose bodily secretions produce the potent narcotic. But while the two officers continue to piece together the brewing conflict in District X, the reader is given a further explanation of the enigmatic Mr. M, who we learn has the god-like mutant ability to alter the molecular structure of anything he comes into contact with. Fearing to reveal himself for what he truly is, for years Mr. M has remained a recluse amid the squalor and crime ridden streets of the District--that is until witnessing the events between Ortega and his former partner Gus Kucharsky (which explains his confrontation with Kucharsky in issue 3). Now Mr. M is taking a direct hand in events around him, including a very inspired solution to dealing with Toad Boy and one of Kaufman’s goons. The story culminates in a last minute effort from Bishop and Ortega to stop a group of non-mutants who are about to indulge in a large dose of the lethal Toad Juice.

District X continues to prove itself as one of Marvel’s most inspired and well written titles. The only real weakness with issue #4 is the occasionally sloppy artwork. Lan Medina has done some amazing work in previous issues of District X, yet in issue 4 there are several pages that look choppy or unfinished, perhaps due to a rushed coloring job. In any event, it doesn’t do much to distract from the story and the majority of the artwork remains consistent with Medina’s previous visually appealing and innovative style. Hine’s writing however, is as strong as ever, and in issue 4 he displays his usual flare for realistic dialogue, characterization, and plot. In the end, District X remains on one of Marvel’s most innovative and entertaining titles, proving that when it comes to comics, sometimes X really does mark the spot.



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