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District X: #1
Writer: David Hine
Artist: David Yardin

There’s a long running tradition of X-Men spinoff books sucking balls.

No, I’m not going to mince words on this one; it’s a good bet that any title with a capital “X” in it is a waste of your hard-earned cash. Some books and characters have grown and come into their own, but the X-franchise’s constant restarts and big crossover events have stifled story development and kept Marvel’s mutant books from enduring like Uncanny X-men.

So, in a time where restarts and crossovers are disdained by creators and readers alike, what do they do? Yup. ANOTHER RESTART!

District X takes place in the “mutie” section of New York, an area overrun by the unemployed and illiterate masses (though the assertion that NYC is otherwise America’s safest major city prompted a loud “wha?!?!” from me). Two cops, Gus and Ismael (the former a xenophobic white guy, the latter an open-minded Dudley Do-Right) patrol the streets, showcasing the mutant flavor of the area.

Why, look: there’s the Russian immigrant who falls asleep and starts growing roots every time he sits down for too long. To this side, an insanely attractive hooker whose sensuous hair has a life of its own. The waitress at the diner’s got a werewolf-lite thing going on (think Rahne Sinclair after a shave), the kid looking after the cops’ car has fly eyes and split lips, and, oh, lookee there: a teenage couple rudely changing colors and creating a mini-light show because they’re high on some new designer drug. Is that an inciting incident I smell?

This first issue spends a lot of time establishing the characters and that this is a MUTANT inner-city cop story. David Hine does some subtle writing and gives us a slam-bang ending, but I don’t know if I’m really interested in the subject matter yet. What can we expect so far? Mutants doing freaky mutant things in the background of every panel? Little everyday incidents in their lives and how the cops have to deal with them? Hasn’t that been the backdrop for a lot of X-books, lately; just with mutant heroes filling in for the cops?

I will give credit where credit is due, though: the creative team does a very nice job with the material. So much so, I’m more interested in them than the story. Hine’s writing can be both clever and honest, elevating what could be lame soap opera to a higher level. Alejandro Sicat’s inks flow easily from heavy shadow to the lightest touch and the Avalon team led by Andy Troy perfects a palette that beautifully juxtaposes the desaturated hues of the real world with the garish colors we expect on our mutants.

David Yardin’s approach to the penciling is both realistic and evocative, giving me hope that the story will stay with the streets rather than focus on the weird superheroics. His most impressive feat, however, is probably in his faces. Not so much that they’re expressive (though they are) but because they communicate everything the words don’t. Looking at the Russian immigrant who grows roots, you could tell his sister was Eastern European, a hard working single mother, and far too used to this happening every day-- all in about two panels.

So, next month, when Bishop comes to the fore-- oh yeah, this is Bishop’s solo book, by the way. But when he comes onto the scene, I guess we’ll see whether District X becomes another gritty superhero title, Ismael and Bishop’s quest to slay the whale of Whitey, or the sly street story hinted at in this first issue.

Man, if only it didn’t have “X” in the title…


Jason Schachat

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