Right from the cover of X’ed #1, which is a hypnotic, striking image by Chris Visions, it becomes quite apparent that this new series from Black Mask Studios plans on messing with your head. At this point, it is fair to say that every time Black Mask Studios releases a new title that it is worth jumping on from the very beginning. We Can Never Go Home, Mayday, Space Riders, Young Terrorists, etc., have all been genuine great titles and it appears that the publisher has yet another hit on their hands.
The premise is handled quite well by the script from Tony Patrick that could have easily gone off the rails with over convoluted explanations. The plot could be summed up as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as formulated by visionary director Alejandro Jodorowsky. Essentially, a company for hire exists that takes on clients who want to completely eliminate somebody in their life by eliminating them from the client’s mind. If the creative team’s pitch contained the words ‘mind assassins’ then the level of awesomeness that is X’ed just kicked up a notch.
An elderly woman named Evelyn goes to the company in the hopes of them removing her brother, Mack Delainey, from existing within her mind. She can no longer take acknowledgement of the misdeeds Mack has done in which his corrupt, greed driven self has taken advantage of countless client’s bank accounts. He has been kidnapped, chained and kept within the confines of a cage within a zoo (a great image) and is repeatedly beaten and tortured. It is up to the expertise of the team of individuals to gain access to her mind and eliminate Evelyn’s acknowledgement of Mack’s existence.
Ayhan Hayrula’s art is reminiscent of Eduardo Risso, giving this textured appearance to a lot of characters’ faces and the environments they find themselves in. Hayrula is at his most playful once Colin, one of the company’s crew, gains access to Evelyn’s mind. A surreal, trippy splash page with visuals that would make Salvador Dali nod in approval, pushes X’ed into a psychedelic direction. The scattering of bizarre images are described as sensible towards Evelyn’s mindset; from the winged hourglasses representing how time flies to the sky of water with swimmers being presented as Evelyn’s happiest time in her life, one can only imagine what is in store for the progression of this series beyond this premiere issue.
Hayrula’s dreamlike imagery questions the very reality of every frame with the colouring of Doug Garbark. Garbark utilizes a grey-blue tinge for an early sequence whose time is not quite apparent, a hazy orange for the story of Mack as told by Evelyn, and a warm mixture of green and orange within Evelyn’s head as warped images of flopping fish and sweater adorned faceless individuals acting as mind security combat with Colin. Jim Campbell’s lettering only feels heavy with Patrick’s dialogue through the one sequence in which Evelyn explains her predicament to a member of the team, named Dr. Patterson, and becomes more spaced out to really get a sense of the depth and unexpected events that take place within Evelyn’s mind.
X’ed starts off with a very intriguing premise that dives right into the action without any sort of hesitation. There is plenty of mystery abound as not much is revealed about the team that organizes these journeys into people’s minds except for Colin. Colin, with his formal vested avatar aided by a crossbow once in Evelyn’s mind, appears to have gone through some potential hardships in past jobs that is surely to be of topic as the series progresses. There is enough intrigue, mystery, and flying hourglasses in this first issue of X’ed that breathes lots of room for potential to be explored in terms of characters and world building. Whatever is in store for this new sure hit from Black Mask Studios, Patrick, Hayrula, Garbak and Campbell have only just begun.