Dean Motter and Dark Horse Comics present the next installment in the adventures of the enigmatic Mister X. When the heiress of a pharmaceutical company is kidnapped, her family enlists the aid of Radiant City’s sleepless crusader in rescuing her. The reward: all the brain candy his addicted heart could ever desire. But will the cost be greater than the man of mystery is willing to pay? And what forces impede his mission? It’s DEAN MOTTER’S MISTER X: HARD CANDY.
For the sake of brevity, we’ll just call it MISTER X: HARD CANDY. Or just HARD CANDY.
Alright, obscure comic history time. Mister X was an indie comic series created by writer/graphic artist Dean Motter during the eighties, released originally by (now-defunct) Canadian comic publisher Vortex Comics. It ran from the mid eighties to the early nineties in three different series, as well as additional graphic novels. In the years since, the series has been revived for a couple mini-series, including one I own called Mister X: Condemned.
But enough of publication data. What exactly IS Mister X? Brilliant, that’s what.
An eclectic mix of film noir, art deco, German expressionist cinema, and the fantasies of every architecture geek, Mister X was Batman meets Metropolis (the film, not Superman’s home city). Like William Gibson channeled through Ayn Rand. Most of all, it’s the prototypical example of a lesser known genre called Diesel Punk.
Think of it as Steam Punk‘s older, dirtier brother. Instead of using the aesthetics of the late 19th century, it captures the feel of the 1910s through the late forties. And it’s glorious to me, both Diesel Punk and Mister X. While I like Steam Punk well enough, my heart will always go to Diesel.
Anyway, the Mister X series is set in Radiant City, a retro futuristic city built in an extremely short period by architects high on space drugs. No seriously, as is explored in MISTER X: HARD CANDY, the designers of this unique urban would-be utopia used powerful drugs created by the Ninth Academy to allow them to produce the many varied architectural wonders in Radiant City, all according to the tenants of a concept called Psychetecture. The idea being that the citizens of Radiant City could be put at ease by the design of the place itself. But as time moved forward, the city grew past its prime, and the psychetecture that was supposed to make people feel better started causing neurotic changes in its more disturbed citizens. Violence, suicide, insomnia, and various forms of madness popped up, ostensibly caused by some kind of flaw within the architecture. The city became a shell of its former self, a diseased place in need of aid.
Which is where the eponymous Mister X came in.
No one truly knows who he is or what he’s done, but he claims to have been one of the original architects of Radiant City. A bald man who takes to wearing a pair of welder’s glasses and a trench coat, Mister X apparently never sleeps. Using a drug of his own design, he stalks the streets of his city at all times, seeking the cure for Radiant City’s psychetectural sickness.
MISTER X: HARD CANDY was published in three parts within the pages of Dark Horse Presents – the publisher’s monthly collection of various stories, usually shorter tales that wouldn’t do well enough in an ongoing title. And now, the whole story was released here as a collected issue. In it, Mister X is called in by the elderly CEO of Friedkin Pharmaceuticals, after her socialite granddaughter was abducted. Her kidnappers demand one thing: Friendkin resume production of brain candy. Powerful psychotropics, these drugs were big money in the old days, but went out of production on both the legal and black markets. And with that, the old woman offers our mysterious protagonist a reward worth its weight in gold.
All the industrial grade brain candy he could ever personally use. Addiction is a powerful thing, after all.
MISTER X: BRAIN CANDY is one of only two Mister X stories I’ve ever read – the other being the aforementioned Mister X: Condemned four issue miniseries. Of these two, I’d probably hold HARD CANDY as the better entry for new readers into the world. For one it’s shorter, so if you read it you’ll have an easier time deciding if you like the setting or not. For another, I found Condemned to be rather confusing in my initial reading, and though I’ve been meaning to read it again, I’m going to hazard a guess and say most people will find it…difficult. I’d only recommend reading the collected original series to those who’ve already figured they like Mister X, on account of the Archives edition running for like eighty dollars.
So yeah, that is going on my Christmas list, but I suspect it’ll be there for quite a while.
In the meantime, give HARD CANDY a shot. It’s a rough distillation of the kind of stories that come form Dean Motter. Which is especially good because there’s yet more to come. Possibly due to the success of HARD CANDY in the pages of Dark Horse Presents, Dark Horse announced an upcoming ongoing series called Mister X: Eviction. Hence, why I’m counting HARD CANDY as a First Impressions. It’s in many ways a prelude to Eviction. It’s coming in May, and you can be damn sure I’ll be there when it happens. Won’t you join me?