Thursday, August 6, 2015

Benjamin's Millennial Compendium - Comics 4

Benjamin’s new excellent review is up for issue 4 of IDW’s Millennium comic, written by Joe Harris and art by Colin Lorimer.

Love is Blue

As the Millennium mini-series from IDW has progressed, Frank Black has found himself moving from horror to horror and from dread to dread as he progresses. This reader kept thinking that things could not get worse, but invariably they do. Let’s jump into issue 4 and see if the high quality we have seen in the first three books in this series continues.

Before we go any further, the usual warning that spoilers abound is appropriate.  Also, this issue touches some issues that some people may consider triggering. Please read this review and the book itself with that in mind.

If I could sum this issue up in one word it would be heartbreaking. There is so much loss, but yet still so much to lose and no easy answers or ways out. Issue 4 opens with a scene from 2011 at Washington State University. Jordan Black is attending a party at a frat house.  She faces some harassment but at some point one of the frat boys pushes her down.  It is not clear whether he sexually assaults her or is interrupted in the attempt. While the scene unfolds Jordan is having visions, but while her father tends to see the past through the eyes of the evil people he hunts, she sees moments into the future. Her vision provides her means of escape by suggesting she scratch the face of her assailant. She does indeed scratch him and then flees.

Running from her assailant she goes upstairs into the attic. I wonder, just a little bit, why a girl who has just suffered assault would run deeper into the house while her assailant is still there, and now angry with her. The crowd at this party has not seemed to be friendly to her, and we do not see her with any friends. Fleeing the place would make more sense, but she does not and another frat boy follows her.

The boy calls to Jordan repeatedly and she ignores him until he says, “Hey, I am talking to you!” She replies “Looks like a tough night for studs.” She seems almost unfazed by the attack she suffered moments earlier. Her vision once again gives her a glimpse of the future. The frat boy approaches and she begins to speak in a language that appears to be derived from Latin.  Google translate could not recognize or translate what she says. As she speaks the frat boy asks, “Did we hook up once?” ignoring what she is saying.

In a moment she is holding a knife. She holds it against her abdomen with the blade pointed up.  She seems to be neither offensively nor defensively postured, but finally gets the frat boy to see that something is not right here.  Jordan says, “And some of those understanding shall fall. To refine them, purify them…” The boy moves backwards away from her and losing his footing falls through a large window and lands on his back, dead, just as she saw in her vision. Jordan does not break from her strange litany, but continues “Until the time of the end… Because it is still the appointed time.” She slashes her palm with the knife and allows blood from her wound to fall onto the dead boy’s face.

The next panel frames Jordan in the broken window, and a man stands beside her.  He tells her “Congratulations. I knew you had it in you.” She does not look so sure. Her cool façade is broken with a look of worry.

Moving back to the present day, we find Jordan sitting opposite of Frank. The panels here are brilliant, with Jordan being shown in shadow while Frank is shown in the sun that is streaming through the windows. Her face shows the little girl we loved on the TV series looking more like a world-weary woman in her early 20’s.  Frank is angry.  The confrontation with her is powerful. Jordan reveals through dialogue that at some point Frank sent her away, and he never did much to help her understand her visions. She accuses Frank of putting her mother and herself through hell and reminds him, “I am not a child.”  Frank, inches from her face screams, “You are my child!” and then he reminds Jordan, “The Millennium group killed your mother,” but not before slapping her across the face.

As Jordan moves away from her father she sees him in a vision with a large demonic shape behind him.  The vision shifts and Frank’s visage becomes wracked with pain, while the shape remains behind him, wrapping him in umbral cords. Under its wings outlines of eyes appear.  She collapses.  After a brief exchange with a man Jordan calls Quentin (who may be the same man from the attic of the frat house), Quentin tells Frank, “They are ready for you now.”

Turning the page shows a meeting of the Millennium group.  Jordan and Quentin take a place at the table while Frank stands. The group members are cordial and welcoming but Frank is having none of it.  He tells them that he is leaving, “As soon as my daughter comes to her senses and does the same thing.” Quentin reminds Frank of the bond between patron and initiate.

Jordan, having heard enough from both sides, stands and tells everyone that their cause is the same. They all stand against Legion.

The scene shifts again. Here we see Fox Mulder calling Captain Giebelhouse. Mulder is looking for help locating Frank and also alerts Giebelhouse that the police are looking for Frank so he can answer some questions about Monte Propps’s death.

Now the scene goes back to Frank and the Millennium group. They explain that strange symbols at Propps’s death scene, the same ones that were at his victims’ deaths are a form of puzzle. It is a puzzle the group has yet to solve, but if Legion is on the loose Frank and Jordan are in grave danger.

The scenes are shifting more rapidly now. Mulder, then Frank, then Mulder, then Frank.

I love this part of the book. The story is being progressed as we flash between characters. It takes a lot of skill to do this in a longer form.  To do it this well in a comic book is astounding!

The story ends with Mulder looking for Frank’s old house. He asks a hooded figure on the sidewalk if it is Frank’s house.  The figure confirms that it is and then says to Mulder, “We’ve missed Frank around here. Please, when you see him next... be sure to tell him that Lucy says hello.”

Any fan of the show knows this is Lucy Butler, a manifestation of Legion. This is the second time this series has sent a chill down my back. This series is being so masterfully done, keeping so well to the mood and theme of the television series that it is almost too good to be true. Simply amazing and well worth your time!

Special Thanks to XScribe for editorial assistance.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Chris's Comic Corner 3

After a sabbatical that was longer than expected, Chris Irish has come back with another wave of reviews for IDW’s season 10 of The X-Files. The comics were continuing to evolve at this stage and move in interesting directions.  Issue #8 was written by Joe Harris, with art by Michael Walsh. Issue #9 was written by Joe Harris, with art by Greg Scott, and issue #10 was written by Joe Harris, with art by menton3 and Tony Moy. I hope you enjoy more of Chris’s great work. - Matt

I feel this one has to go out to Patrick. - Matt

Issue # 8

"Being for the Benefit of Mr. X"

This issue of The X-Files Season 10 opens with a familiar face, Mr. X (as well as a title nod to The Beatles’ song ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!’) It opens in 1987 in front of a school. A redacted folder on page two says he’s there dealing with a project called “Purity Control”. It also alludes to school children being injected with something. It all rings true for the character of Mr. X, one of Mulder’s most dangerous allies. He comes across a boy crying and on the way into the school there are two police officers lying in pools of blood. Upon review of school security cameras, it’s clear that a student has brought a gun to the school and shot the place up. The folder reads that sixteen children exposed to the unnamed injection have all exhibited signs of aggression and the control group was entirely overrun. Mr. X continues looking through the school with the boy and comes across the girl who shot the students in a janitor’s closet. The art style in this issue has the girl colored entirely red. She says she couldn’t help it and felt out of control before she brings the gun and aims it at Mr. X but before he gets shot or can react the boy he was with kills the girl with one of the police handguns. The boy is now colored red in the artwork signifying a fundamental change in his psyche. He also says he couldn’t help it before putting the gun in his mouth and firing. Mr. X then tells a group of men in hazmat suits to clean it up.

The artwork and story in this issue has already set it apart from other issues in this series. Stark colors mixed with extreme violence in a form we’re all too familiar with in society: a school shooting. Much like the TV series, Season 10 doesn’t shy away from disturbing content.

We join our two heroes back in Mulder’s dungeon-office. His “I Want to Believe” poster is up and a familiar slew of pencils are jammed in the ceiling. Mulder is in his chair napping away as Scully enters talking about a training schedule for them since they’re newly reinstated. They chitchat for a bit before Mulder sees he has a couple of messages on his phone. Someone called, hit some buttons in the first message and in the second one said they have something that belongs to him. Mulder decides to take Scully to check this out rather than work on their reinstatement work. After all these years Mulder still doesn’t play by the rules.

    In Alexandria, Virginia Mulder and Scully meet with a Ms. Steubens to investigate what the message was about. It turns out that she lives in Mulder’s old apartment. It turns out that the couple living there found that someone had picked their door lock but nothing was taken. There was a blood vial and an “X” marked in tape left in the window, much to Mulder and Scully’s surprise.

We rejoin Mr. X in 1987 speaking in a dark boardroom helmed by CSM. He pulls out a red vial and it seems to surprise CSM who then asks everyone to leave them. Mr. X tells CSM that all the bodies at the site were disposed of and the school leveled. They begin talking about a vaccine, familiar territory in the X-Files universe. Mr. X is interrupted by Deep Throat who enters the room and then he leaves, telling them both they aren’t as clever as they think they are.

Back with Mulder and Scully in present day, Mulder is taping on the dashboard of their car. Scully thinks it has something to do with the Acolytes in the first four issues and the security breach. Mulder disagrees but Scully remains skeptical since Mr. X died years ago in Mulder’s apartment hallway.
Returning to Mr. X, he’s standing outside and Deep Throat comes out to speak to him in front of the Washington Post building. They have an altercation and Deep Throat mentions the Watergate scandal. Deep Throat talks about John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln and how even though Booth laid his plans out over a year, it still ended with his death. He tells Mr. X about a young man in Quantico making a name for himself and how he should “play the game”. As Mr. X walks away, he muses about how “Deep Throat” is a hell of a name.

Mulder is now back in the F.B.I. headquarters trying to search for information in the databanks on Mr. X. He receives another call on his phone with a beeping, but this time he confirms that it's Morse code for the letter “X”. At the crime lab in Quantico, Scully is checking out the blood vial. She calls Mulder and tells him the contents of the vial used to be blood, but they’ve been bonded with some sort of synthetic that she is familiar with. As she tells this to Mulder, he comes across who he thought he’d never see again. Mulder asks the figure who he is and the man says he knows already. He says Mulder has to figure out what they’ve become and that they will kill Mulder even if it means turning his work into a crusade, a phrase we’re all familiar with. Mr. X dissolves into a green liquid in front of Agent Mulder during this exchange and the episode is over.

This issue seems to be pulling the agents further back into their old investigations, albeit through a different set of men in the form of old allies and enemies. As we go along in Season 10 familiar story arcs are returned, but with these differences, we are still in confusion as to where it’s going. This is a good thing, as we can have familiar characters to pull us in, but when the differences present themselves, we’re left in the dark along with Mulder and Scully. Where will these new arcs take us? It effectively sinks its hooks into readers and demands that we follow along.

Issue #9


    Here we return to a “Monster of the Week” style issue. This time we are in familiar territory; bugs. The opening scene drops you in a macabre scene with an ominous “CHTCHTCHT” and a woman covered in maggots and cockroaches. The narration over it mentions such things as “Tribute” and “The Chittering God,” which further adds ambience to the disturbing scene. We also see a large man wearing glasses and a baseball hat going to work with a butcher knife. Slowly, he’s covered in bugs and begs, “The voices…make them stop!” We see the woman again, hacked to pieces on a table as bugs overwhelm the scene.

    The whole ambience presented is reminiscent of classic X-Files episodes mixed with a dash of Silence of the Lambs. We’ve seen bugs appear before in the series as well as serial killers, but mixing the two is a new concept. I’ve enjoyed this series for keeping in line with the X-Files spirit while breaking new ground at the same time.

    Once we’ve past the title page we join Agents Mulder and Scully in their “FBI” jackets bantering away before another agent intrudes and asks why Mulder is making jokes. She clearly hasn’t had much time to get to know our heroes. Scully informs her that Mulder doubts that they are targeting the right suspect in a kidnapping case they’ve been assigned to. The other agent tells them the FBI has been working on the case for the last three weeks and that if he isn’t comfortable leading the investigation, he should get out of the way. Scully complains about a strange smell then passes out. Mulder asks A.D. Morales (who was asking about Mulder’s joking) to help get Scully out of the area just as the cops and A.D. Morales catch the suspect we saw in the opening credits emerge from the house. The man holds his hands up and requests them to kill him. More ominous narration appears over the scene talking about the Chittering God.

    Back at the local police station, Scully is watching Mulder question the suspect. We find out that his name is “Milton Keansey” from Mulder as he questions the man. Between panels of the interrogation room we see Mulder and Scully looking through Milton’s house. They find a secret room as Mulder shows Milton that they have evidence that he kidnapped a woman named Margaret Finch, but they didn’t find the missing woman.

    While Mulder is questioning Milton, A.D. Morales asks Scully if she’s feeling up to the job since she had a fainting episode back at Milton’s house. Scully assures her that she’s fine as she steps on a cockroach. Milton tells Mulder that “he wants her next” as he looks through the mirror at Scully. Mulder doesn’t know what he’s talking about but Scully starts feeling ill as he says this. Right at that moment, Milton’s lawyer shows up and tells him to stop talking to Agent Mulder. Milton isn’t paying attention, but looking through the mirrored window to Scully.
Later that night Mulder and Scully are back in their motel room. Mulder is expressing his anger about the lawyer getting Milton off since the FBI lacks evidence aside from the shoe. Scully asks Mulder how he feels since he started the investigation. She is skeptical about Milton’s guilt, but is cut off when a cockroach shows up.
Back in the police station, Milton is in his bunk sleeping as the familiar CHTCHTCHT sound returns. Milton seems afraid as the cockroaches return through the vent in his ceiling and seems to be bargaining with his Chittering God. Mulder and Scully’s conversation ends with them still unsure of Milton’s guilt as we see Milton covered in bugs.
Scully begins the next day by knocking on neighbors’ doors looking for any information on Milton. She knocks on one “Mrs. Hoynes’s” door, who she called earlier. Mrs. Hoynes says that she’s been expecting Scully and invites her in for tea. She tells Scully that Milton never leaves his house and assures her that it’s a quiet town where everyone looks after each other.
Cut to Mulder at the police department. A couple of deputies are investigating Milton’s cell. Mulder looks in and all they see is Milton’s clothes on the floor, no prisoner. Mulder rushes for the door and instructs the deputies to call the FBI and tell them to meet him in Milton’s neighborhood.
Back to Scully, who is still talking to Mrs. Hoynes. Scully is discussing Milton, but Mrs. Hoynes interjects telling Scully that she’s lost a child, either recently or a long time ago. She continues and Scully tries to tell her off, but she passes out again as the lady starts talking about the Chittering God. Suddenly Scully appears to be covered in bugs. Mulder arrives at the neighborhood looking for Scully, but she’s still trapped in Mrs. Hoynes’s house. Scully is trying to resist Mrs. Hoynes and ends up falling down some stairs and lands in a pile of bones. Scully almost gives in to the madness engulfing her and holds a garden trowel to her own throat, to Mrs. Hoynes’s pleasure. Right before that happened, Mulder appears and holds his gun to the back of Mrs. Hoynes’s head. He checks on Scully as he holds the lady at bay. Scully says she isn’t sure how she is feeling. She remarks on how they will solve a lot of missing persons cases with the evidence they stumbled upon. Mulder takes the trowel away from Scully as the police take Mrs. Hoynes away. She tells Mulder that Milton must have been as much a victim as the rest of these people as she steps on a cockroach.
This Monster of the Week episode harkened back to some episodes of The X-Files. What seems like a clear cut case ends up deluding one of our heroes to the point of near madness.  Mulder and Scully work so well together that over the years they have developed almost a sixth sense for each other. Often during the series even that sense hasn’t totally kept them out of danger. That’s something always I’ve appreciated about the series as a whole.

Issue #10

"More Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man"
This issue begins in a New York Office. A man is walking through rows and rows of shelving till he finds a box with the letters “C S M” on the top of it. Inside the box are some Morley cigarettes, pictures, and a transcript titled “Take a Chance a Jack Colquitt Adventure” written by Raul Bloodworth (Nom de Plum). The man strikes a match, lights a cigarette and we see that it’s Cigarette Smoking Man. The artwork in this issue is very jagged and dark, it matches CSM’s personality pretty well. We join CSM in his Army days when he was just C. Spender. He’s in Cuba during the Bay of Pigs operation with his unit. Things don’t go as planned, as history tells us.
We join Spender again on Homestead Air Force Base, Florida 1962. He’s in a doctor’s office watching a JFK speech. The doc speaks to Spender and we find out its Mulder’s father. They talk about how they should ditch the Army life and move up to work for the real government. On to Fort Bragg in 1970, Spender is up typing a story. His pregnant wife gets up and talks to him for a bit before she tells him some men came for a blood draw. As she tells him this, she draws a knife and attempts to stab him in the back, but he catches her first. He asks what is wrong with her, and reassures her that everything he does is for her and their unborn child.
Now, years later, CSM is smoking his cigarette over his old manuscript as he throws it in the trash and looks at an old picture of him with Mulder’s father in his box of things.
1952: Location “Top Secret,” we see two men in hazmat suits enter a fence. The art is minimalistic. We see a dead scientist with blood splattered on him. The two men enter a building and they mention how some Nazi made a mess before we see a disturbing, almost alien-looking face attack one of them. One man asks where Mulder went and hearts an ominous “skttr skttr” sound. Mulder is behind him and they know they have to hunt it. The alien jumps out with its razor sharp teeth and clawed hands, and the men unload their flamethrowers, burning the alien alive. The artwork in this section is different than the last, with softer lines and more subtle coloring.
1965: At a lake with a new style of artwork, we see a woman in a bikini talking to Spender. They both exchange some words, Spender hits on her as they see Mulder waterskiing. The woman tells him it’s over and she tosses his cigarettes into the bushes. As she leaves, Spender hears something in the bushes and he tells whoever it is to come out. It’s a young Fox who has been eavesdropping. Spender calls him a “Spooky little one” and asks for his cigarettes back after telling him the truth will set him free. Fox runs off as Spender lights another cigarette.
1972: State Department Headquarters, Mulder enters a dark meeting room full of men. They are discussing the Vietnam war but make an ominous mention about how if the sympathizers knew what was going on in the skies over Hanoi they’d be thanking them. The men must be an early iteration of the Syndicate.
Back to CSM as he’s musing over his past; a man enters the room and tells him that he’s searching for answers. The man seems to know CSM but CSM seems to be confused by him. He insists that he used to have a wife and son and that he can protect his son like he has in the past. The nameless man tells him he has nothing, holds out his hand and a force throws CSM off his chair and the man finishes by reiterating his control over him. The man tells CSM to clean up the mess and that he brought him back for specific reasons and it’s not up to him. CSM says “Extraordinary men are always most tempted by the most ordinary things.” And a few vials of blood on the desk disappear.

This issue was interesting with its variation of art style to go along with the shifts in time. Spender/CSM has been through a lot of major events in American history, shifting directions and playing various sides. While no doubt a heavy in the storyline, he is one of my favorite characters. There never is any clarification for the man, just snippets of his past and what he’s told Mulder which may or may not be trustworthy. We’ll see where the man’s story takes him through Season 10 and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Special thanks to XScribe for editorial assistance.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Foreign Correspondents 1

I realize this blog has been remiss in a number of areas, we didn’t address the passing of Christopher Lee, which we intend to, and the comic reviews have been sporadic, but we should be continuing with those shortly. Obviously all of the attention on The X-Files Revival has directed out focus on that, which it should after all, and the focus again on providing more great content for the main site, and to retool the site to adapt to the changes within X-Philes community. There has also been the writing for the huge site, Den of Geek, which continues. I will attempt to continue this occasional series with like minded interesting films as I proceed with the following.

I wanted to mention a few obscure film sources that are interesting in their own right, and while I have doubts such material ever came to the attention of the folks of the production team for Ten-Thirteen, I thought these films are worth mentioning.

The first is a Swedish / Danish silent film from 1922 titled Haxan (Witchcraft Through The Ages), which has been restored, and an interesting mix of a historical documentary, with staged reenactments that is broken up into four sections. A number of the visuals are striking for a film of that era, and it is notable how many silent films had some striking images where it made you wonder how they achieved such visuals in the early days of film craft.

The next film cited has to be credited with creating another science fiction film from the mid 1960s. The American made Queen of Blood, directed by Curtis Harrington, and starring John Saxon and Basil Rathbone and a young Dennis Hopper, was an interesting and impressive looking low budget space opera from 1966, that dealt with our future where an American space agency is contacted by beings from another world who announce their intention to meet with us under the guise of peace. But the craft holding their envoys, including their queen, crashes on the planet Mars and one of the Moons of Mars, an American team is sent to rescue the survivors. Their queen is the only survivor, she is a silvery green humanoid being who attacks the crew one by one on the way back to Earth, she turns out to be a space vampire, and their mission had to do more with finding a new planet of potential hosts than peaceful intents, as reflected in the bitterly ironic ending. One can find the trailer here.

Roger Corman had bought the rights to two Russian films from the late 50s and early 60s, Mechte Navstrechu and Nebo Zoyzot and used the effects footage and settings to build up Queen of Blood into a unique effort. The bulk of the more impressive and imaginative footage came from Mechte Navstrechu, a film that had a elements of a similar plot to a degree but was heavy handed in it’s propaganda against America. One of the differences being that aliens have heard beautiful Russian songs in their transmissions and felt compelled to visit Russia, the title translates into A Dream Come True. But the sheer visual invention of the footage make it’s worth taking a look, and should give fans a taste of European cinema from a bygone era.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Benjamin's Millennial Compendium - Comics 3

The next review of the IDW comic, Millennium for issue three is another good piece of work from Benjamin Billings. The issue was written by Joe Harris, with art by Colin Lorimer and Joana Lafuente.

This is My Gift.  This is My Curse.

While the first issue of the new Millennium comic series by IDW was marked by deliberately building dread, the second issue exceeded all expectations and delivered a riveting ride full of terror and revelation. Is it possible for the third issue to match out raised expectations? Let’s dive in and find out. As always, spoilers are everywhere.

This book starts with Frank racing through the rain in a graveyard. Last issue left us in a café so this jump is slightly jarring. He finds Catherine Black’s grave, and after seeing her in a vision for a moment, he lies on his back above her resting place and proclaims that there is no place he would rather be. The shot widens and we see several cars and men in suits. Millennium agents?  FBI agents?  We are not told who, and then Jordan Black, his daughter, comes running to him.

If you watched the television series you know that Catherine was his wife. She died of a Marburg-like virus in the end of the second season in the episode, “The Time is Now.” Her death came with terrible irony, because she is yanked from Frank Black just as the two were reconciling after a period of separation. Her death was directly caused by the Millennium Group, who gave Frank one dose of a life-saving cure and forced him to choose between his wife and daughter. In the end, Catherine chooses, and she chooses Jordan and pays with her life for that choice.

After turning the page we find out these events transpire 24 hours in the future. I think this is a mistake in pacing. With the very limited space there is to tell this story, it seems wasteful to snap back and forth in time. I sincerely hope that these issues are collected in a more durable edition in the future but truthfully this transition is only going to confuse the reader more in that format. Especially when the present time shows Frank back in the café we left him last issue. The storytelling is too tight to have to resort to these sorts of story-telling devices to keep me reading. In fact, these tricks only serve to muddy the water.

The café scene is masterful though. Frank is signed in to the computer and his immediate attention is on information about Monte Propps, the killer from the first issue. Quickly though, his attentions turn.  He decides to look for his estranged daughter. The waitress comes by and seeing her picture asks if that is his daughter and mentions that she would love to see her father after so long. Frank begins to threaten her, but she interrupts him and asks if she can freshen his coffee.

It is all taking a toll on him now. Too much has happened and too soon. His nerves are jangled and he does not trust his instincts. He backpedals on the threat and suddenly the waitress announces that he has an invitation just as an email arrives. The message says “HELP ME, DADDY” and as the waitress watches, another message arrives that says, “COME HOME.” The waitress reveals she is indeed more than she seems and says, “Safe travels, Mr. Black.” The next panel is too good to spoil but again, masterfully done and expertly captures the style and mood of the show.

The next scene takes us to Fox Mulder working with a couple of hackers to get into some Millennium “Deep Web” databases.  They are largely unsuccessful and the hackers suggest Mulder might need a body to get in because “access to the database is a highly personalized experience.”. 

This scene holds my second quibble with this issue. The hackers talk about information they found on a black hat message board a few years ago. It is hard to believe that such knowledge would be out there and to the degree that it was, sharing it would likely be a death sentence for that person.  They even know that phrases from science fiction were used as passwords and they attempt a brute force attack to get in. (Two points if you remember Frank Black’s password.)

This scene ends with them checking on Franks’s whereabouts and find he has bought a one-way ticket to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and transitions nicely to find him in the airport. A driver is waiting for him and this opens the second great exchange of the book. 

The driver will not tell Frank where he is taking him, though Frank pushes pretty hard and suddenly he has another vision of Catherine who tells him that “We’re all waiting for you.” Frank yells at the driver to stop the car and then without waiting, dives out of it.

It is dusk and rainy and we are moments away from the scene at the start of the book. An assumed tranquilizer dart hits Frank. He is lying on the ground when we see him call his daughter’s name and see her face.

The next scene opens with Frank waking with a start. Looking out the window he sees the space needle and knows he is still in Seattle. He reaches for the phone and a voice in the blackness tells him he will not need it. A man in a suit is sitting in a chair in the shadows and reveals that Frank has been unconscious for three days. The man introduces himself as a part of the Millennium Group and in a moment of pure comic gold asks Frank if he knows he has the same name as the lead singer of the Pixies. Frank does not appreciate the joke and roars, “Where is my daughter?” Seizing the man by the throat, he demands to know where she is. The man continues to offer his opinions about which Pixies albums were the best. Frank grows exasperated and lets the man go only to grab a sword that is hanging on the wall. The man tells Frank that even though the world did not end, nothing has changed.

Frank tells the man that he “..can’t think of any reason why I shouldn’t send you straight to Hell if you don’t bring me Jordan Black now.” And then a third voice is heard that says, “So let me give you one, then.” It is Jordan herself, grown. She tells him to release the man and when he asks her why, she tells him “This is who we are.”  The final panel shows an ouroboros necklace around her neck. 

There are some amazing things in the closing moments, and the voice of this man who has been pushed past the brink is so clear.  When I read it I could hear it in Lance Henriksen’s voice.  The dialogue is absolutely pitch perfect. The second thing that will haunt you is the look of hurt and betrayal on Frank’s face as he realizes before she says it, that Jordan has joined the group that has killed her mother and his wife.

This issue is very much worth reading. The minor quibbles I have should not discourage anyone from buying and reading it. I am very much looking forward to the next installment and hopeful that this high level of content continues.

Special thanks to XScribe for editorial assistance.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Benjamin's Millennial Compendium - Comics 2

Benjamin Billings next review is in for Issue 2 of IDW’s Millennium comic book. Written by Joe Harris, with art by Colin Lorimer, and the cover by menton3 – already the comic seems to be finding it’s voice, which is great to see.

The Time Is Near
The first issue of the new Millennium comic by IDW was a slow boil. It lulled you in, but the laconic pace is shattered in this next edition. Spoilers will abound.

The second volume of the Millennium Comic picks up right were the first one left off. Monte Propps is dead, murdered, and the scene of his death bears a striking resemblance to those of his victims. When Fox Mulder and Frank Black investigate they determine that Propps did not appear to be pushed under the water so much as dragged. Unable to decipher the symbols at the scene, they hope for a witness that may know more.

As if on command, a boy appears at the doorway.  Mulder chases him with Black hot on his heels. This is the exact moment I loved this book.  Delivering a scare in the comic form is tough, but Harris and his team pull it off when Black stops Mulder saying, “You of all people should understand that whatever’s running away from you is also leading you somewhere.” My skin crawled. And I had no idea that it was about to get exponentially better.

Following the boy, they find a dead woman. While Mulder calls it in to the FBI (the local police by now are on the scene), Black finds a moment to talk to the boy. When the boy says, “I made you an offer once.  That offer still stands.” I could not have been more pleased. Black immediately knows who he is talking to and immediately my mind is drawn back to season one of the show with episodes like “The Judge” and “Powers, Principalities, Thrones, and Dominions.”  As a fan, this sort of tie-in reassured me at once that the creative team on this book knows their source material. Drawing from such powerful episodes and tying this book into the main story arc of the first and second season was a huge treat for this fan.

The dialogue with the child is spot on. Full of layer and nuance. He tries to draw similarities between himself and Black and then delivers the third revelation of this book (keep in mind we are only seven pages in), that the Millennium Group is behind Propps death. Given who supplied the information it is suspect, but Black seems to believe the boy.

By now, Black has had enough and grabs the boy.  A policeman intercedes quickly.  As Black releases the boy the boy whispers, “I know where she is, Frank.  Your daughter, I mean.  Let me help you.”  By the next panel, Black is nowhere to be found and the boy is still there so we assume that Black has yet again turned this entity’s offer down.

When we next see Black he is in a cab headed to a home he is unfamiliar with.  He is thinking of the closing scene in The X-Files episode, “Millennium,” where he and Jordan are running down the corridor.  Verifying the address, he leaves the cab and finds a way into the house. He reveals that he was sent here, admitting that he has actually accepted the boy’s help. Immediately I wondered what this will ultimately cost him because help like he received would not have come for free.

Black searches the house which apparently belongs to an FBI agent. He finds a laptop and boots it up. The screen loads with the ouroboros of the Millennium Group. Black has scant seconds to react to this revelation before someone enters the home. The newcomer calls out to Black, realizing there is an intruder in his home and draws a pistol. Among the things he says is, “If it is free now, it’s all but over.”

The actors are set in motion and when they collide they do so ferociously. Black manages to disarm the man but in return suffers a jarring kick to the bag. Black scrambles to get the firearm and points it at the man. The man grabs the weapon and smashes Black in the face with it. Responding to Black’s questions the man calls him by name saying, “I think you know the answers to your own questions, Frank.” He then places his thumb over Blacks finger which is over the trigger. Pulling the gun to his chest he says, “This is who we are” before forcing Black to pull the trigger.

In lesser hands I would wonder what is being shown in the next two panels featuring Black. Because Harris and his team know the source material so well, I can make a safe guess what it is. Black sits on the floor beside the dead man and replays in his head killing the Polaroid Man. Again, actors outside his control threaten his family. Again despite his gift, he is left trying to keep ahead of it all and wishing desperately that this does not end like it did with his wife. He came to the house to find information about Jordan, after all.

This part of the story ends with Mulder asking Scully to cover for him as this is going to take some more time to wrap up. Black is gone and he has taken the laptop with him.  The final scene shows him at a coffee shop.  He attempts to log in to the computer using his old password, “Soylent Green is People” and to his surprise the laptop opens and says, “It has been 5527 days since the new millennium.”  Closing here almost seems cruel, but it is sure way to make sure we are chomping at the bit for the next issue.

Through the book the art and dialogue are very tight.  Coloring is wonderful and atmospheric.  It is hard to find anything to fault this book for. The worst thing I can say is that it is too short.

Reservations that the first book was merely an X-Files book with Frank Black in a supporting role were proven to be undeserved. This is full on Millennium, the fun, the claustrophobia, and the building dread.  Truthfully this is better than we as fans have been hoping for.  I consider this book a must-have for any fan of Millennium.  It is actually better than some of the show’s televised episodes and I cannot wait to see what the next issue holds in store for us.

Special Thanks to XScribe for editorial assistance.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Thanks Gabe, Vince, and Chris L.

Matt holding the trusted recording device he’s used on interviews for many years.

When we conducted our interview with Vince Gilligan, I came to realize I was remiss in thanking one other person, Chris Carter’s right hand man, Gabe Rotter, for connecting me to Vince’s assistant in late 2014. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude. Once again, I want to thank Chris Longo from Den for being such a huge help last month.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Undiscovered Country

I’ve been mulling over the passing of actor Leonard Nimoy over the past couple of days, and while his death wasn’t quite a shock, as he was 83 and had not looked well for quite a while, his death does represent, like Robin Williams’, another seismic shift, and foretells us to expect another wave of icons passing from the 60s and 70s era. I’m not looking forward to it. But all icons are mortal after all and this should cause us to re-examine how to make our lives fuller. His final Tweet couldn’t have been more poetic:

“A life is like a garden, perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Live Long and Prosper."

Mr. Spock made him, and he made Mr. Spock. Other actors have played Vulcans since The Next Generation debuted, but there’s something that feels generic with other portrayals when you compare Nimoy’s skill at playing the role. There was that evident gravitas of course, but it was Nimoy’s humanity and sensitivity that made Spock so special and something that people could identify with. Spock was an outsider to a degree within his own people, half-human, half-Vulcan, he lived in a world that frowned on emotions – but I want to make this clear: Vulcan’s didn’t eliminate emotions, they conditioned themselves to suppress them. The common lore is that in fact Vulcans can have, in fact, extreme emotions, but have suppressed them for the sake of seeking logic. For most of us morals, that’s easier said than done. Spock’s real triumph was to assimilate his emotions along with his reason. But it was Nimoy’s understanding of the character that helped us to see that arc in time.

But Nimoy held a depth as a person and an actor that could only be understood when you have seen his range. It's uncanny.

Born on March 26, 1931 to Max and Dora Nimoy, Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Iziaslav, Russia (which is now known as the Ukraine), he lived in the west end of Boston, Massachusetts. He began his acting interests as a child; his first major role came at 17 in an amateur production of Clifford Odet’s Awake and Sing. He took drama classes at Boston College in 1953, but didn’t complete them. He then served as a sergeant in the US Army from 1953 through 1955. His first title film role was Kid Monk Baroni, in 1952, about a street punk turned professional boxer. He appeared in the film Them! , and The Brain Eaters in late 1958, along with Zombies of the Stratosphere in 1952. He appeared in The Twilight Zone episode “A Quality of Mercy” in 1961. He was cast as Luke Reid in 1959s ABC series Colt 45, then appeared in a series of television Westerns, Wagon Train, Bonanza, The Rebel, Rawhide, and co-starred with DeForest Kelley on The Virginian in a 1963 episode.  He also appeared in crime dramas such as The Untouchables and Perry Mason. Leonard Nimoy first worked with William Shatner in a 1964 episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Nimoy chose to work on the Star Trek pilot over the soap opera Peyton Place. Most of Spock’s most iconic traits came from Leonard Nimoy; the Vulcan hand sign came from childhood memories of the way Jewish Priests (Kohanim) would hold their hands during blessings.  The Vulcan mind meld and Vulcan neck pinch were Nimoy inventions that helped the writers get out of plot point problems in various episodes, and those Jewish blessings also lead to the phrase “Live Long and Prosper.”

Following the end of Star Trek in 1969, he appeared in Mission: Impossible as a replacement for Martin Landau, playing the character of Paris. He appeared with Yul Brynner and Richard Crenna in the Western feature Catlow in 1971. He hosted the series In Search of… starting in 1977, a documentary series about the unexplained and paranormal that impacted countless fans of my age range during its run. He appeared in 1978 as a major character in Philip Kaufman’s unsettling Invasion of The Body Snatchers as a psychiatrist. He was awarded an Emmy nomination for A Woman Called Golda in 1982. Of course, he also appeared in the Star Trek animated series from 1973-1974.

But Leonard Nimoy also reached acclaim for a series of theatrical appearances, essaying the title role of Vincent in 1981. The range of the productions he had been involved with include Fiddler On The Roof, The Man in The Glass Booth, Oliver!, Full Circle, Camelot, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The King and I, Caligula, Twelfth Night, Sherlock Holmes, Equus, and My Fair Lady. But his range also included photography and academia; he studied photography at the University of California, Los Angeles in the 1970s, got an MA in education from Antioch College, an honorary degree from Antioch University in Ohio, and honorary doctorate of humane letters from Boston University. His work in photography has been exhibited at the R. Michelson galleries in Northampton, Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. But lastly, one cannot forget his role as a director. He made his directing debut on a Night Gallery episode from the final season, “Death on a Barge.” After directing an episode of T.J. Hooker, Nimoy, of course, helmed Star Trek III and IV, and followed that with the massive comedy hit Three Men and a Baby, and The Good Mother. We even would have to consider his musical abilities as well; a group of pop / rock, folk albums for Dot records, which some have regarded as high camp, while others considered them legitimate efforts.

Like Sean Connery’s inimitable James Bond, Leonard Nimoy tried to work against being typecast in the role of Spock. His efforts to branch out as a legitimate artist led to periods of ambivalence about the role, which eventually led to a kind of existential crisis in the 70s about the impact of the character on the actor. This struggle was first broached in his autobiography written in 1975, I Am Not Spock. By the time his second autobiography was penned in 1995, I Am Spock, some of this ambivalence had been resolved.

Some of this ambivalence was reflected in Spock’s reemergence in the 1979 feature Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Spock has been away from Starfleet for years, and only reappears out of necessity and due to a psychic connection to the V’Ger entity, sensing a living machine that operates on pure logic. But while mirroring Spock, this entity is seeking the big questions: Is there more to existence; why are we here. By the end of the film Spock is taking first steps towards fully integrating his emotions with his logical nature. This arc would continue with the rest of the original cast features. The Spock in Star Trek II seems a little older and wiser. After dying and being revived from the genesis wave, Spock develops greater insight about himself and his friends, and this maturity reaches a conclusion in Star Trek VI, where he has learned to channel his emotions to where it’s appropriate, the betrayal by Valeris to the crew and Starfleet.

I admired Spock for his ability to integrate his emotions with his ability to examine every possible situation from multiple perspectives to arrive at the best decision. Some tend to get it wrong; this aspiration isn’t to live life like some robot, but to be able step away from an issue and look at it objectively. Indeed, Spock cared very deeply for his friends, even if he didn’t show it. He also maintained a very strong ethic toward doing the right thing, for justice, and for protecting the defenseless, even when it meant that someone would have to die. When I first heard of Leonard Nimoy’s passing, Spock’s eulogy from Star Trek II came to mind:

"We are assembled here today to pay final respects to our honored dead. And yet it should be noted, in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life, the sunrise of a new world; a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect and nourish. He did not feel this sacrifice a vain or empty one, and we will not debate his profound wisdom at these proceedings. Of my friend, I can only say this: Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human."

This has taken on a new meaning for myself, the inkling of an idea. With the passing on of an important figure, that such death can leave open the path for the birth of the next generation, the birth of new ideas, the cyclical nature of our mortality, and the hope that another figure with the same depth will arise, but it is incumbent for each of us to rise to that occasion, or to cultivate and nurture a child who might be able live up to the promise.  But it is a cyclical process, and a slow going one, for evolution often is a slow going process. In Star Trek VI Spock tells the new Vulcan cadet, Lt. Valeris, “You must have faith that the universe will unfold as it should.”

While I mourn his passing, I have to be philosophical about this. As Kirk was heard musing in Star Trek II: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” From Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

Leonard Nimoy lived a life that was indeed prosperous, and he lived a full one. His example will be one that others will follow for generations. He is on to a better rest.

Death is the Undiscovered Country; there’s no reason to fear it if you’ve lived a full life.

Special thanks to XScribe for editorial assistance.