Saturday, October 3, 2015

Benjamin's Millennial Compendium - Comics 5

Benjamin’s new, and final review, of the Millennium comic from IDW is here, written by Joe Harris, and art by Colin Lorimer. His final review is very candid, and we hope it will be helpful. -Matt

This Is Who We Are

Before we get into the final review of this series I wanted to call your attention to covers. Each issue has two covers (with the exception of the first, which had a limited third cover by Paul Shipper). One of the covers in each set is done by menton3 and the other is a photo from the series. The work by menton3 is very atmospheric and well done. It matches the mood and even offers some subtle foreshadowing. I am less fond of the photo covers. They are dated. The idea of this story is that we have moved with Frank Black into the present time. The photos are not evocative and except for brand recognition seemingly serve no purpose. I say all this because if you have not been seeing menton3’s covers you are really missing out.

This issue is the last in the series, and given the respect for the source material and the high quality of this story, the bar was set very high. Did the last issue meet expectations? Let’s dig in and find out.

The story picks up where we left Mulder, entering Frank’s old yellow house. The place is in disrepair, and Mulder is able to quip with his characteristic humor. He moves down to the basement and finds, written on the wall, the words “The Time Has Passed.” Suddenly the woman we met on the sidewalk last issue (though fans of the show have been meeting her in all her incarnations since the first season; here she is Lucy Butler) is beside Mulder and holding the black cat he found down there. After a brief conversation, in which Lucy praises Mulder’s abilities, the shadows reveal Mulder lying on his back with Lucy on top of him, and the assumption is that they are about to have sex.

The scene shifts, and Frank, Jordan, and Quentin (Jordan’s patron) are in a rental car lot. Without clues as to where Mulder went, and with time of the essence, Frank apologetically asks Jordan to use her gift. (This is another departure from Frank. Frank’s visions seemed to come or not without an ability to call them. Jordan can call hers.) Jordan tries but only sees her father, as she did in the last issue, caught by a demonic form. Jordan tells Frank, “I don’t see him…” Now a vision comes to her unbidden. A voice says, “Watching.” And she sees red eyes. It catches her off guard, and she cries out and falls to her knees. Quentin says sharply, “That’s enough!” but the vision does not let go that easily. She hears, “Waiting,” and sees the outline of what may be Lucy Butler.

Frank rushes to her side and wants to know what she sees. Quentin and Frank argue for a moment, but the vision continues and takes its own course. Jordan says that she sees the old house. Frank gets a car and leaves Jordan and Quentin behind to arrange their own transportation. Actually, Frank manages to find a seventeen-year-old red Jeep Cherokee right at the front of the lot. If you can suspend your disbelief for just a moment, it is a lot of fun to see Frank drive off.

Frank arrives at his old home and recognizes that the car out front must belong to Mulder. As he enters the home, his vision flashes for a moment to happier days, when Jordan was still a little girl. The black cat from earlier eyes Frank warily as he moves down the stairs. Suddenly he sees, in a vision, Bob Bletcher. (For those unfamiliar with the series, Bob was killed by Lucy Butler in the first-season episode “Lamentation” and hanged from a rafter in the very basement Frank is entering.)

Frank quickly finds Mulder and suggests they leave. Mulder does not seem to be himself and says haltingly, across three panels, “I-I don’t… …know… …if that’s possible.” The last panel on the page shows Mulder with his finger on the trigger and his weapon pointing down, saying, “Y-You need… to go… …Frank…” Chillingly, he continues on the next page, “Does she… know you’re here yet… …Frank?” Frank’s eyes grow wide, and while he asks who Mulder is talking about, it is clear he already knows.

Lucy emerges from the shadows. I will not fragment or try to recreate the dialogue here, but suffice it to say that Lucy is cruel and written true to character. I know I have said this before, but it bears repeating: the story and dialogue shows tremendous respect for and knowledge of the source material.

After a moment of conversation, Mulder indicates that he cannot control his arm or weapon any longer. He fires and puts out the light, and Lucy says, “You have to admit, Frank… …for two old players like us… …staying out of the game could only stick for so long.” Now, Jordan appears at the top of the stairs and states, “You think you’re playing games here.” Lucy responds, “I am winning them, child.” Lucy’s form becomes bestial, and she growls, “We are Legion. We create the game.”

Legion reaches umbral tentacles toward Jordan. Frank tackles it from behind and begs Mulder to shoot, though Mulder is unable to get a clean shot. Jordan does not flinch from the tentacles, and as Frank and Legion tussle she raises her arms slightly, and with eyes white and a resplendent countenance she accuses Legion of the harm it has caused her and her family and countless others.

The next panels are not clear. It seems that Jordan has in some way contained the creature Legion. Afterward, she falls to her hands and knees. Frank runs to her, to help her, but she flees from him. In another scene of heartbreak, you can see her face clenched in pain and sorrow as she runs up the stairs and away from him, saying, “I’m sorry, Daddy…” as she goes.

This is one of the low points of the series. Not making clear what was going on in the concluding scene is nearly unforgivable. In fact, if the rest of the series had been so ambiguous, I would not be able to recommend it at all.

It gets more confusing when Frank and Mulder get outside. Mulder notes, “Looks like your ride left without you. Want a lift?” But the red Jeep is right there. And that Jeep is as iconic as anything in the series. Even weirder, the position of the Jeep has now changed in relation to Mulder’s car. And Frank declines the ride and says he wants to walk? This page ends up being a confusing mishmash. Having suffered a horrific encounter with Legion, Mulder seems mostly concerned with (1) how Frank is going to get home, (2) making sure Frank does not tell Scully about the intimacy with Lucy (even though we have not seen Scully and Frank together for this whole series!), and (3) offering Frank a job at the FBI, even though Frank retired from the FBI already, is likely too old, and has not shown the sort of stability that the government prefers in their agents. And all this assumes that Mulder is a recruiter for the FBI or has the authority to make job offers.

The last page of the story shows the yellow house again. The black cat is on the roof. Suddenly the cat changes shape into Lucy. Earlier Lucy held the black cat, so there must have been two of them? She says, though she is alone, “True good and evil never die, Frank. They just lay low for a bit, lick their wounds, and wait for the cycle to start again… …for an entire millennium, if necessary…”  If Legion does not believe good can be defeated, nor evil, why does it behave like it does? I am sorry to say that the ending of the book nearly ruined it for me. It was careless and sloppy in a way that neither the show nor the previous books in this series have been. A little more time editing here, and we would have a real gem for both fans and newcomers. As it stands, fans will no doubt like the series, as I did, and wish for more, but it will be hard for people who are approaching this world for the first time to give this another chance. This may be a real wasted opportunity to expand the large fan community online. In some ways it seems eerily like the abrupt ending of the show itself.

One final note: IDW has collected all the material from this series (but not the appearance of Frank Black in the X-Files book) into a softcover compilation (ISBN 978-1631403767) for $19.99. The production quality is good, and while there is little more that needs to be said by way of the story, it should be noted that there are several pages of the art of the series in various degrees of completion, and all the covers are reproduced. Not lots of extras, but a few tidbits for hardcore fans.

Special editorial thanks to Bellefleur.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Truth is Coming...

Not much to really add here. This should interest those who follow the Paranormal, Conspiracy Theories, or Crypto Politics.

Sometimes, there's very little that needs to be said.

I would be curious to get peoples thoughts more than offering my own, comments?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

When Duty Calls...

Two promo X-Files trailers to debut Monday night...

We were asked by FOX publicity to mention the two part promo trailers for The X-Files Season 10 episodes that will debut tomorrow night, Monday, during both Gotham and then Minority Report.

You can tune in to “Gotham” at 8/7 central to view part 1, and the following this, on “Minority Report”, you can view part 2 at 9/8 central to view part 2.

The descriptions Monday regular programs are as follows:

On GOTHAM at 8/7c, a deadly escape rocks the city and following his reinstatement, it’s up to Gordon (Ben McKenzie) to track the Maniax. Meanwhile, Galavan (James Frain) plans his next move, while Bruce (David Mazouz) enlists the help of his father’s old friend to unlock the secrets in his office, and Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) attempts to ask out Kristin Kringle (guest star Chelsea Spack). 

Then, on MINORITY REPORT at 9/8c, it’s a match made in….the future. Dash (Stark Sands) and Vega (Meagan Good) team up again to find a killer who is currently down on love. Meanwhile, Dash continues to reach out to his siblings for help.  

The Two-Night season premiere of The X-Files is Jan, 24th, 2016, Sunday, 10:00-11:00 PM ET 7:00-8:00 PM PT, and Jan 25th, 8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT

Monday, September 7, 2015

Chris's Comic Corner - The New Season, Issue 1

The new review from Christopher Irish is up for the new season. We have a new relationship with IDW Comics for The X-Files, season 11, and hope to offer the best insight possible, but that is really up to the fans to determine that. Once again, Chris’s work is always a pleasure to read. Feel free to drop us input about how we are doing. – Matt

Season 11
Issue 1

Written by: Joe Harris
Art by: Matthew Dow Smith
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Editor: Denton J. Tipton
Executive Producer: Chris Carter

This new season begins with a recap of season 10’s events. The main story begins in Zion National Park in Utah. A group of people are being led into a cave by a mysterious figure in a hood. The hooded person talks to a man wearing goggles and walking ahead of him who is working on a handheld device. We find out they’re heading to some sort of work site. The man working the device talks to the hooded person while he tries to get the device to work. Unable to get the machine to work, he hands it to the hooded person. Another one of the members walks ahead and we find out it’s the leader, a redheaded lady named Tyler. They mention that if the signal is weak, it could mean someone else might be using the signal at the same time. Tyler says it could be the proverbial “Men In Black” and recounts information about the government losing track of a sophisticated spy satellite. We find out that she and the rest are part of a salvage team, most likely working towards finding this supposed lost satellite. Tyler talks to one of the members who was questioning her while working on the tracker and calls him Mr. Blake. The rest of the team teases him about having the worst codename “Anthony Blake” and how it sounds like an old TV character. The frame shows a clear shot of Agent Fox Mulder with a fake moustache as a disguise. (This is a new look for him; in all the seasons of The X-Files and all of Season 10 I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mulder with a ‘stache. Given his proclivity toward adult entertainment, I think it’s long overdue).

The redheaded woman corrects the man, saying it’s Bill Bixby the Magician they’re thinking of. They discuss further details of Blake’s suspicion that the satellite that supposedly burned up actually had parts that survived, hence the salvage team. The redhead tells the group that if they manage to find the downed satellite they could have a future. Just as Tyler gets a lock on the signal, Blake mentions that the present concerns him more, and that if they knew what he knows about the future they’d be worried.
The next scene opens in Jose Marti International Airport, in Havana, Cuba. We see people boarding a plane. One of them is Scully, who turns to look at a person walking down the alley out of frame but who has a vaguely familiar mouth line. She turns down and looks at a file titled “Cantus”. The plane takes off in the next frame.

Now in Virginia, Scully is working on her laptop late at night. She types in “trust_nnl@x_” to check her messages, and has none. The next panel is a familiar one, Scully sitting before an FBI investigative panel to explain herself sans Mulder. The board mentions that Assistant Director Skinner has been placed on administrative leave and that Scully has no idea of the whereabouts of Agent Fox Mulder, who is wanted for questioning. The board warns Scully that the Attorney General is considering pressing felony charges. Scully reiterates that she hasn’t heard from Mulder in two months and has no idea where he is. They bring up the efforts made to streamline the X-Files, using a consultancy and efficiency contractor the Bureau has hired called “Cantus”. Scully is familiar with it and lets them know she is aware of the organization’s efforts.
The next scene is back with Mulder and the salvage crew, who have found the downed satellite. She instructs two of them to make their way back to their truck to lock it up while the rest of them work. Mulder (or Blake) and Jasco (another member of the salvage team) make their way back, hefting a large box along with them. Jasco complains about Tyler and Mulder deflects. On the way down Mulder mentions that he heard something. Jasco says it’s just the echo of the canyon as they make their way down a slope. Once at the bottom, Jasco continues to talk about Tyler. He warns Mulder that she’s “up in his business” and if he’s not careful she’ll continue to be wary of him. Mulder tells Jasco to watch his step, but he doesn’t listen and continues to talk about Tyler. As he does this he trips over a rock and falls to the ground. Mulder helps him up and offers to take the heavy end. Jasco claims that Tyler may have taken credit for allowing him to join the group, but says it was actually him that convinced her. Right then he also mentions that he didn’t tell her who he really is; he pulls a knife and says there is a reward out for him since he’s an FBI fugitive. Mulder falls back as Jasco lunges with the knife, but Mulder sends him staggering with a solid karate chop to the thigh. Mulder tells him that he’s only after the satellite wreckage and if he can take it he’ll leave him and the group out of it. Jasco doesn’t listen and claims that Mulder is just setting the group up. Right before the fight can resume they hear an ominous growling noise behind them. It turns out to be a pack of wolves. One wolf jumps on Jasco, and before Mulder can help him he’s killed with a bloody “ggggglrg”. Mulder tries to get back to the equipment as a blood-covered wolf approaches. An odd speech bubble tells Mulder that he has to retrieve the communications hardware from the Medici Satellite. Mulder says it’s not going to be easy and that he won’t do anything else till he knows how Scully is doing. The wolves take off down the canyon and Mulder tells them the team are just scavengers and not mercenaries. The wolves, who are inexplicably communicating with Mulder, warn him to remember who his friends are as they move down the canyon.

Back to Scully, who’s being grilled on her unauthorized trip to Cuba. As one panel member brings this up, another one falls asleep but another suffers an ischemic stroke and won’t remember any of the proceedings, while the main panel member narrates both occurrences. Scully says “My god, Gibson” as she pulls her phone out to call in a medical emergency. She begins to assist the panel members, who have all passed out now. The scene ends with the face of the member who had the stroke, and it’s A.D. Morales.
Now in Beaverton, Utah, we find ourselves with The Lone Gunmen. Frohike is talking to Mulder about getting back home. As they finish their talk, the other two Gunmen open the sliding door of the old VW bus they work out of and tell Mulder and Frohike that they have something. They have discovered that the chipset from the downed satellite was manufactured by Cantus, the same organization that the panel brought up to Agent Scully. The communications chip they’ve been working on has a signal the satellite picked up on before it went down. They haven’t figured out what it is yet, but they continue to work on it. They are able to tell that the satellite received this signal about 15 minutes before it entered the atmosphere, which leads them to believe that it didn’t crash in error. The two possibilities are that someone caused the satellite to crash or someone else shot it down.
Back to Scully, she is in Mulders dungeon-office. A familiar speech bubble-the same one the wolves had- comes up telling her he was wondering when she’d be back. A man is in the office and tells her that he needs Mulder’s help now. She tells the man that he knows where he is. It turns out that the man is Gibson as Scully accuses him of being a traitor and tells him that he’s out of his mind. She pulls her gun on him, but he uses his mind’s power to snatch the gun from her hand. Scully asks where Mulder is and Gibson tells her that he’s serving to do what he needs him to do. Scully asks what she’s supposed to do and he tells her to help him as he telepathically hovers a file to her.

    The issue ends with Mulder. We’ll leave it at that and keep the review spoiler-free. The ending does leave you wanting to continue with the upcoming Season 11 #2 however. This season has started off strong. The artwork is excellent and it capitalizes on new aspects brought forth from Season 10 and starts to lay groundwork for another season full of twists, turns, and heavy X-Files conspiracies for our duo to navigate through. We shall see how it goes as this exciting series progresses!

Special thanks to Liz Tray for Editorial assistance.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Chris's Comic Corner 4

The next set of reviews by Christopher Irish are up, another wave of good work, and we hope to see the end of the season 10 reviews shortly and see what develops with season 11! –Matt

Issue # 11
Pilgrims, part 1

Written by: Joe Harris
Art by: Matthew Dow Smith
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
Letters by: Robbie Robbins
Editor: Denton J. Tipton
Executive Producer: Chris Carter
This issue begins in the Saudi Arabian desert with Arab soldiers guarding an oil field being attacked by a jihadist with a car bomb. One terrorist gets shot, knocking another one off a Jeep. Another man in a head wrap tells him to follow if he really wants to fight. The injured terrorist follows along to a pit where they find two scientists. One is trying to get the other to abandon the cave, but the other refuses. The scientist looking to evacuate continues to try but gets shot in the head by one of the terrorists. The mysterious terrorist asks about where a “source” is and takes aim at the running scientist, but the other terrorist who fell off the Jeep tells him not to kill her . The terrorist in the pit scoffs until he finds himself standing in an ominous pool of black oil. The scientist guesses that this terrorist isn’t one of the rest as he tells her to leave. She continues to protest as the terrorist in the oil starts being overtaken. Just as his eyes turn black, the other terrorist pushes a button on a remote and blows them all up inside the cave.   
The next scene opens at a Saudi Arabian airport with Mulder joking with a couple Arab guards. The guard informs Mulder that all alcohol and pornographic material are prohibited, and knowing Mulder the latter might be difficult. Scully tells him he’ll survive and that they have higher priorities. She’s wearing a hijab that she’s trying to straighten. Mulder helps her as they discuss how strange it is that they got pegged for this assignment. A.D. Morales meets them and tells them where they are going. As they move along the corridor and discuss it, there’s a suspicious man reading a newspaper. After Mulder, Scully, and Morales head out, the man is gone.

At the oil field Mulder is reviewing security camera footage of the attack. He notices the camera glitches right before the bomb went off. Mulder asks if the tape has been spliced, but the Saudi guard says they can’t request anything more than they’ve been given. They head out to the oil field, and Scully criticizes the investigation since they covered up the crime scene just to get back to production. Scully asks about a hazard crew cleaning up a different area and how they haven’t received any casualty information. Across the field two more shady-looking men in suits are watching them. One pulls his sunglasses down, and we see that he has black eyes. Mulder and Scully then head to their helicopter to ride back to the hotel, and Mulder says he’s going to go shopping.

Scully chooses to go to the hospital to interview a survivor. He claims that the oil rig was never the real target and the terrorists were after the “other people”. Before she can clarify what he means, a nurse comes to change the man’s bandages. Scully goes to wait in the hallway and asks about why there’s a guarded room. The Saudi men ignore her, and she shows her frustration about the way she’s treated in that country. She sees a fire alarm and asks herself “what would Mulder do?”
Meanwhile, Mulder is in a market district using a computer. He’s communicating with the Lone Gunmen, who are helping him get the frames that were cut from the security footage. They identify the same glitch that Mulder noticed, but they identify a skip in the code in the middle of the attack. Mulder interprets this as a time loss event. Furthermore, before the time loss, the back of the second Jeep had only one passenger. After the jump there are two.
Returning to Scully, she’s pulled the fire alarm and is investigating whom the door guards are protecting. Once in the hospital room, she finds a person completely bandaged speaking to her in German. It is Doctor Eva Krause, the doctor the terrorist from the beginning advised to run away. Scully begins to be concerned for what she was exposed to after the doctor mentions that they found what they thought was oil seepage. The doctor tells Scully about the man who blew it all up. Just as Scully asks what man she saw, we cut back to Mulder.
Mulder is sitting in the computer room still talking to the Lone Gunmen. As they exchange some banter, a couple Arab men take out AK-47s and fire at Mulder. He escapes by crashing out a window. Just as he lands a man calls him by name, standing over him. As Mulder goes for his weapon, the man pulls out his and tells him not to do it. Mulder says, “But how are you...,” with a surprised look on his face. The issue ends with the man taking off his headwrap, revealing to Mulder that it’s Krycek.
The last time we saw Krycek alive was in the episode 21, season 8 “Existence,” when A.D. Skinner shot him in the head, supposedly killing him. Judging by previous appearances by past characters that we thought have been dead, could Krycek be another clone-like player in the greater conspiracy? Krycek has played about every side possible during the series, always one step ahead of Mulder and on multiple occasions coming to blows with him. Mulder thought he was dead, as did we all, so how will his reappearance bode with Mulder now?

Issue # 12
Pilgrims Part 2

Written by: Joe Harris
Art by: Matthew Dow Smith
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
Letters by: Neil Uyetake
Editor: Denton J. Tipton
Executive Producer: Chris Carter
This issue begins where the last one left off, with Alex Krycek standing over Mulder, aiming a gun at him. Mulder acts confused as to why he’s seeing him again, and Krycek seems to be confused as well. Mulder overpowers him and asks if he shoots would he bleed out or dissolve into the green goop the others turned into. Krycek still doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or he’s feigning ignorance. (In light of Krycek’s checkered past, either event is plausible.) The men who tried to shoot Mulder catch up to the window and begin firing at them both. Mulder gets a hold of the Lone Gunmen and asks for help to guide them both out of the market area. They attempt to guide them into an alley, but the interference with the satellite grows, and the men pursuing them even stop to look into the sky. Krycek says that it’s like last time, and the “cradle is full.” Mulder can’t tell the Lone Gunmen what he’s seeing exactly as there is a bright light and a loud “fpfpfpfpfpfp” sound. In the next panel, Krycek has vanished, and the Arab men have cornered Mulder.
Scully is in the hospital talking to Dr. Krause. Scully assures her that she will try to clear her name. Dr. Krause is unwilling and tells Scully about a man who is looking to take what they found in the ground out of the country. Dr. Krause disconnects her life support system, causing an alarm to go off. Three guards head toward the room, but one of them shoots the other two. The shooter has black eyes and pushes a nurse aside before returning to normal. Two more guards appear and shoot the man. They ask the nurse if she’s alright. Scully yells for help again, but when the nurse appears, Scully is gone. The nurse looks around the room, but we see that she is now infected with the black oil. The nurse approaches the window, and we see Scully hanging off the ledge by her fingertips.
Back in the U.S. Embassy, Mulder is being grilled by A.D. Morales. Mulder isn’t giving any information to her. Scully enters the room, to both Morales’s and Mulder’s surprise. She mentions that she hung from a ledge while bullets flew around. Scully tells Morales that Dr. Krause took her own life.  Morales tells them that Dr. Krause was an archeologist working on a secret dig that the Saudi government might not have even been aware of. Morales informs Scully that the CIA was looking to interview Dr. Krause before Scully snuck into the room and she died. Morales knew about the doctor but only tells Scully that “I know what I’m told, Agent Scully...”
Mulder and Scully meet in the hallway after their meeting with Morales. Mulder asks Scully what time it is. She states her time, and Mulder asks if she remembers what she saw in Yellowstone, the gigantic alien UFO (back in issue #5). Back then, the Acolytes witnessed the same UFO as it rose from the ground and said the same thing Krycek said before he disappeared: “The cradle is full.” Mulder shows Scully his phone’s clock, and it is two minutes behind Scully’s. This proves that he experienced another time loss incident when he saw the bright light in the sky. As they leave, Scully tells Mulder what Dr. Krause told her. Behind them, a janitor is mopping the floor. He looks up and his eyes turn black.
Mulder takes Scully to the Saudi desert, and they discuss the case they’re on. Scully expresses her characteristic skepticism with Mulder’s lost time and seeing Krycek. Mulder places one stopwatch on the road and keeps the other in the car. Between panels of Mulder waiting for the light to return, we see Morales talking to someone. Whoever is talking to her is accusing her of failing. Between this, Scully tells Mulder to get out of the road, just as he sees a light. It turns out to be a large truck that he barely dodges. Whoever is talking to Morales tells her of secrets they are privy to that are ominous and terrible. Mulder, having dodged the truck, finds his stopwatch smashed in the road. He turns to look at Scully, but she has disappeared. We’re left seeing CSM smoking and standing in the shadows talking to Morales, and Mulder standing at his SUV yelling for Scully, who has vanished.

Scully’s vanishing harks back to Season 2’s episodes “Duane Barry” and “Ascension,” when Scully was abducted. We’ll have to find out what happened in issue #13 to know for sure, but there are a lot of old details in this series that fans can appreciate.

Issue #13
Pilgrims Part 3

Written by: Joe Harris
Art by: Matthew Dow Smith
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
Letters by: Robbie Robbins
Editor: Denton J. Tipton
Executive Producer: Chris Carter
We begin this issue in the Lone Gunmen’s secret Arlington lair. The last time we saw the guys, they were trying to assist Mulder in escaping gunfire in a Saudi Arabian market district. Now they are tracking a perimeter intrusion on their own screens. Byers is trying to track whatever it was and notices fighter jets scrambling from Andrews Air Force Base. The big screen flashes an “Intruder Detected” alert. Frohike and Langly are in the bushes trying to find whoever is signaling their system. They stumble across a figure stooped in the grass and offer assistance. When the figure turns around they realize that it’s Alex Krycek. Krycek says, “I have to find it,” and quietly, “the cradle is empty”. As Krycek walks away we are left seeing Scully standing in the mist, presumably left by the same UFO that took Krycek and left him in Arlington.
Meanwhile, Mulder is standing in the Saudi desert. He is walking from the location where Scully was abducted and has no cell signal. Luckily for him a truck drives up and allows him to hop in for a ride. The driver is a woman in a hijab, which is odd since Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow females to drive. This could be good for him or very bad, considering he is a highly sought after individual in the country after prying where they didn’t want him to.
Back with the Lone Gunmen, they have Krycek in a chair with headgear hooked on. Obviously it is some sort of lie detector of the Lone Gunmen’s own design. Krycek claims to not know how he arrived in Arlington, and Langly confirms that he isn’t lying. Langly and Frohike note that he might think he’s telling the truth, but seeing as it’s Alex Krycek they are wary. Not to mention the fact that he’s been presumed dead for the last decade. Krycek seems surprised by this news.( If he is the same kind of resurrected player from a game that should have been over after the failed colonization conspiracy, does this mean the other clones were unaware of their status? We’ve already seen Mr. X dissolve into the same green goo that previous alien hybrids have turned into when killed). Further research into Krycek reveals abnormal brain wave patterns that Scully notices. When they run the raw data they’ve recorded from his brainwaves  they get the word “SHELTE.” Langly points out that it could be “shelter” without the “R,” but Frohike thinks it could be an anagram. Scully asks Krycek if he knows anything about it, but he denies knowing. Though, between his denials there is a clear flashback of when he was locked in a missile silo pouring black oil from his mouth, eyes, and nose.
Scully and Krycek are outside in the next scene. Krycek tries to put his jacket on her since it’s cold out, but she refuses. He then tries to explain that he’s confused to how he’s in this situation at all, but Scully isn’t buying it. There are more flashbacks to Krycek hemorrhaging the black oil as he denies any memory. Scully knows he’s hiding something, but he maintains his claim that he is clueless.
Back in the Saudi desert, Mulder is riding with the woman still. Mulder discovers that she speaks English and asks if she can take him where he can make a phone call. She informs him that it’d be a bad idea, and he responds with how odd it is that a female is driving at all and wonders why she thinks it’s a bad idea. She tells him, “They are studying you.” Mulder continues his questioning and discovers that Krycek is the one studying him and he is being used to hunt “the forsaken ones.” She says that “they” are using Krycek, and he is using Mulder. Mulder finds an AK-47 under his seat and pulls it on the lady and demands to know what Krycek is after. As he does this, her eyes turn black, and she drives the vehicle off the road, sending it careening off a cliff and crashing at the bottom.
Back with Scully, she is in Crystal City, Virginia, waking up a shirtless A.D. Skinner. Scully begins to explain the situation, but Skinner assumes correctly that Mulder is missing. As he says this, Krycek enters his apartment. Skinner is shocked to see him, as the last time he saw Krycek was when he shot him in the head. Skinner tells Scully that he received a phone call from Mulder saying he was on the way back, which he just said to get Kryceck alone.  He tells Scully to go home and wait for him and that he’ll take care of Krycek. Right after he shuts the door, he slams Krycek against the wall.
In the next scene, the truck Mulder was in that was crashed is lying at the bottom of the cliff. The lady driving the truck wakes up inside the cab and seems confused. She asks Mulder, who’s standing outside, for help, but he uncharacteristically walks away. Back in Virginia, Scully is in her apartment typing out her thoughts into a MacBook. She thinks about the Yellowstone incident from the beginning of the series and expresses how she is lost without Mulder. The next scene is at an airport in King Khalid International Airport in Saudi Arabia. Mulder is on the plane, like Skinner told Scully. However, we see that CSM is also on the plane a few seats behind him. Once Mulder arrives back home, where Scully has been waiting, she greets him, and Mulder tells her not to worry. He tells her that he’s trying to figure out what is happening as well, just as his eyes turn black.
This is not looking good for Mulder or Scully. Mulder has had several run-ins with the black oil in the past. It has been a large part of the series story arc dealing with the alien race attempting to colonize the Earth. The Season 10 comics have rekindled the conspiracy very well in my opinion. In the original series, the alien colonization was set for 22 December 2012. All the similarities to the first mythology arc in The X-Files series seem to be reoccurring, albeit in a different fashion. We’ve seen major players like Mr. X, CSM, and Alex Krycek return. Mr. X dissolved into the green goo, as mentioned above, and we’ve seen CSM be overpowered by a shadowy figure using telepathy of some sort. If the hierarchy is consistent from the first conspiracy, then CSM would be controlling Krycek, although Krycek is notoriously unreliable on either side. If we’ve seen this many players return to the game, could more Syndicate members end up rejoining the conspiracy?

We’ll have to follow the series further, but thus far, it has been a very well-crafted story. The artwork has also been excellent! The use of shadows and colors has enhanced the mood that The X-Files demand. Now with this cliffhanger, we will continue the “Pilgrims” story line next with Part 4.

Special thanks to Bellefleur for editorial assistance.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Why We Believe

At the beginning of America’s involvement in World War II, Hollywood produced a series of news reels titled “Why We Fight” to contextualize its importance. I have taken the same liberty while mulling over why this revival, with six new episodes to air starting in January, is so important, and the ways that fans have demonstrated a faith that mirrors Fox Mulder’s faith. I’m speaking of several layers of the word “faith”: one meaning is the belief in intangibles that can’t be verified with facts; I also mean the word “faith” in that a segment of fans, while their trust has been challenged by the creators of The X-Files in the later seasons, remain hopeful nevertheless. There is also the interconnected issue of trust and faith, and I want to examine the questions of the nature of faith, from my perspective: what do X-Philes believe in, what causes Philes to believe, and can Philes take the work of the creative writers on faith that they can tie up loose ends and leave the audience satisfied with the remaining pieces of the puzzle?

Banner of bar on Geary Street, San Francisco

There’s a lot to process here, and I’d like to mirror comments that X-Files News’s Avi Quijada made in her blog post from June. It’s difficult for creative people to own up their work, in just about any field, but it’s very true with fiction writers who work in television or film. I’ve seen this often, even by established greats: “I wish I could do something good.” But this also applies to the casual fan of The X-Files who writes fan fiction. What has always been great about fan fiction of any genre is that it helps the author to build up confidence in their writing, when it’s received well, and can develop tools for them to take the next step, that next leap of faith to write original fiction, where they become the masters of their own universe and the masters of the characters they create. But indeed, getting good isn’t easy; it’s a slow process to find your voice, and the voices of your characters, and to have that voice come through the characters you create. Those of us who work in the arts, those of us who work in film and television, have a different insight into how difficult it is, and it is so intrinsic for creative people to understand the process.

Therefore, it’s valid to argue to give the creative team of Chris Carter, Glen and Darin Morgan, and Jim Wong the benefit of the doubt that they, as the masters of this universe, can deliver something that will connect on many levels. But fans have been frustrated for years, and there’s a history behind such frustration. Chris Knowles has started a very lucid piece about the last four seasons, starting with season six and seven, and the politics that were involved in the Los Angeles years. Why is the context he offers  important in relation to fans whose trust was breached? Exploring the “how and why” can help us understand where we are in relation to these revival episodes and what we might be able to hope to expect. Of course, the “how and why” doesn’t offer a full excuse, just greater understanding.

The consternation I have seen for the past three months is nothing new within fandom; it’s the reason why the XFL site has archived articles from Richard Preece, and similar complaints were mirrored in 2000-2001. His defense of the mythology and his comments about fans’ feelings about season nine are still valid, and it boils down to two notions – faith and trust.

If we look at it in a broad sense, faith is a complicated matter; some would co-opt the word in its simplest terms and suggest blind faith, but having true faith means being racked by doubt, and skepticism. Faith is messy and amorphous; it ebbs and flows; you have your good days and bad days. But The X-Files has been a show that many people have been inspired by, either directly in their personal lives, or indirectly on some subconscious level. It has inspired outsiders to feel less alone, to be true to themselves, and to speak their own truth whatever that might be. It has inspired people to face the darkness of the real world, regarding social issues or politics, and to not take anything at face value when it comes to media outlets, and what is officially sanctioned in the real world as opposed to the “reel world.”  Ideas from the show have acted as a beacon for decency in an indecent world. It shouldn’t be any surprise that Vince Gilligan has such deep affection for The Lone Gunmen characters – they were heroic in a world full of unheroic people. Faith requires doing what is right as opposed to doing what is easy, and it is so very tempting in this life to do what is easy.

Art by Spotman

But faith also has ripple effects, small actions during one year that manifest themselves in later years. Mulder and Scully’s actions in the first four seasons led to the unraveling of the syndicate and the colonists’ agenda in the later years, and that is a huge idea that has always been subversive to world leaders or corporate moguls. But you see this faith in community churches, regardless of one’s faith, programs that are set up to help the disadvantaged, with the hope those actions will have ripple effects to those helped and that they will do the same in turn for others at some future date. Faith builds up communities, as what’s happened with The X-Files, and even Millennium, and The Lone Gunmen spinoff.  Fans have applied lessons and have tried to be decent with one another, and have been inspired by the show with philanthropic enterprises, and have tried to build bridges, to emulate some of the ideas presented in The X-Files, to make a better world and move a little farther away from the darkness.

But fundamentally the show has been about, for many, embracing the unexpected, and being less afraid of things that are not easily explained, and gazing with a sense of wonder with things that bring us out of our typical consciousness. In the real world, people who tend to be paranormal researchers, or followers of esoteric subjects, face being outcasts for their openness, or conviction. It’s understandable, of course, but in the cases of individuals who do no harm to others, it does feel unfair to rush to judgment. One of the problems with, not individual atheists, but the mass market brand of atheism, has been the dismissal of faith based religions as mass delusions, or naïveté, to individuals who do no harm to others, there are good people of faith, and other’s whose faith is superficial and harmful, and that has always remained evident throughout history.

But I know people who follow, with interest, paranormal subjects, and many are quite lucid, normal, present, and sincere in their curiosity, and one of the things that drives this interest is the desire there’s something more and higher than our mere existence, and this desire seems ingrained in the human condition. It isn’t just religious faith; it’s the desire for a broader life, to better oneself, to experience things beyond one’s cul-de-sac. One aspect that I have taken away from the example of Fox Mulder is to not accept fate, as some are wont to do, as something preordained, and to treat fate as passive. Mulder demonstrates the idea of fate being determined by individual actions; fate is what we make it. You can’t passively wait for a higher power to determine your fate; you can’t let others decide your fate for you.

You have to take actions to make your dreams, your goals real. Blind faith that leads to a passive outcome of fate is often too easily confused, and assumed, and misses the message of what faith can do. Faith can move mountains and heal, but it doesn’t come about without actions being taken. Friedrich Nietzsche’s Amor Fati, the embracing of an undecided fate, offered up some interesting ideas:
“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! . . . And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”

Actions necessitate change, and the fandom that has remained dedicated to The X-Files since 2002 has brought about that change. Four years ago, everything was an open book; we had no idea this day would come, but it is here. I have never wavered in my faith and hope that Chris Carter would deliver, as I expressed during the campaign for The After. I have always liked this idea of an undecided fate, of fate as an open book, where your actions write the pages. If there is a higher power, I have little doubt it sends us signs we have to read correctly, and this goes back to the episode Improbable, where God spoke about learning how to properly read the correct numbers, listen to our instincts, and take the proper actions. Those are some of the examples I feel I have learned from watching The X-Files for over twenty years. The entire mission of this blog has been to look deeper into mythology and symbolism and learn how to apply it to our daily lives.

In closing, I have to beg to differ with some of my colleagues about the role of super fan sites, and one of the reasons I wrote several specific articles for Den of Geek about the activity of fandom over these last thirteen years. I don’t really think any one fan site represents the fandom; even The X-Files Lexicon doesn’t represent everyone. Such super fan sites represents demographic pockets of a fandom that is global and remains ongoing. But such sites act as a flashpoint for various aspects of fan appreciation. 

The fans got us here, and we are in each other’s debt for holding true and firm to see this story finished.

Art by Spotman.

I maintain a faith that Chris Carter will give us not just what we want but what we need, in a changing society that is very different from 1993. I don’t know what those stories will unfold, but I hope we remain open to the unexpected, as life is often full of the unexpected in our day-to-day lives, and with each breath we can remain grateful we are here, and here for this moment.

Special thanks to Bellefleur for editorial assistance and insight

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.