Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chris's Comic Corner 1

There’s a fresh face that I’d like to introduce: Christopher Irish will be helping with a group of articles about the IDW publication of The X-Files: Season 10 comics, which were created by Joe harris with the blessing of Chris Carter. The comics have been a great success for IDW and I realize The X-Files Lexicon and it’s sister blog have been remiss in addressing them. In order to approach this in a way that is unique, and keeping with the values of The Lexicon Blog to not follow convention, the blog will regularly feature, in groups of three, reviews of the comics in chronological order, and we hope to get caught up with this seasons current issues soon enough. But this series will eventually cover the brief Wildstorm run, highlights from the old Topps comics, and an occasional exclusive surprise in due time.

Chris’s informal prose style is very different from mine, but I find his boundless enthusiasm to be refreshing, I hope you will find it relatable. I will be continuing other articles on this Blog of course, but I hope you will welcome him with open arms, as I am excited to have him on board. Until you hear from me next, enjoy! –Matt Allair

The X-Files Season 10

Issues #1-5 “Believers” *spoilers ahead!*

Issue #1

Welcome to my blog on IDW’s The X-Files Season 10 comics. These reviews will span each series of comics that makes an “Episode.” It’s been a few years since the last installment of The X-Files hit the big screen, so my excitement for this new comic series ran pretty high. I’ve been a fan of The X-Files since I was a kid, so any chance to see Mulder and Scully in action is always nice.

Knowing that Chris Carter is involved in the storyline made it that much more exciting. IDW Comics is a brand I wasn’t too familiar with to be honest, but reading these comics has made me a fan (and if you love The X-Files, you’ll be happy to know Millennium is joining the shelves as well!). So far there are the Season 10 issues along with a couple of side issues, “Year Zero” and “Conspiracy.” I’ll review those ones later on down the road, but for now, I will be focusing on Season 10.

The first issue starts off with former Special Agent Dana Scully running from a dark figure in an alleyway, struggling to reach F.B.I. Headquarters through her cell phone. She has a visible injury to her arm and is in obvious danger. Once she gets through, the operator calls her “Dr. Blake.” Scully tries to convey a message, but it’s too late as she is closed in on by a group of ominous, hooded individuals with glowing eyes. That is the last thing we see before the title panel (and The X-Files theme kicks off in my head)
Right off the bat, the comics get in the swing of things! The comic is set up in the familiar structure the show used with the introduction portion leaving us wanting answers. It starts off on the next page with Scully (or Dr. Blake?) examining a little girl in her clinic when a familiar face arrives. It’s A.D. Skinner. Right after we see Skinner make an appearance, we see Fox Mulder outside of a house. He catches a stray ball a group of kids are throwing, does a quick magic trick, and provides a few lines of Mulderesque banter before going inside. One of the kids calls him “spooky.” He hasn’t lost his touch. So far we’ve been reintroduced to three familiar characters. I commend the artists for their accuracy with the characters. They’ve done a great job making them all instantly recognizable.

Once Fox enters the house he sees Skinner with Scully. Skinner calls him Mulder, but Fox corrects him in his usual smartass manner as Anthony Blake. So they are in the witness protection plan or something like it, apparently. Skinner lets him know that his title is no longer Assistant Director, but Deputy Director now. Skinner then notifies them that there was a breach in F.B.I. security and their information was targeted along with The X-Files. They think it might be related to their son, William.
We know from the TV show that Scully and Mulder’s son, William, had to be given up since the Alien-Human hybrids wanted to take him for their own sinister purposes. He was adopted out with the understanding was that no one would be able to find him. With this security breach, William’s safety might be at risk along with Mulder’s and Scully’s.

Later that night after they talk with Skinner, Mulder is working on his memoirs with the iconic “I Want To Believe” poster in the background. As he’s working on that, he gets a strange phone call from D.D. Skinner, whom we see in a panel, is surrounded by the same hooded creeps that chased Scully in the opening scene. Mulder has a hard time figuring out what Skinner is trying to say, though Skinner does try to warn him from going to his hotel. There is obviously some mind-control going on with these hooded folks. Mulder then heads out to see what’s wrong with Skinner.

While this is happening, Scully is back at her office tracking down any info she can find on what was leaked. She is met by the same little girl she saw earlier in the day, and then is surrounded by the same hooded people that were with Skinner. The girl grabs Scully’s gun and shoots her in the arm. We catch up to where the intro started us off at with Scully running from the hoods trying to use her phone. (Phone difficulties seem to be a common problem in the world of The X-Files,)
While this is happening to Scully, Mulder arrives at Skinner’s hotel and finds him hanging by a noose. This panel looks particularly creepy. Well done again, artists! Mulder gets Skinner down just in time to save him. That means he couldn’t have been up there very long. Mulder then tries to find out who did this to Skinner.

Back to Scully. The group is closing in on her when a bright light flashes and a hood that looks like the others shows up. This ends the first issue and leaves us hanging, wondering whether or not Scully is out of danger or what.
I liked this first issue. It jumped right into the story and the cast was written true to character. I like how it brought old elements and tied them in with new ones to further the mythology of The X-Files. The artistic elements were great, too. It looks a little minimalistic, which I like. Just enough detail so you don’t get stalled looking at any one panel too much, which aids in propelling the story. It is very well drawn and colored, so don’t take it as a slight! The characters all resemble who they are supposed to and the bad guys really put off the creepy vibe they should. It left me wanting more!

Issue #2

This issue starts with a pipeline in the wilderness of Wyoming. There are workers and people protesting in the background, a nice nod to current events regarding pipeline controversy. The pipeline is called “Blackstone XL.” Another old face makes an appearance, Special Agent John Doggett. He is present at the pipeline to investigate a possible threat against it. He lets his feelings on that subject known to the foreman who obviously doesn’t take it well. As Agent Doggett walks along the pipeline, his metal ID chain gets yanked off his neck and sticks to the pipeline.

True to Agent Doggett’s nature, he investigates further and opens an access door where his ID got stuck. Inside he finds the “oil” is a glittering substance that is clearly not oil. Behind Doggett, the Foreman enters the access door, and in the next panel it’s revealed that it is actually one of the hoods like the ones that attacked Skinner and Scully. The hood attacks Agent Doggett and the next panel has an explosion. This leads to the title panel. Could they have killed Agent Doggett off?
Next, we catch up with Mulder and Skinner who are at what is now a crime scene where Scully was shot and subsequently taken by the hood. They follow the blood trail to the alleyway as Mulder spots each stain by saying “blood.” (This reminds me of the season 2 episode “Blood” with the postal employee that has a severe case of hematophobia.) Skinner reveals to Mulder details about the people who hacked the F.B.I. systems. It seems they might be the ones who took Scully and are after William. Mulder does what he does best and leaves Skinner to work on finding Scully because he can’t trust him. This trust theme has been with The X-Files since episode 1, “Pilot.”

The next panels are a flashback of Dana giving birth to William with Agent Reyes in attendance, as the Alien-Hybrids are watching. The Hybrids look like normal people, but in the flashback they turn into the group of hoods that jumped Scully in the alley. This causes Scully to startle awake in a cabin. It’s in the middle of a snowy forest, a far cry from the city alley she last was in. She leaves the cabin and we see that there is a gigantic pagan-looking symbol drawn around the cabin. She is confronted by the hooded strangers who attack her again when she crosses the symbol. She gives one a quick elbow to the jaw, chops another, and throws one over her shoulder (got to love Scully!) One raises an odd-looking knife to kill Scully and chants in a strange language that the comic translates as, “We have found the bringer” before a familiar blue flash melts them. Quite literally. The next panel has one of the hoods’ heads melting, reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The hood that seemingly saved Scully in the alley has returned, but Scully isn’t sure about him and attacks him with the crooked blade. The hood waves his hand and the knife flies out of her hands. She yells at the hood asking if it is an Alien Bounty Hunter or another Hybrid. He tells her that they are “Acolytes.” I find this interesting in that the story has brought common elements from the X-Files history and now introduces a new one. They seem similar to the Bounty Hunter, but now this bunch has some sort of psychic powers on top of strength and speed. Even more dangerous.
We catch back up with Mulder now, who is at the Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC. There is a tour going through it, but he is obviously not there for sight-seeing. He’s holding a map that reads, “In case of emergency, break glass – TLG”. This was surprising to me since the last time we saw TLG, or The Lone Gunmen, they were trapped in a room full of gas poison and died in the episode “Jump the Shark.” I always loved the Lone Gunmen and hated to see them go so this was a very interesting twist to the story.

Mulder is then shown later at night shoveling in a grave site. I would like to note that I enjoy seeing how the comic artists and storytellers figure out accurate onomatopoeia for various actions. The “shukt” they used for the shoveling was something that stood out to me for some reason. This furthered my appreciation for the work they did, though it may or may not matter to most readers. I have always found that aspect of comics interesting.
As Mulder is digging, he is hit by a light as a guard appears. To our surprise, it’s Frohike. Mulder continues to dig as he’s talking to Frohike, whom he thought was dead. The hole reveals an underground passage. Frohike explains what happened and how they faked their deaths as they walk through the passage. Apparently the F.B.I. has aided them in staying “dead” in exchange for their help troubleshooting technological security problems for the government. Now with Mulder, Scully, Skinner, and the Lone Gunmen, this series has almost a full reunion.

They jump right into their old routine and start helping Mulder do some research on the leak to track down clues to find Scully. We also see on a screen that Agent Doggett is “unaccounted for” when they trace F.B.I. activity at the pipeline in Wyoming. Mulder asks the guys to look into any adoption records leaked with the name “Van De Camp”. He tries to connect the pipeline events along with Scully’s disappearance with any involvement with William. The comic has a quick montage between what Mulder is saying and Scully confronting the Acolyte and passing out with a nosebleed. Mulder is left to put the pieces together with the help of the Lone Gunmen in their underground lair (if anyone deserves an underground lair, it’s TLG). Mulder asks them how they got tipped on the pipeline lead and the comic ends with a very ominous individual above ground smoking a cigarette in the shadows. The last panel has a crumpled Morley cigarette pack on the ground.
This is crazy! The last time we saw Cigarette Smoking Man (or Cancer Man or CSM or C.G.B. Spender, depending on your preference) he was smoking his Morleys through a hole in his throat while black helicopters launched rockets at him in the desert (in the final X-File episode “The Truth”).

 Issue #3
The cover of issue 3 puts any doubts about if it’s the Smoking Man or not. He is back. On the first page we are back at the ranch where the adoptive parents of William live. Agents Reyes and Hendricks stop there to check on William’s safety in light of the security breach.

The Van De Camps try to suggest that William is fine and he is at school to get them to leave, but Agent Reyes asks to take a look around. While going up the stairs, Reyes whispers to Hendricks that William hasn’t been at school in two weeks. While they’re going upstairs, the Van De Camps follow them quietly upstairs with glowing blue eyes. As they split up to look around, Agent Reyes sees flies buzzing in a room and notes a bad smell. She opens the closet door and sees the real Mr. and Mrs. Van De Camp’s decomposing corpses stuffed in the closet. Agent Hendricks stumbles into the room and collapses with a nosebleed as the imposters follow behind. Agent Reyes raises her gun, but soon collapses with the same nosebleed as Agent Hendricks. Enter the title panel.

After seeing the two Agents fall to the Acolytes, we rejoin Mulder leaving the underground bunker to get in his car. Upon getting in, he is surprised by his old nemesis, Smoking Man, in the back seat smoking (what else?). I see that cancer and a couple rockets can’t even kill this guy! Or is there more to him than it seems?

As that is happening to Mulder, we rejoin Scully and the Acolyte that saved her. He is carrying her on his shoulder along the pipeline. Visibly weakened for some reason, he drops her. As he’s dropping her, she wakes up. She begins to run, but upon seeing him clearly injured or exhausted, she does what any self-respecting medical field employee would do and asks if he needs help. As he’s answering though, she takes the crooked knife from him and holds it to his throat demanding answers as to why he’s after William. Once again, the knife gets yanked from her hand, but this time it’s because of the pipe’s magnetism. She quickly recognizes that is why he is having problems and drags him away from the pipe despite his objections. Apparently, the pipe’s magnetism is what kept the group of Acolytes from getting to them and the group emerges from the forest.

Back to Mulder, he is now at a diner with no one but Smoking Man, a waitress, and one other customer. Smoking Man tries to start explaining in the shady way he always has but Mulder isn’t buying it. He pulls his gun out, covers it with a napkin, and aims it at him under the table. The waitress passes by and tells Smoking Man he isn’t allowed to smoke in the diner, so he puts it out, which saves him from a possible shooting by Mulder for the time being.

Smoking Man reveals that he knows what the Acolytes are and that they have Scully. He also tells Mulder that their goal is the Alien re-population of Earth as he lights up another cigarette.

The story jumps back to Scully in the woods with the injured Acolyte surrounded by the group that has been after her. The one helping her uses his power to push the group back and starts to hold them off, telling Scully to run. Scully sees a fire hose on the pipeline, quickly hooks it to the pipe, and turns the magnetite to the Acolytes, attacking the one helping her. When the magnetite hits them they burst into flame and disappear. As this is going on, the text boxes follow Mulder’s and Smoking Man’s conversation at which time Smoking Man tells him about the magnetite in the pipeline.

Mulder calls Smoking Man out regarding his last warning of an Alien invasion that didn’t happen (I’m glad they addressed this since the date of the invasion was supposed to be December 22, 2012). He continues to berate Smoking Man until he catches a stiff backhand from him, knocking him out of the booth. Smoking Man stands up after hitting Mulder and seems to have some sort of seizure. Smoking Man then leaves a small box on the table after he gets a hold of himself and leaves.

This whole exchange is classic Mulder vs. Smoking Man. They’ve had a long, storied history of incidents with Mulder narrowly escaping him. Smoking Man has had more than a few near death experiences, but he seems to be more tenacious than a cockroach.

After Smoking Man leaves, Mulder gets a call from Skinner. He tells Mulder about an accident dealing with blood samples from Scully’s clinic. The panel shows a van that got in a wreck with a box broken open and green substance eating through the van. It looks exactly like the Alien Bounty Hunter’s blood whenever people would shoot him in the TV series.

Mulder tells Skinner that he can’t deal with that and he’s heading for Wyoming in search of Scully. He tells Skinner what he learned about the Acolytes. Skinner doesn’t seem to follow, which is nothing new. Mulder always was a step ahead of the game, just never a step ahead of the bad guys. As Mulder is talking we see what Smoking Man left in the box for him. It’s an Alien stiletto used in the series to put down Alien Bounty Hunters by stabbing them in the base of their skulls. Looks like Smoking Man is actually helping Mulder this time.

More reviews to come. -Matt

Special thanks to XScribe for editorial assistance.