Thursday, February 12, 2015

Benjamin's Millennial Compendium - Comics 1

I’d like to introduce Benjamin Billings, a long time Millennium fan, who will be writing up-to-date reviews about the new IDW comic, Millennium, written by Joe Harris, and art by Colin Lorimer, and Lafuente (Menton3). Benjamin has already done some great work with his first effort; and we hope you enjoy this.

Wait… Worry…

On the 25th of Oct. of 1996 Chris Carter introduced us to world of Millennium and its leading character, Frank Black. Millennium ended suddenly on the 21st of May 1999, with a controversial wrap-up episode in season 7 of The X-Files called Millennium, airing on the 28th of Nov. 1999. Despite a very active online community, several fan-written virtual seasons, and the book, Back to Frank Black, there has been no official sighting of Frank Black or the shadowy Millennium Group for almost 15 years. That is, until now.

On October 22, 2014, Frank Black appeared in IDW’s The X-Files Season 10 #17 and on Jan 21st IDW released the first in a 5-part mini-series starring Frank Black, called Millennium. Was it worth the wait and does it deserve your support? Let’s check it out. Spoilers will abound. Let’s start with the X-Files appearance first. It should be noted that this is a 2-part story that started in issue 16, though 16 does not have Frank Black in it. Black’s return in this series is altogether satisfying. He is older, though it is apparent that Black’s “vision” is still very active (he has the gift and curse of being able to see what the killer sees and horrifyingly often more disturbing things).

Black warns Agent Mulder away from the current course of his investigation, and reveals that he is no longer affiliated with the Millennium group. He never tells anyone why he is there, or except in the most cryptic way, why Mulder should back down. Mulder does not or cannot alter the course of the investigation and Black’s tragic vision becomes reality.

More subtly at one point in her investigation Agent Scully finds a mysterious bag with the ouroboros on it. The Millennium group’s involvement with her investigation is as mysterious as Black’s involvement with Mulder. Ultimately there is little resolution, though fans of Millennium season 2 will like the religious themes of the issue and especially the ending.

The first book of the Millennium series starts on Christmas Eve of the turn of the century with several members of the Millennium group involved in some sort of sabotage in a large office building.  What they are doing and the results are not revealed.  Interestingly, the dialogue between the two men, while focused on the coming apocalypse and Y2k , also hint at some class envy.  This stood out because the members of the Millennium Group were so focused on their cause that such rumblings were never heard on the show.

After the opening sequence the main story begins and brings us to the present day. It focuses around a killer named Monte Propps who is being considered for early release from prison. This is the same man referenced in The X-Files pilot. Mulder testifies against Propps and on leaving the court house sees Frank Black had signed out earlier.

Mulder tracks Black down and finds him in a squalid motel room surrounded by newspaper clippings. Black is revealed to be estranged from his daughter, Jordan Black, and is very alone in the world. While he says that the Millennium Group is dead, he still seems to be running from something. Having had several breakdowns on and off screen in the series, this depiction of Black is a very likely scenario.  Mulder presses Black on the Millennium Group and Propps. Black imparts no information but answers cryptically about good and evil in the world.

Frustratingly, the great build-up from the X-Files episode is seemingly wasted, and in fact the men do not even acknowledge what has happened. A story as horrific and powerful as what unfolds in the X-Files book would be a hard thing to overlook, and because the wrap up is far from complete in that issue, whichever man has more knowledge of what happened there (and it could easily be presented as either of them) would surely have been asked for more information from the other one.

Now, I am not going to spoil the ending, but I promise you will not expect it, and I know I am eager to read the next installment.

There were many things done well. The dialogue is great.  They capture Mulder’s sense of humor while keeping the tone as dark as the Millennium TV series. Setting the story so far in the future works. It lets the virtual seasons exist (or not) and provides a contemporary story that has the potential to be as compelling as the TV series was. The writing is tight and the art captures the mood well.

Fans of the show often comment that each season seemed very different from the others. Season 1 is a fairly straight police procedural, while season 2 focused on the religious themes of the coming millennium.  Season 3 shed the religiosity but tried to walk a line between the police procedural and the paranormal.  Season 3 was the most like X-Files and this comic moves in that same direction, though somewhat surprisingly The X-Files book feels much more like season 2 Millennium.

The worst part of the Millennium book is that it seems more like an X-Files story than a Millennium story.  It features an antagonist from the X-Files and Mulder clearly is the star of the show.  It is easy to recommend this to any fan of The X-Files.  Seeing Black again, and seeing him portrayed so well is worth the time for any fan of Millennium.

Special thanks to XScribe for editorial assistance.

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