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.