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.