Last month, I enthusiastically leapt at the opportunity to review issue #5 of The X-Files:Season 10, and then leapt right into my local comic book store to gather up physical copies of the entire first story arc. Fortunately, I live in an area where I have several comics purchasing options within reasonable driving distance because most of the stores in my area were sold out. As usual, I was late to the party; everyone else already knew about the awesome work done by Joe Harris and his creative team as they resurrect this iconic science-fiction series.
Issue #6 continues to whet my insatiable X-Files lust with a comic book that reads very much like the original television series. Similar to the show, author Joe Harris is combining “monster of the week” self-contained stories with cumulative development. That strategy makes this issue a great jumping on point for those who missed out on the first arc. It’s difficult for me to imagine what life would be like for someone unfamiliar with the X-Files, but general pop-culture awareness may be sufficient for someone entirely new to the franchise to start reading with issue #6.
Reflecting the structure of a typical episode, issue #6 begins with a cold start featuring throw-away horror movie victims. As a misbehaving teenage girl begins her skinny-dipping adventure, she is predictably attacked by an unexpected assailant… I guess it would be a surprise if you somehow didn’t see the cover or any of the advanced reviews… including this one, uhhh sorry. BELATED SPOILER ALERT! The Flukeman, bizarre half-parasitic-half-man, star of “The Host” from early season 2, and permanent fixture of my childhood nightmares has returned, surfacing from the watery depths! Cut to black, cue Mark Snow’s iconic theme song and roll opening credits – I mean turn to the next page.
After the introduction, we’re back to business as usual. Mulder and Scully are working for the FBI again. Skinner pushes the kids around a little bit before sending Mulder out into the field and Scully in to the morgue for an autopsy. Banter between Mulder and Scully is feeling more natural than in previous issues, while supporting characters remain forgettable. Eventually we find Mulder and Scully chatting on their upgraded smart phones, probably on a family plan at this point, before a dramatic reveal – and cut to commercial – to be concluded in issue #7. It feels like nothing has changed.
Unfortunately, the world is a very different place than in the 90s when the show originally aired. In addition to obvious technological changes which should be impacting how FBI agents perform their duties, we also live in a world where government conspiracy against American citizens seems undeniable, where discoveries of exoplanets and extraterrestrial water sources are regularly discussed in the news, and where theories about Ancient Aliens are mainstream enough to feature prominently on the History Channel..
So while I'm not looking for Agents of Shield in terms of modern techno-babble, I need to point out that Mulder and Scully feel perhaps too much like their old selves. In the 90s it was easy to convince yourself that the X-Files were occurring in the real world, that you might accidentally run into the alien bounty hunter in the corn field near your high school. It now feels like the X-Files live in a weird parallel reality where the last decade unfolded differently, maybe someplace where Bing is the preferred search engine of scientists. This is my only complaint, and it's a small one so far. .
The art team from the first story arc on is vacation, with a large group working together to finalize issue #6. I am not familiar with the political subtleties of how artists are credited, but I can tell that the art for the opening scene was in a distinct style compared to the remainder of the book. The skinny-dipper’s flirtatious smile stood out quite prominently. I believe that this section would be attributed to Silvia Califano; while the remainder of the art would have been Elena Casagrande’s responsibility.
In previous issues, artist Michael Walsh seemed to take the clever strategy of leaving details to the imagination of the reader. Knowing that many fans are intimately familiar with these characters, he gave gestures and impressions of Mulder and Scully, leaving room for the audience to provide details that matched imperfect memories.
In contrast, Casagrande’s style is very clear, strong, consistent, easy to read, and supports the story well. Her versions of Mulder and Scully don’t perfectly match my recollections, but she has captured enough of the characters to help me hear their voices as I read their dialogue. Paradoxically, she combines stiff jaws and mouths with amazingly expressive eyes, which was slightly distracting. I've seen Casagrande's work on Suicide Risk and I continue to see improvement in everything she delivers. Her storytelling fundamentals are spot on, I just want to see her working on a project where she can loosen up and be a little more creative.
Overall, X-File Season 10 is a great pick for fans of the original show. Solid art and classic plot elements are combined well to deliver more fun with Mulder and Scully, exactly as we remember them.