The X-Files: Season 10, Vol. 2
Joe Harris (scripter)
Elena Casagrande, Silvia Califano, Michael Walsh, Greg Scott, and Tony Moy (pencillers)
Carlos Valenzuela (cover)
Arianna Florean, Valentina Cuomo, Azzura M. Florean, Jordie Bellaire, and Art Lyon (colors)
Robbie Robbins, Neil Uyetake, Tom. B. Long, and Gilberto Lazcano (letters)
May 6, 2014
Kate and I had so much fun reviewing the first volume of The X-Files comic that we begged the folks at IDW to share more copies with us. Fortunately, they acquiesced to our request, and we will be reviewing one volume a month in preparation for the new television mini-series!
Ginnis: So, who is who this time? Are you feeling skeptical about this volume, enthusiastic, or maybe something else altogether?
Kate: I have to admit I’m slightly more skeptical of this issue in terms of thinking about what it means for the series to continue in this medium, although it may be the genre of a collected trade that is making me question the suitability of the medium rather than the individual issues. Whereas volume one felt like it held together as a collection of issues with a single overarching narrative arc, volume two feels like a “Greatest Hits” album in that same slightly unsatisfying way only a “Greatest Hits” album can feel.
Gin: Ha, well, I was a bit more enthusiastic about this issue, though I wholly agree about the disjointedness. It started out feeling like the arc paralleled what could be considered a single episode in television, but by the end, I was getting quite confused. But I actually like it more than volume one.
Kate: Alright, convince me, Mulder. Why is this better than volume one?
Gin: As you wish, Scully. I felt it was a return to form that allowed for enough experimentation with the comic book medium without going off the rails and still took the evolution of the characters into account (though not quite as much as I would like). For example, it’s a lot harder for Mulder to just plow through a lot of the physicalities of the job, and Scully’s experience removing herself from her son’s life in order to protect him. Little things like this played into the issues. I want to see that pushed further in upcoming issues, but I was satisfied with that part.
That being said, when we see that one of the creatures is interested in Scully, I inwardly cringed, because Scully’s body and how it was treated was often integral to X-file plots. Considering that in the first three issues, Mulder’s body was the object of violation from the Flukeman, I am hoping there will be more balance here, but one of my biggest problems with the show was the way in which Scully’s body was handled.
Kate: I’m with you in part. On the level of the individual issue, I enjoyed the return to the types of stories we’ve seen before—like with the Flukeman, who is definitely on my list of Top 10 Creepiest X-Files Monsters. I also enjoyed the issue where we see more of the Cigarette-Smoking Man’s backstory with Mulder’s father, because I am weak and greedy, and I want all the backstory. But when collected … it was, as you said, disjointed, and I would say even disconnected. And maybe this is, again, an awkwardness in the medium that only becomes apparent when trying to translate across media. You don’t collect seven episodes of a twenty-three episode season and try to market them in a single DVD. Each episode stands alone, and each season is a whole, ideally. But in the medium of comics, this publishing trend of collecting issues into packaged trades is a thing and maybe not a good thing for all series.
Gin: I liked the backstory a lot too, and I think this is where the comic book medium can really rock it because you aren’t limited by actors’ ages, etc. I think what threw me off most was that chapters one and two were Flukeman stories, then the final three chapters were mostly independent stories. It was like the first trade prepared me for each trade to have an arc yet these five issues did not seem to have an arc … just like a theme involving parasites … I was very confused by the end.
Kate: We are totally in agreement on that point. These stories were not connected except that they happened to be in the same collected trade.
Gin: The series did that sometimes though if I recall. There was generally a “Big Bad” in each season with some episodes devoted to the “Big Bad” while others were focused on a little bad. Is it that this just might not translate as well to a comic book medium?
Kate: That’s the question that I’m struggling with. And also, if that matters. If I am going on this nostalgia trip, then does it matter if the collected trade is simply a collection of issues and not a discrete story arc? And while we’re on the topic of self-aware nostalgia, can we talk about how self-awarely nostalgic this series is? It makes me so happy.
Gin: I think that has to be one of the hardest things for a comic book writer taking on a popular television series with a rabid fanbase: how to cater to our nostalgia without pandering and sacrificing good storytelling and character development.
But, hey, did I tell you I have a theory about how Scully’s body is handled in the television series? (Cue the “I Have a Theory” song from Buffy “Once More with Feeling.”)
Kate: Tell me more, tell me more! (Grease-style “Summer Lovin’” response.)
Gin: One of the things I really appreciate and continue to appreciate about X-Files the show is that it was often very clear that they were constructing Mulder as a sex object for a female gaze. His body was frequently put on display; remember the speedo scene in that terrible vampire episode where Scully was gone?
Kate: DO I EVER!
Gin: And there were several other incidences where he was presented this way. Scully was not presented this way. Her clothing was generally concealing, and I don’t recall a lot of camera shots that lingered on her body the way they did on Mulder’s. And on top of that she was the skeptical scientist, of medicine at that, while Mulder was the believer and not a “hard” scientist. But it seems like one of the ways in which they had to negate this sort of feminizing of Mulder and masculinizing of Scully was by having Scully’s body be the frequent object of the bad guy’s fascination and/or goals.
Kate: That’s so interesting! If I’m understanding you right, what you mean is that when it comes to the objectification of the characters by the show itself, it tends to be Mulder who is objectified—in the sense of a “male gaze” or “female gaze” as presented through the lens, but within the narrative, it’s other characters who objectify Scully—and usually the bad guys.
Gin: Yes, great distinction, and even the good guys when it comes to how the Lone Gunmen talked about Scully! Like c’mon Frohicky? I love those nerds, but so often the way they talked about Scully was like these tired nerd guys so impressed by a smart and competent woman. Like I appreciate that being admired, but the exceptionality of it is frustrating. I really, really want to see that done away with in the comic book (which to be fair, I don’t see a lot of) and in the upcoming series revival.
Kate: Yes, I think that’s why I fell a little in love with Mulder in the TV show—he was just as often the victim and vulnerable as Scully was. And, when bad things happened, it happened to both of them. There’s a strange kind of equality in the way that was handled that I loved and was exceptionally feminist for the time. The comic seems to continue that, with both Mulder and Scully being the victim or target of the monster-of-the-week, and that pleases me.
Gin: Yes, and I think that is why despite the disjointedness, this volume got me more excited for the comic books than the first volume. I am always a sucker for a monster-of-the-week, because I think it gives you a glimpse into the more quotidian moments of these characters’ lives. Also, not only did they bring back the Flukeman, but they also brought back killer cockroaches!!! *shivers*
Kate: The cockroaches are also on my list of Top 10 Creepiest X-Files Monsters, but also one of the best standalone episodes, so I was slightly let down by their comics incarnation. Maybe they’ll come back, though?
Gin: I love that episode for jealous Scully. “Bambi? Her name is Bambi?!” But I liked the weird religious thing going on with these cockroaches. It really freaked me out. But that’s what I mean about what I really liked about this volume. It seems like the creative team is trying to work out playing on the nostalgia of X-files where we have wacky religious/alien/governmental monsters and adversaries for Mulder and Scully to go up against, but I think based off the first volume and this one, they are trying to do more than just go with nostalgia.
Kate: It’s true. I must admit, Scully, that for all the questions we’ve raised in terms of form and adaptation, I’m still enjoying myself.
Gin: One last thing—so Franceso Francavilla who did the cover for issue #10 just received an Eisner nomination for his work on The X-Files Season 10 covers in addition to his other covers like the awesome Afterlife with Archie covers. How are you liking his covers for The X-Files?
Kate: I haven’t seen any of his work prior to The X-Files stuff, but I think that stylistically it works well. The cover art that we’ve seen in volume one and two are fanart in the sense—faithful and accurate representations of the real people who bring these characters to life. What I like about Fracavilla’s work is that much of it has this nostalgic “pulp fiction” feel.
Gin: Exactly! I loved the pulp sci-fi feel. I prefer it to the hyper-realism of the previous covers. In an interview with Comics Alliance, Francavilla mentioned that he is also doing the covers for Dynamite’s Twilight Zone, and I think you definitely get a Twilight Zone feel with Francavilla’s covers which makes perfect sense for The X-Files.
Kate: Totally! And I can’t wait to see what happens in the next volume …