Joe Harris (script), Matthew Dow Smith (art), Jordie Bellaire (colors), Chris Mowry (letters)
September 30, 2015
Gin and Kate finally wrap up X-Files Season 10 with Volume 5.
Disclaimer: This review may contain spoilers and is based on an advanced review copy from IDW.
Gin: Alrighty, it’s the last volume of Season 10, and Season 11 is currently underway, issue #3 drops next week, and the television revival premieres in just a little under four months. How ya feeling about all that, Kate? Me? I am tingly with excitement!
Kate: A friend of mine has this expression: “Everything happens so much.” It’s kind of along the lines of “I can’t” in indicating being overwhelmed, and in this case, I definitely feel it applies. So much X-Files! It’s one reason I’m glad we’re still doing these reviews and expanding out to cover X-Files comics other than Season 10, because it helps me to just tackle one part of the EVERYTHING that is happening at a time.
Gin: It really hit me when I set out to read this trade that “holy crap, the revival launches in four months!” And of course, like you and many other X-philes out there, I am trying to get through rewatching the entire series, all 200+ episodes before that time. Did you feel overwhelmed by this volume any?
Kate: Overwhelmed, no, but definitely disoriented, which I think was the point, to some extent. By the time I finished I was like, wait, is Mulder a 92% clone?? IS SCULLY??? HOW WOULD THEY EVEN KNOW??
Gin: Right, starting out, I was pleasantly surprised by the flow of the issues, and towards the end it was like “what is going on?!” Which is pretty much how most season ends of X-Files were wrapped up anyway. I feel this volume started to find its stride—that difficult balance between the narrative structure of telling stories on television versus comic books. What did you think?
Kate: I had the same thought—that it was a very X-Files ending in the sense of being a particular style of narrative. Season finales in The X-Files, when at their best, always made you feel like the scope of what you had been focusing on—which seemed so big—was actually very small. And this was the first time I felt that same narrative scope in the comics. I liked it, even if I was confused by it.
Gin: I think that X-Files set the stage for that in many ways, because I think of other sci-fi shows, like Orphan Black, where the wrap up is very similar. I actually find it daunting with Orphan Black, but not so with X-Files, but that just may have more to do with familiarity. But anyway, the way this arc panned out has me excited for Season 11. When I think back to previous volumes, one thing that really stands out for me is how the narrative structure of the show (which has huge arcs, or even a Big Bad, to steal from Buffy) was broken up with Monster of the Week episodes. I really liked this about X-Files the show, but so far, I don’t see it working so well in the comic format.
Kate: I sometimes like the stories that are contained to one issue—the narrative equivalent to the Monster of the Week—but I think that Joe Harris’ strength as a writer comes out in these well-planned longer arcs. The first trade collection was similarly strong, if I’m remembering right. Things got sort of unfocused in the middle, and maybe that was due to outside influences, like not knowing if the series was going to continue or not.
Gin: I think you are right about the well-planned longer arcs. I was reading some interesting interviews with him about X-Files, and he really has the mythology thought out and that shined in this volume. From the beginning, I felt he has dealt with adapting Mulder and Scully to the present really well, and that was most apparent in this volume. The idea of how the governmental secrets that dominated 90s X-Files are so very different in our media saturated world played out well in a way that still is true to the X-Files mythology. What do you think of X-Files in our contemporary setting?
Kate: I think one of the challenges when continuing a series like this is that is so of the time period in which it was made. I think that overall, Harris has done a pretty good job in showing how current world politics and current technologies fit in the X-Files universe. In the first arc, we visited the Middle East, and in this last one, we visit Cuba—both places that were also big political topics in the 90s, though for different reasons. There’s a sense of déjà vu all over again in our contemporary media, so I feel like it works now in a way it might not have worked ten years ago or may not work ten years from now.
Gin: But it also plays into how history repeats itself, like when Cigarette Smoking Man brings up Bay of Pigs just before Mulder and him are attacked. I liked that touch. And I laughed out loud at outsourcing the X-Files. As someone who has worked in government jobs for a very long time that just nailed it on the head. I definitely want to see where that plot point goes in Season 11.
Kate: And we got a full page kiss! I need to take a moment to just revel in that.
Gin: Yeeeeesssss. Since Scully and Mulder aren’t explicit in their affection for one another, it makes those sorts of scenes even more rewarding. Though, I still find the art to be a bit stiff, I think Jordie Bellaire’s colors are just awesome and really help me follow the story better with the various shifts in tones according to setting. Just great work.
Kate: I think the stiffness comes from the lines—there’s definitely a lot of lines versus soft angles, and it’s not my favorite aesthetic, but I’m okay with it. The colors, as you said, are fantastic. I think it really mimics the show in that sense, since because the default for X-Files was gray and desaturated thanks to Vancouver weather, it made the contrasts to scenes that took place in bright sunlight, or in dark warehouses, or in the New Mexico desert seem so much stronger. I feel the same with the comic, so A+ job to Bellaire.
Gin: Based on this comic feeling like Harris is settling into the series, what are your expectations for Season 11?
Kate: I have high hopes that Harris, now being assured he won’t be canceled, will craft a really well-written opening arc for Season 11. Beyond that, though, I’m not sure.
Gin: I am feeling pretty good about it, I still imagine there might be some meandering, which hey the television show did a lot, but I think the focus will overall be tighter. But, let’s talk something else real quick. Let’s talk this:
Kate: You mean the GREATEST THING IN THE ENTIRE WORLD RIGHT NOW? Because that’s how I’m feeling. There is absolutely nothing I dislike about this trailer, and I am super excited about it.
Gin: Well, we got all into this in the WWAC Virtual Office, but I think it is a very “in” trailer as in it is for fans, but I think the way it does it is sneaky—like makes the viewer feel that they are missing something if they aren’t in on it so it appeals to old fans, but also makes newbies feel like they really need to get in on this. (And Claire gets cred for helping me see that!)
Kate: It was definitely a trailer made for the fans. It even begins in medias res. Did you see Gillian Anderson’s tweet about it?
Gin: Nooooooo!!!! What did it say??? (You know how bad I am at the Twitter.)
Kate: What I like about it is that it’s a playful critique of the show in a way that wouldn’t have been playful a few years ago. I like that Gillian Anderson has gotten to the point where she will just roll her eyes (so to speak) about the trailer being so Mulder-centric—and that gets across the point that the series is so much more than that. It’s more than what it’s marketed as, and always has been.
It's always about you Mulder! http://t.co/H8xgszQ1h3
— Gillian Anderson (@GillianA) September 30, 2015
Gin: Isn’t that great? It can be hard to see how far we’ve come, because Scully’s character and her relationship with Mulder were significant for the time, but now not so much, so this awareness excites me.
Kate: I also loved how gorgeous Gillian Anderson looks, but that really goes without saying. I love her new Scully red shade! It’s more a strawberry blonde, but that makes sense, too, since they were undercover or in witness protection or what have you.
Gin: They both have aged well, and they look like they have aged, which I like a whole lot!
Kate: And non-superficially speaking, I’m excited that they’re jumping back in with a government conspiracy again, but not one we saw in the 90s. It feels modern to focus on government surveillance.
Gin: Which brings us back to the comic and Joe Harris—who recently pointed out in an interview—how the idea of governmental secrets and conspiracy have radically changed from the 90s, thus X-Files has to change how it approaches governmental conspiracy differently. But, considering it is only six episodes, I hope that we at least get a little monster-of-the-week stuff. There was a rumor about revisiting the episode “Home,” but Chris Carter has confirmed they will be going in an all new direction.
Kate: And thank the gods for that! I never want to go “Home” again!!
As we have been enjoying the X-Files comic (and the undertaking of a cultural artifact with such a fan following), we want to thank Joe Harris for the bravery to speak up about ongoing harassment in the comics industry.