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The X-Files: Season 11 (IDW) #6-8 – Endgames (Review)

This June, we’re going to be taking a look at the current run of The X-Files, beginning with the IDW comic book revival and perhaps taking some detours along the way. Check back daily for the latest review.

With Endgames, it all comes to an end.

The grand epic story that writer Joe Harris had built across thirty-five issues of The X-Files: Season 10 and The X-Files: Season 11 comes to a close with this three-part story. Given that the default length of a mythology-heavy story in Season 10 was five issues, Endgames cannot help but feel somewhat truncated. However, there has always been a sense that Season 11 is winding down rather than ratcheting up.

Alien nation.

Alien nation.

In some ways, Endgames suffers from being overly ambitious. Harris reintroduced the faceless rebels into his mythology with My Name is Gibson and The X-Files Christmas Special 2015, but they feel like they crowd out what is otherwise a straightforward confrontation with Mulder and Scully squaring off against Gibson Praise. It is in some ways disappointing that all of Gibson’s plans build to a handful of trucks in the desert.

And, yet, in spite of that, there is something oddly charming about Endgames. The three-parter might be a compromised twist on the ending that Joe Harris originally envisaged for his massive epic, but it is still an ending.

Full circle.

Full circle.

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The X-Files: Season 11 (IDW) #5 – My Name is Gibson (Review)

This June, we’re going to be taking a look at the current run of The X-Files, beginning with the IDW comic book revival and perhaps taking some detours along the way. Check back daily for the latest review.

It feels like Season 11 was barely getting started before it started winding down.

There is a leanness to Season 11, as if the eight-issue series exists primarily to wrap up all the loose ends spinning out of Elders so the series can be rebooted and relaunched in keeping with the new continuity established by My Struggle I. The new status quo set up in Cantus was striking. While the premise owed a lot to the set-up of Nothing Important Happened Today I and Nothing Important Happened Today II, putting Mulder on the run as a roving one-man freelance X-files division evoked The X-Files by way of Kung-Fu or The Incredible Hulk.

Bewitching.

Bewitching.

In some ways, the set-up felt like a striking homage to seventies pop culture. The wandering hero is a staple of pop culture in general, but American pop culture in particular. In the sixties, it was The Fugitive. In the eighties, it was The A-Team. Nevertheless, the set-up evokes the mood and feeling of the seventies, of a nation lost and discovering itself in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam. Setting Mulder on that particular course was a very clever story hook. The X-Files owes a lot to seventies film and television, so this set-up felt strangely appropriate.

With that in mind, it feels somewhat disappointing that the new status quo comes to a close so quickly. At the end of Home Again, Mulder is taken into custody as a fugitive. With My Name is Gibson, Joe Harris begins aligning the pieces for the climax of his three-year run on Season 10 and Season 11. It seems like Season 11 is over before it has started, which seems quite disappointing given all of the promise on display.

Chess master.

Chess master.

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The X-Files: Season 10 (IDW) #21-25 – Elders (Review)

This June, we’re going to be taking a look at the current run of The X-Files, beginning with the IDW comic book revival and perhaps taking some detours along the way. Check back daily for the latest review.

One of the more disappointing aspects of The X-Files: Season 10 and The X-Files: Season 11 is that it does very little to adapt the mythology to the twenty-first century.

The X-Files is very much a show rooted in the political and cultural context of the nineties. Everything about the show’s first seven seasons reflects the Clinton era, with the series perfectly capturing the zeitgeist in the weird lacuna between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the destruction of the World Trade Centre. At its peak, the show touched on underlying anxieties that are social, political and existential; it asked tough questions about identity in the final days of the twentieth century. As much as Friends or The Simpsons, The X-Files embodied the nineties.

The son becomes the father... And the pseudo-son...

The son becomes the father…
And the pseudo-son…

As such, any revival of The X-Files must face questions of relevance. The X-Files so perfectly captured the spirit of the nineties that removing the series from that context runs the risk of severely damaging it. What makes now such a perfect time for The X-Files? What does The X-Files have to say about contemporary culture? How will the show be tweaked for modern audiences and sensibilities? These are not trivial questions. Any X-Files revival should be more than just a nostalgic “victory lap.”

This question of relevance faced the revival miniseries, but it also faced The X-Files: Season 10. What does The X-Files mean in the modern world? Harris had broached the question in a number of different ways, perhaps most skilfully in his approach to the classic “small town horror stories” that populated the show’s nine-season run. Whereas those stories tended to touch upon themes of globalisation and the erosion of so-called eccentric spaces, Harris used stories like Chitter and Immaculate to explore a growing cultural divide in twenty-first century America.

Cuba libre...

Cuba libre…

However, The X-Files: Season 10 does not work quite as well when it comes to updating the mythology for the twenty-first century. A lot of this is down to the strong nostalgic pull of the nineties mythology. Harris employs a lot of the same elements that were in play while the show was on the air; the same characters, the same dynamics, the same story beats. There were occasional nods towards the changing geopolitical realities, such as the use of black-oil-as-oil in Pilgrims. However, the revived mythology never engaged with the twenty-first century as well as it might.

Effectively serving as the season “finale”, Elders makes the strongest play for relevance yet. It consciously references and evokes the imagery of the War on Terror in its exploration of Gibson Praise’s revived conspiracy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work.

Cross to bear...

Cross to bear…

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The X-Files – The Beginning (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The opening shot of The Beginning makes it quite clear that things have changed. The camera opens staring at the sunny cloudless sky of California, doubling for Arizona. It pans down to an open desert. As the production team conceded with Anasazi, the desert was just about the only American environment that Vancouver could not easily mimic – to the point where the team had to paint rocks red in order to convincingly set a scene in New Mexico. California makes for a much more convincing desert.

Bursting on to the scene...

Bursting on to the scene…

The contrast is striking. The sixth season of The X-Files is bright and sunny; it is aware of its new production reality and chooses to embrace them rather than pointlessly resist them. Things had changed, and there was nothing to be gained from pretending otherwise. It is no wonder that the opening sequence of The Beginning features a group of working-stiff conspirators in transit; the perfect opening image for a season still figuring out how Los Angeles works. The Beginning loads all of that into its opening shot, getting it out in the open before it gets down to business.

At the same time, The Beginning is keen to stress that not too much has actually changed. The naming of the fifth season finalé and the sixth season premiere is decidedly symmetrical – The End and The Beginning. In fact, naming the second part of a two-part episode “The Beginning” is a very clear attempt at reassurance. It is a beginning without actually being a beginning; it is a conclusion without actually being a conclusion. The wheel keeps on turning. All that is missing is the ouroboros.

Dude, that's totally not sterile...

Dude, that’s totally not sterile…

The closing shot as much as confirms this, revealing that the bold new alien design revealed in The X-Files: Fight the Future is not so bold and new after all. Instead, the monster obviously inspired by Alien is something of a missing link, a tether connecting the grey aliens seen in episodes like Duane Barry to the black oil introduced in Piper Maru. It is all one big circle in perpetual motion. Everything is connected. Everything fits together. The show might have moved two thousand miles south, but it hasn’t missed a step.

For better or worse, The Beginning is about assuring viewers that – no matter what has changed – everything remains the same. It is up to the viewer to decide whether that is a good or a bad thing.

The truth is in there...

The truth is in there…

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