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The X-Files: Year Zero (IDW) #1-5 (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.

Year Zero is the best thing that IDW has done with the X-Files license.

There are multiple reasons for that. Most obviously, the five-part miniseries is incredibly charming when taken on its own terms. Writer Karl Kesel offers in incredibly playful script, one full of teases and wordplay that holds together remarkably well without ever seeming heavy-handed or awkward. Artists Greg Scott and Vic Malhotra do an excellent job keeping the comic consistent while clearly distinguishing between its two time periods. The modern day sequences as scratchy and detailed, while the flashbacks are illustrated more like cartoons.

X-over appeal.

X-over appeal.

There is also a clever metafictional commentary underpinning the story that feels like something of a companion to the larger mythology of The X-Files. If the mythology of The X-Files can be read as a secret history of the United States filtered through folklore about aliens and UFOs, then Year Zero positions itself as an origin story for that folklore. It places the origin of The X-Files at the moment those narratives began to change, tying the series into the aftermath of the Second World War in a manner distinct from (but still compatible with) that featured on the show.

More than that, Year Zero is a story that unfolds without a heavy reliance on the mythology or continuity. Given the way that Joe Harris has approached The X-Files: Season 10 and The X-Files: Season 11, it is a welcome surprise that the comic does not feature a guest appearance from William Mulder or C.G.B. Spender. There are lots of little winks and nods to the finer details of the show, but Year Zero is more than just a story carved out from a throwaway line of dialogue in Shapes or as an extension of Travelers.

Holding out for a Zero.

Holding out for a Zero.

In fact, Year Zero practically revels in the discontinuity of it all. References to existing stories seem to exist primarily to emphasise the disconnect that exists between them. Given the care the IDW have taken in trying to craft and shape a consistent X-Files continuity, there is something quite refreshing in the cheeky approach taken by Karl Kesel to Year Zero. This is a book that could easily be handed to a casual fan who stopped watching the show around the fifth season, or even to somebody who had only seen a handful of episodes.

However, Year Zero does something far more important. The IDW comics have placed a heavy emphasis on the idea of legitimacy and canon. The comics have worked hard to present themselves as a viable continuation of the franchise. However, a lot of that has involved looking backwards and evoking nostalgia. The Cigarette-Smoking Man returns, Mister X reappears, Alex Krycek is revived. Even the other tie-in miniseries exist to market existing aspects of the brand. Conspiracy is a companion to The Lone Gunmen. Millennium brings back Frank Black.

A beast of a man...

A beast of a man…

Year Zero gives the IDW comics something unique and novel. It creates something fresh and exciting rather than simply repackaging recognisable moments or iconic characters. It gives the IDW line something that never existed in any prior incarnation of The X-Files. The characters of Humility Ohio and Bing Ellinson might be familiar archetypes, but they represent something intriguing. Instead of simply repackaging material and elements that fans loved, Year Zero slots in something exciting and intriguing.

The fact that all of this is done as through what is effectively positioned as a clichéd “origin story” makes it all the more exciting.

Madame X.

Madame X.

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The X-Files: Season 10 (IDW) #8 – Being for the Benefit of Mr. X (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.

Being for the Benefit of Mr. X is effectively another origin story, following on from Hosts.

While Hosts explained exactly how the Fluke Man came to be, and even gave the character tangible motivation, Being for the Benefit of Mr. X is largely driven by flashbacks that proceed to explain and elaborate upon Mulder’s second informant. Mister X has long been one of the franchise’s most interesting and underdeveloped character, in part owing to the fact that the show fleshed out very little about him and in part due to Steven Williams’ performance. While the show revealed a lot about Deep Throat or the Cigarette-Smoking Man, Mister X remains a mystery.

Marking the spot.

Marking the spot.

The question, of course, is what this actually adds to the story being told. It is fun to revisit the origin of Mister X, but he is very much an outdated concern at this point in the show’s life. In fact, the character’s last appearance was in flashback in Unusual Suspects at the start of the fifth season, following his death in Herrenvolk at the start of the fourth season. Unlike the Cigarette-Smoking Man, Mister X was never literally resurrected. Unlike Deep Throat, he never turned up to haunt Mulder in episodes like The Blessing Way or The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati.

It is not as if writer Joe Harris has constructed a particularly compelling origin story for Mister X. The story told in Being for the Benefit of Mr. X is solid and sturdy, integrating quite smoothly with the continuity of the show and the character as we understand it. However, there are no real surprises or tangents, no twists or surprises. Being for the Benefit of Mr. X is a solid “done in one” story. It just feels a tad unnecessary.

In too Deep (Throat)...

In too Deep (Throat)…

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Daredevil – Nelson v. Murdock (Review)

To celebrate the launch of Marvel’s Daredevil and the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, we are reviewing all thirteen episodes of the first season of Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil. Check back daily for the latest review.

Franklin P. “Foggy” Nelson is perhaps the most constant fixture of Matt Murdock’s personal life.

The lawyer was created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett for the first issue of the comic, published in April 1964. It seems like Foggy has always been there for Matt in one form or another. “Nelson and Murdock” is the heart of Matt Murdock’s life as a lawyer, and so Foggy is generally around to deal with the fallout from whatever crisis has engulfed Matt’s life from one moment to the next. However, Foggy is notable because he is really the only member of the Daredevil cast who can be described as a “regular” character since the book’s inception.

daredevil-nelsonvmurdock2

Despite the fact that Stan Lee and Bill Everett were clearly inspired by The Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil never developed an ensemble with quite the same depth and breadth. While casual comic book fans can list off dozens of Peter Parker’s friends and colleagues from the earliest years, Matt Murdock has always had a rougher time building up a steady and reliable supporting cast. Part of this is undoubtedly down to the book’s difficulty finding its own identity. Characters came and went as the creative team tried new directions.

Through all of that, Foggy stuck around.

daredevil-nelsonvmurdock5

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