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The X-Files (Topps) #37 – The Face of Extinction (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

Suspension of disbelief is a curiously fickle thing.

It is a concept that generates considerable debate in its function and application. After all, the normal mode of fiction generally accepts that fiction is… well, fictional. There is no real belief to shatter, because there is an innate understanding between artist and audience that a work of art should be interpreted as a representation of reality rather than a piece of reality. Even in the case of “true stories”, audiences will willingly and readily accept alterations and adjustments designed to streamline the story in question.

Ramming speed...

Ramming speed…

After all, the concept of “suspension of disbelief” is quite firmly disengaged from the concept of reality. The old cliché about “truth being stranger than fiction” illustrates the distinction. The real world (and the stories of the people who inhabit it) are full of coincidences and contrivances that audiences would consider to be lazy writing or poor construction if they appeared in a work of fiction. Nevertheless, while “suspension of disbelief” might be more complex than its three-word nature would suggest, it is a useful philosophy.

What “breaks” a work of fiction? At what point does the artist – whether intentionally or otherwise – push the audience out of the story? What causes a double take to occur or a quizzical eyebrow to raise? What story developments prompt angry sighs or bitter grumbling? There is no hard and fast answer. The line will always be arbitrary, varying from audience member to audience member. Everybody has different expectations when it comes to art, and so that threshold is distinct for every person.

"Don't worry, Scully! Stay right there... I'm going to get my camera."

“Don’t worry, Scully! Stay right there… I’m going to get my camera.”

Sometimes people can agree on where the line falls on a certain work, but everybody has their limits. There are some people who embrace perceived absurdities or inconsistencies or incongruities in their stories; there are some people who simple do not consider those absurdities or inconsistencies or incongruities to exist at all. One of the great things about The X-Files as a television show is the sense of adventure and excitement that the premise generates. It is highly flexible, allowing for almost anything.

At the same time, it seems quite clear that writer John Rozum and artist Alex Saviuk find themselves charging head-first towards that highly arbitrary and high flexible boundary with The Face of Extinction, a story about a secret race of intelligent goat people who have lived alongside human civilisation for millennia and who also (conveniently) speak perfect English. It is a rather absurd concept, and one that seems at odds with the relatively grounded style of the first five seasons of The X-Files.

Beastly.

Beastly.

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