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The X-Files: Season 10 (IDW) (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.

The X-Files: Season 10 is something of a mixed bag.

A significant portion of that is down to changes that took place in the background over the comic’s life cycle. When IDW first announced the series, The X-Files was largely considered to be a dead franchise with no viable future. By the time that the first arc (Believers) had wrapped up in October 2013, there were already murmurings about bringing the series back in one form or another. By the time that the second mythology arc (Pilgrims) was kicking off in April 2014, Chris Carter was already meeting with Glen Morgan to hammer it out.

xfiles-pilgrims55

By the time that the comic’s final arc (Elders) wrapped up in July 2015, the entire world had known for months that The X-Files would be coming back to television. This knowledge deflated the comic book relaunch somewhat. The X-Files: Season 10 had been launched with a “co-writer” credit for Chris Carter on the first five issues; he was afforded an “executive producer” credit on most of the rest of the line. What had been positioned as a semi-official continuation of the adventures of Mulder and Scully was swiftly reduced to a historical curiosity.

However, these developments affected more than just the perception of the series. When the comic launched, it was very much the only game in town. By the end of his first arc, Joe Harris was already forced to make concessions to the possible return of The X-Files in film and television. A lot of the mythology set up in Believers was hastily abandoned and brushed aside, with the characters even acknowledging as much in Monica & John. This put The X-Files: Season 10 at something of a disadvantage, with the sense the mythology was being rewritten on the fly.

xfiles-elders

In a way, it felt like a lot of The X-Files: Season 10 was driven by a recurring conversation about its own validity and legitimacy. In More Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man, the eponymous character tries to piece together his own fractured continuity. In Pilgrims, a clone of Alex Krycek fought desperately to assert his individuality. In Monica & John, Monica Reyes lamented being abandoned and “forgotten.” In Elders, the clones of the conspirators lament the warping of their organisation into something grotesque.

While there was something suitably clever and postmodern to all of this, there was a sense that The X-Files: Season 10 was suffocating in nostalgia and continuity. Of the twenty-five issues published, only one (Chitter) was a completely original story that did not serve the return of a familiar premise or a meditation on some past point of continuity. The classic mythology dominated the series, but even many of the standalone stories played as continuity-filling “origin stories” for classic characters and concepts.

Missing in action...

Fluke Man got a very X-Files origin story in Hosts. Mister X got a very generic origin story in Being for the Benefit of Mister X. The Cigarette-Smoking Man explored his history in More Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man. Even the classic “I Want to Believe” poster got an origin story in G-23. This is to say nothing of the fact that Hosts and More Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man were explicitly sequels to The Host and Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man. At a macro story level, The X-Files: Season 10 often felt like an exercise in nostalgia.

Which is a shame, because it really feels like writer Joe Harris has a firm grip on The X-Files. The writer has a good handling on most his characters, particularly Mulder’s sarcastic and the tragedy of the Cigarette-Smoking Man. He understands the core themes underpinning the series and even finds a way to make those themes feel contemporary in stories like Chitter and Immaculate. However, the comic feels somewhat hobbled by its insistence on keeping the mythology running. The series has its eye on the past more than the future.

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The X-Files: Season 10 (IDW) #9 – Chitter (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.

Chitter is an interesting single-issue story.

In many ways, Chitter feels very much like a throwback. It is a “monster of the week” story, the first such story to be written by Joe Harris focusing on an original creation. In fact, Harris acknowledged as much on his blog, remarking, “It’s my first, original ‘Monster of the Month’ (a term I’m taking sole credit for) story and it’s utterly disgusting, I’m sorry.” Although the plot includes a few nods towards the overarching themes of The X-Files: Season 10, the story stands almost completely alone. It would be possible to skip the issue entirely without missing much of importance.

Bugging out...

Bugging out…

This is very much an oddity in terms of The X-Files: Season 10, a monthly comic book series that has been very focused on the mythology and continuity of The X-Files. The first eight issues of the series were given over to threads dangling from the original show, whether the continuation of the mythology in Believers or the fate of the Fluke Man in Hosts or the origin of Mister X in Being for the Benefit of Mister X. This is the first time that the comic book has told a story that feels self-contained and truly standalone.

There is something very refreshing in that, with Harris constructing a story that feels very much in keeping with the tone and mood of The X-Files without relying on specific details. In many ways, it feels more like a classic episode than any of the previous issues. More than that, it actually feels very much like one of the early X-Files comics written for Topps by writers like Stefan Petrucha or John Rozum. It is a very strong piece of work.

Crawl good...

Crawl good…

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