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The X-Files/30 Days of Night (Review)

This January, to prepare for the release of the new six-part season of The X-Files, we’re wrapping up our coverage of the show, particularly handling the various odds and ends between the show’s last episode and the launch of the revival.

The X-Files/30 Days of Night is the most satisfying X-Files story of the interregnum between The Truth and My Struggle I.

The comic book miniseries is notable for a number of reasons. It is the simultaneously the last X-Files comic to be published by Wildstorm and the first X-Files comic to be published by IDW. It is the first comic book crossover between X-Files characters and another established comic book franchise, and it crosses over directly through Mulder and Scully rather than using the Lone Gunmen to insulate the franchise. It is also the first X-Files comic to be illustrated by Tom Mandrake, who would later work with Joe Harris.

Darkness falls...

Darkness falls…

There are other reasons that The X-Files/30 Days of Night stands out. The comic is the work of a creative team (much) more strongly associated with 30 Days of Night than The X-Files, and there is a sense the comic services that franchise more than The X-Files. Barring the first twelve-issues of Stefan Petrucha and Charles Adlard’s Topps run, which was really more of a series of shorter interlocking stories, The X-Files/30 Days of Night is also the longest single X-Files comic book story published to this point in the franchise’s history.

It is also just really good.

Due North...

Due North…

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The X-Files (Wildstorm) #5-6 – Dante’s Muse (Review)

This January, to prepare for the release of the new six-part season of The X-Files, we’re wrapping up our coverage of the show, particularly handling the various odds and ends between the show’s last episode and the launch of the revival.

And Wildstorm’s X-Files comic dies a quiet death.

The seven-issue (six monthly issues and a special “zero” comic) miniseries is an oddity. These seven comics tell four self-contained mysteries that stand quite separate from another, even as they echo the show’s creative peak. These four self-contained stories are credited to three different writers; the first two stories are written by producer and writer of the classic show, while each of the final two stories is credited to an established industry veteran with a long history working at DC comics.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE

Still, the miniseries feels like something of a damn squib. Barring that X-Files/30 Days of Night crossover, these seven issues represent everything that Wildstorm chose to do with the license. It certainly pales in comparison to the more comprehensive and thorough exploitation of the property by previous owner Topps and future owner IDW. While part of that is likely down to the simple fact that Wildstorm was in its extended death throes, perhaps it also speaks to where The X-Files was at that point in time.

Perhaps there simply was not that big a market for The X-Files in late 2008 and into 2009. Perhaps the memory of the show’s final season lingered too strongly in the cultural memory, or perhaps the cultural remembrance of show had faded entirely. The spark of nostalgia that would resurrect the show half a decade later had yet to be kindled. For whatever reason, it seemed like The X-Files was not quite ready to return to the popular consciousness.

EVERYTHING DIES

EVERYTHING DIES

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The X-Files (Wildstorm) #3-4 (Review)

This January, to prepare for the release of the new six-part season of The X-Files, we’re wrapping up our coverage of the show, particularly handling the various odds and ends between the show’s last episode and the launch of the revival.

Frank Spotnitz could not stick around forever.

The veteran X-Files writer and producer could not stick around for even half a year. These days, it is customary for “big name” authors to commit to a very short run of comic book issues before jumping off; while comic book veterans like Marv Wolfman or Chuck Dixon or Chris Claremont would have committed to years on a particular title during the seventies and eighties, it became increasingly common for higher profile writers to enjoy shorter stints. While this is the case for high-profile industry veterans like Warren Ellis, it is particularly true of celebrity authors.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE

Brad Meltzer wrote thirteen issues of Justice League of America. Kevin Smith wrote eight (and a bit) issues of Daredevil and fifteen issues of Green Arrow. Richard Donner wrote seven issues of Action Comics, and contributed a short story to the anniversary special. Sam Hamm wrote three issues of Detective Comics. While these creators might have had great stories to tell with these characters, they were also not necessarily comfortable with committing to a month schedule indefinitely. (They also had careers outside the medium, to be fair.)

Still, there is something quite jarring about Frank Spotnitz’s departure from Wildstorm’s X-Files comic book after only three issues. Spotnitz barely had time to define what the comic was supposed to be, beyond a glimpse into a weird alternate universe where Mulder and Scully are trapped in a perpetual 1998. It is debatable whether a licensed tie-in really needs anything more than that, given the tendency to treat such tie-ins as little more than a supplement to a more mainstream iteration of the same basic product.

DECEIVE INVEIGLE OBFUSCATE

DECEIVE INVEIGLE OBFUSCATE

At the same time, it feels like Spotnitz’s departure leaves an already confused monthly series with no strong identity of its own. Quite pointedly, Spotnitz’s name still appears on the full cover to the first issue written by Marv Wolfman; whether this suggests that Spotnitz was intended to write the issue or simply the result of a rush to press is unclear. As a result, Wildstorm ended up passing its X-Files monthly series from one writer to another, with industry (and DC comics) veterans Marv Wolfman and Doug Moench each handling a two-part story.

The results are intriguing, if not particularly compelling. Wildstorm’s X-Files comics are most remarkable for its sense of detachment from anything and everything. It is “unstuck” in a way that none of the franchise’s other flirtations with comic book storytelling are not. In its own way, this feels entirely appropriate; this is The X-Files as published by one of the two most largest and most iconic comic book publishers. Continue reading

The X-Files (Wildstorm) #0 (Review)

This January, to prepare for the release of the new six-part season of The X-Files, we’re wrapping up our coverage of the show, particularly handling the various odds and ends between the show’s last episode and the launch of the revival.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe marks a point of transition for The X-Files.

It seems to represent the point at which The X-Files truly stops its forward momentum; the point at which the show embraces its status as an artifact of the nineties rather than a living (and evolving) entity. There had been indications of this with the release of Resist or Serve, a video game which seemed to treat the seventh season as the “end” of The X-Files, but I Want to Believe embraced it on a much larger scale and on a much larger platform. The X-Files was not so much pushing forward as looking backwards.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE

This reality was reflected in a number of ways. The importance of the eighth and ninth seasons was consciously downplayed, to the point where a gag in I Want to Believe hinges on the audience forgetting that both Mulder and Scully had worked at the FBI during the Bush administration. Doggett and Reyes were consigned to a blu ray bonus feature, an evolutionary branch of The X-Files to be cut off for the sake of convenience. I Want to Believe even took Mulder and Scully back to snowy Vancouver, a literal journey backwards.

The Wildstorm comic book pushes this reconceptualisation of the show to its logical conclusion, as if imaging some alternate world where The X-Files‘ so-called “golden age” of the second through fifth seasons had somehow lasted over a decade. The Wildstorm comics tease a glimpse of The X-Files frozen in amber, trapped for an eternity.

I WANT TO BELIEVE

I WANT TO BELIEVE

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Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch, Vol. 1 (Hardcover) (Review)

Warren Ellis in free flow is a truly beautiful thing to watch. In the right frame of mind, working on the right idea, Ellis has a unique ability to throw out radical ideas, fascinating constructs and subversive notions, all without ever losing his step or his flow. With Bryan Hitch, Ellis’ acclaimed and respected run on The Authority firmly altered the trajectory of mainstream comic books. Part of it was definitely the style that Ellis and Hitch brought to the book, promising “widescreen” dynamic action. However, it was the ideas that gave the book a significant amount of weight. Ellis demonstrated that you could take realpolitick and graft it into a superhero book, lending the adventures a bit more depth, potency and relevance than any publisher would have dared attempt before. These ideas are all present in Ellis’ original run on Stormwatch, the series that led into that iconic game-changing comic book.

I blame it on the Weatherman…

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Absolute Planetary, Vol. 2 (Review)

With Wildstorm being officially folded into the relaunched DCU (the “DCnU”), I thought I might take a look at some of the more successful and popular Wildstorm titles that the company produced. In particular, Planetary, the which will apparently inspire Paul Cornell’s Stormwatch – easily one of my more anticipated titles of the relaunch.

“We keep the world strange because that’s the way it’s suppose to be.”

– Elijah Snow outlines Planetary‘s mission

I really do love Warren Ellis’ Planetary, a love letter to pulp fiction in all its forms, about a team of crack pop culture archeologists, tracking down and preserving many of the weird and wonderful fictional specimens that we see all too rarely these days, from cowboy vigilantes to kung-fu epics. There’s a genuine love poured into the series by Ellis and his artistic collaborator, John Cassaday, as the pair celebrate some of the truly wonderful fiction of the twentieth century, as we brace ourselves for the twenty-first.

Little drummer boy...

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The Absolute Authority, Vol. 2 (Review)

With Wildstorm being officially folded into the relaunched DCU (the “DCnU”), I thought I might take a look at some of the more successful and popular Wildstorm titles that the company produced. In particular, The Authority, the superhero saga that spun out of Stormwatch – a series that is getting its own post-relaunch book written by Paul Cornell, easily one of my more anticipated titles.

In many ways, it was The Authority that established Mark Millar and Frank Quitely as talents to watch in their own rights, rather than through their associations with Grant Morrison. As a concept, the series was launched by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch, but the duo picked their own replacements. I have to say, I think they chose rather wisely, even if the series has lost a rather considerable amount of its bite nearly a decade after its initial publication. That said, it’s still a highly entertaining superhero book, and one which had more than its fair share of influence on the mainstream titles over the last ten or so years.

There's a new Authority in town...

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