X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

EatTheCorn > Main Sections

The complete and definitive X-Files mythology guide
+ en español
+ auf Deutsch
The X-Files mythology episode by episode analysis
Thematic articles on X-Files and everything 1013
The archival database project

 

The X-Files Revival 2016

10X1: My Struggle (written & directed by Chris Carter): Review
10X2: Founder’s Mutation (w&d by James Wong): Review
10X3: Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster (w&d by Darin Morgan): Review
10X4: Home Again (w&d by Glen Morgan): Review
10X5: Babylon (w&d by Chris Carter): Review
10X6: My Struggle II (w&d by Chris Carter – story by Chris Carter & Anne Simon & Margaret Fearon): Review

The X-Files Revival 2018 (January-March 2018?)

Provisional list:
11X01: My Struggle III
[mythology] (written & directed by Chris Carter)
11X02: [stand-alone] (w&d by Glen Morgan)
11X03: Plus One [stand-alone] (written by Chris Carter, directed by Kevin Hooks)
11X04: [stand-alone, comedy] (w&d by Darin Morgan)
11X05: [stand-alone with threads of mythology] (w&d by James Wong)
11X06: [stand-alone on Skinner] (written by Gabe Rotter, directed by Carol Banker)
11X07: [stand-alone] (?)
11X08: [stand-alone, horror] (written by Glen Morgan & James Wong, directed by James Wong)
11X09: [stand-alone] (?)
11X10: “My Struggle IV” (title presumed) [mythology] (w&d by Chris Carter)
Unassigned writers: Benjamin Van Allen, Karen Nielsen; one episode to be story by Glen Morgan, teleplay by Kristen Cloke & Shannon Hamblin
Unproduced stand-alone season 10 episode written by Gabe Rotter & Brad Follmer will not be produced in season 11

IDW Comics checklist

Season 10 (June 2013-July 2015) – full issues list
#1-5: Believers | 1 2 3 4 5
#6-7: Hosts | 6 7
#8: Being for the Benefit of Mr. X | 8
#9: Chitter | 9
#10: More Musings of the Cigarette-Smoking Man | 10
#11-15: Pilgrims | 11 12 13 14 15
#16-17: Immaculate | 16 & 17
#18: Monica & John | 18
#19-20: G-23 | 19 & 20
#21-25: Elders | 21 & 22 23 & 24 25

Season 11 (August 2015-March 2016) – full issues list
#1: Cantus | 1
#2-4: Home Again | 2-3-4
#5: My Name Is Gibson | 5
S11 X-Mas Special | X-Mas 2015
#6-8: Endgames | 6-7-8

The X-Files (April 2016-August 2017)
#1: Active Shooter
#2-3: Días de los Muertos
#4-5: Ishmael
#6-9: Came Back Haunted
#10-11: Contrarians
#12-13: Skinner
#14-17: Resistance
Beyond

Conspiracy: 6 issues. The Lone Gunmen cross-over with Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, The Crow (!).

Annuals: April 2014 (2 stories) | July 2015 | July 2016

Year Zero: 5 issues, July-November 2014. Present-day X-Files and flashback to 1940s.

Christmas Special: Season 10: December 2014 (features both present-day and 1940s agents from Year Zero) | Season 11: December 2015 (features the Lone Gunmen) | December 2016 (A Christmas Carol for Mulder)

MillenniuM: 5 issues, January-May 2015 | 1 2 3 4 5

Origins: 8 issues, 2016-2017

Deviations: 2 issues, 2016-2017

JFK Disclosure: 2 issues, October-November 2017

Mythology elements of The Real Science Behind The X-Files

Dr. Anne Simon is a researcher in virology and professor in the University of Maryland. She also has in her curriculum the no less respectable title of science advisor for The X-Files! Anne Simon got involved in the show from the very first season, 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask, through a family connection — her mother’s best friend is Chris Carter’s wife and writer Dori Pierson — and has remained involved to this day, even earning a writing credit on the show’s last episode to have aired to date, 10X6: My Struggle II. She is also the daughter of screenwriter Mayo Simon, who wrote several science-themed or science fiction features (Marooned, Phase IV).

In 1999, Simon wrote “Monsters, Mutants and Missing Links: The Real Science Behind The X-Files“, a book that mixed episode stories with her own scientific knowledge and participation in the making of the series. Simon’s contribution in the series as a scientist elevates this particular book above the usual “the science of…” tie-in books that get released to ride on a pop culture phenomenon’s success. The book makes for a great read for the science amateur and informed X-Files fan, it invites the reader to enter the mindset of a scientific researcher questioning everything and attempting to reconcile facts in order to come up with theories — a quintessentially x-philian activity. The X-Files, after all, tried to balance Mulder’s encyclopedic knowledge of paranormal phenomena with Scully’s no less encyclopedic knowledge of medicine and more.

The US cover

The book covers seasons 1-5 as well as Fight the Future and the first episode of the sixth season. It would be interesting for Anne Simon to do a second edition of this book, with additional chapters not only covering seasons 6-9 (and importantly, as will be seen below, the revival) but also offering an updated view on the science: medical sciences and biology in particular are very lively fields that have seen great advancements over the past 15 years. Scientific truth is an ever-expanding, ever-shifting landscape!

By her own account, Simon only helped Carter with the science of the mythology episodes, the only stand-alone exception being 5X06: Post-Modern Prometheus, also a Carter episode. The science in other X-Files episodes must have been the writers’ own work or Ten Thirteen’s in-house researcher. Thus, the book’s science can be broken down into three types:

  • The book attempts to provide a scientific background for the phenomenon seen in an X-Files investigation. These are more akin to more or less wild sessions of theorizing and of attempting to put science where scientific accuracy might not have been the writers’ concern. For example, finding a biological basis for Virgil Incanto’s need for fat matter (from 3X06: 2Shy).
  • Scully (mostly) and Mulder explicitly reference a scientific concept in an episode, and the book offers further background to that concept. If the concept made it into the script, then it’s likely that the writers used this concept as the basis for their script, or at least they were aware of it and wrote it in in order to strengthen the scientific accuracy of the script. For example, the Chupacabra fungus launches a discussion of how fungi and enzymes work (from 4X11: El Mundo Gira).
  • A third category is Simon’s own contributions, which are first-hand accounts of what research was done to give these episodes scientific verisimilitude and what were the writers’ (well, Carter’s) intentions by including some elements of the research and not others. For example, identifying alien DNA with the two extra nucleotides (from 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask).

Anne Simon circa 1999

Sometimes, the additional research that didn’t make it into the final script and the behind-the-scenes discussions Simon had with Carter provide interesting insights into the script-writing process and valuable information about the mythology that cannot be found elsewhere. This mythology information could be described as “secondary” canon information: although not in the episodes themselves, it is certain it was in Simon’s and Carter’s minds and intentions when the episodes were being written and this extra information does not contradict the episodes. I used this extra information for EatTheCorn’s Mytharc Primer. This will be the focus of this article.

Are all of these elements below things we were to ponder on purpose as part of the larger mysteries of the mythology, or are they fan theories extrapolated from trying to inject too much science into a scripted piece of entertainment?

Mythology elements

The DNA to create an alien is already existing in humans and the Black Oil/Purity virus switches on this junk DNA

Quote:

Chris Carter, the movie’s scriptwriter, originally wanted to connect the black oily slime and the lizard-like entity in the following way: the black slime carries a virus, which is infectious when the slime enters a person; in the warmth of a person’s body, the virus develops into the monstrous creature..
Very imaginative, yes.
Minutely possible within the framework of biology, no.
After reading the movie script in early 1997, I hoped that Chris would change his mind. Having a special place in my heart for viruses, I discussed with him why a virus couldn’t possibly develop into anything. Viruses are, after all, just a bag of genes. A bag of genes that turns into a lizard with large black eyes and long pointed nails wouldn’t fit even my expanded definition of an extraterrestrial virus. I explored with Chris an idea for tinkering with his scenario. What if the black slime virus is responsible for the development of the creature but is not the progenitor of the creature? The virus, carried into a human by the black slime, could invade a cell in the person’s body and cause the cell to lose its identity. The cell could then be enticed by the virus to enter a new developmental pathway. That cell, together with its descendent cells, would regenerate into the hideous alien monster. I was thrilled that Chris liked the changes, since I wasn’t enthusiastic about the ribbing I would have taken from my fellow virologists if viruses changed into lizard-like aliens on the big screen — with me credited as science advisor.

The concern for scientific realism here is remarkable. A virus is a simple strand of DNA, much, much shorter than the DNA of a single-celled organism let alone of a complex multi-cellular organism like humans or grey aliens. For a virus to turn a human into an alien monster, it would have to carry much more information than a simple virus; so much so that it would not be categorized as a virus at all! The solution Simon found was to have the virus just be an activator of genes that are normally inactive in humans.

It would be have been simple to ignore that and just handwave the science away and make the virus do what viruses can’t do, but Carter was more than willing to incorporate this into his script.

Victim of (a strain of) Purity

Implications: human origins

This has large implications. If the information to create an alien were already present in human DNA, how did it get there? What happens if random genetic mutations switch part of that DNA on but not all of it? Gibson Praise and the Biogenesis trilogy storylines are the results of this idea. Super-human abilities such as mind-reading are the result of select genes in the so-called junk DNA being switched on (5X20: The End, 6X01: The Beginning). The alien DNA was put there by design because we are creations of aliens (6X22: Biogenesis). It would make sense then that the Ships with inscriptions on them containing a transcript of human DNA on them would belong to that same alien race that created us (7X03: The Sixth Extinction): Purity.

Implications: Black Oil virus origin

The Black Oil virus can thus be understood as a biological tool to transform a human into an alien. Could that mean that the Black Oil virus itself is manufactured, a tool of biological warfare on humans? The Purity aliens then would, in their natural form, be humanoid greys, the end result of the Black Oil virus’s life cycle. The Black Oil virus and its derivatives (see the creation of the Supersoldiers) would just be a tool for the Purity aliens to spread.

Extending this concept further, the Black Oil virus arbiters the mixture of active human genes and active alien genes in an organism, i.e. determines how much of an alien/human hybrid that organism is. Could that mean that hybridization experiments that result in our well-known green-blooded hybrids consist in finding out which genes to switch on and off? In the study of 5X14: The Red and the Black I theorized that the green blood in Alien Bounty Hunters and Faceless Rebels would mean that this race was created by Purity using some Purity genetic material in the same way humanity was, and that the green blood in alien/human hybrids is proof of that: could it be that this race of Shapeshifters actually be the result of earlier genetic experiments on humans?

Scully is not buying that viruses can think

Implications: virus vs. sentient organism

And so Carter and Simon thus went out of their way to present the Black Oil as a virus, behaving like a real virus. In most episodes we see it, the Black Oil infects people like a normal virus and at most put them into a coma (depending on things like temperature conditions, exposure of the host to a vaccine, potential weakness of the Black Oil strain). What doesn’t jive well with this is that the Black Oil, at times, behaves as if it has sentience: once it is inside a host, at times, it makes the host behave as if he is controlled by an intelligence other than his own. A simple virus would be very far from having the complexity necessary to do this. At best it could influence the behavior of the host in a specific way, like the worms wrapped around the brain in 1X07: Ice made the host violent. Could this be anything else than artistic license?

To be fair, the only times when the Black Oil virus shows real intelligence all by itself is in 3X15: Piper Maru / 3X16: Apocrypha, when for example it drives Krycek to negotiate with the CSM in order for it to reach its UFO — and the writers might not have yet settled their minds about what this black fluid was or that the “black cancer” they introduced in 4X09: Tunguska was the same entity. The other instance is in 8X16: Vienen, where the infected try to get more people infected. Interestingly, it is only in these two instances of the Black Oil that we see the host emit a flash of radioactivity to protect and attack, as if this were a different entity altogether. In both these instances, it could be that the Black Oil merely manipulates the brain to usher the host to rejoin with more of its kind, and the host uses the resources at its disposal — the host’s intelligence, memories, capabilities — to achieve that. This would not be unlike what some real parasites do when they control the host to their own benefit, for instance by ingesting more food or by moving to a safe place for the parasite to mature (see these or this lovely example).

How the Black Oil operates inside the Alien Bounty Hunters would be a different issue entirely.

The Black Oil/Purity virus doesn’t have extra nucleotides: is it terrestrial or extra-terrestrial?

Quote:

In ‘The Beginning’, the opening episode of the sixth season, Mulder’s convinced that there is a connection between Gibson and the virus involved in activating the development of the lizard-like creature. Unfortunately, hard evidence is lacking. Gibson is gone and the creatures have vanished. Muider’s only piece of evidence is a trace amount of the virus that he believes is extraterrestrial. Mulder is crushed when Scully cannot support scientifically the alien nature of the virus. After running tests, Scully reveals that the virus, although of an unknown species, has the same four nucleotides in its DNA and the same 20 amino acids in its proteins as earthly viruses. She therefore concludes that Mulder is mistaken. The virus comes from Earth.

Here Simon just summarizes how 6X01: The Beginning unfolds, but doesn’t counter Scully’s argument. Throughout the book, the Black Oil virus is casually referred to as alien and there is no question that aliens are here to colonize. There is just this catch: the Black Oil virus doesn’t contain the two extra nucleotides that was the most convincing proof of alien biology! Simon explains in detail her idea of two extra nucleotides to the usual four found in all earthly organisms, and how Carter integrated this idea in his script for 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask involving alien gene therapy on humans (i.e. inserting bits of alien DNA in the DNA of living humans). Surely, this is the best evidence Scully should have to make her believe in aliens. By Fight the Future and 6X01: The Beginning, Mulder believes the Black Oil virus and the clawed creature it spawns to be alien, but Scully’s analyses do not show something out of the ordinary apart from the fact that humans share a large part of their genome with it.

Southern blot DNA test in 5X02: Redux

Does that scientific result insinuate that the Black Oil is, in fact, terrestrial in origin and the entity with extra nucleotides is the only thing that is alien? The extra nucleotides are encountered in 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask and 5X02: Redux (and again in 10X6: My Struggle II; and since it is inside Scully, presumably it is what the Lone Gunmen analyze in 2X08: One Breath). What this would imply for the overall mythology is unclear. The Syndicate obtained the alien fetus with the extra nucleotides DNA from a deal with the aliens (6X12: One Son), the same aliens that are identified with the Black Oil/Purity colonization effort in many instances. Are the extra nucleotides necessary only in the mature grey form of the alien but not in the virus and first “clawed alien” forms? Is the Black Oil race in fact also seeking protection from the extra nucleotides race and conducting hybridization experiments as well? Did the Black Oil race originally evolve on Earth before leaving and now returning once more?

Gibson Praise’s DNA test in 6X01: The Beginning

This raises more questions than it answers, and unless it is building up to a future revelation about multiple races I will categorize it as an oversight on behalf of Carter for now.

The Syndicate’s endgame was the depopulation of the planet

Quote:

As Kurtzweil explains to Mulder in the X-Files movie, the corn is for production; the virus is the product; and the bees are for transportation. A deadly sting that the conspirators thought would depopulate the world but instead will repopulate it with virus-induced alien life-forms.
And that’s all the buzz on bees, corn and viruses.

Although there were talks of plagues and viruses and Apocalyptic warnings, the Syndicate’s purpose as it was exposed in Fight the Future and again in 6X11: Two Fathers / 6X12: One Son and 9X19/20: The Truth was to spread the Black Oil virus and see the world be taken over by the alien colonists, with the Syndicate members themselves surviving as immune hybrids. Indeed, if the Black Oil virus didn’t do anything else but put people in a coma or kill them why term it “colonization”? Why would the aliens collaborate with the Syndicate if they didn’t get something in return? In Fight the Future the Syndicate discovers the Black Oil triggers a gestation of a “clawed” alien. Well-Manicured Man: “This isn’t Colonization, this is spontaneous repopulation!” “We believed the virus would simply control us, that mass infection would make us a slave race. Imagine our surprise when they began to gestate.” We thus discover that the aliens perceive colonization as using the human population to reproduce themselves and increase their numbers, at humanity’s expense (and extinction).

The Well-Manicured Man spills the beans (that he knows about) to Mulder

Simon’s sentence could have been a shorthand — what effectively happens whether humans become hosts to Purity for life or humans die giving birth to the clawed alien form is that humans as such decrease in numbers. The mention of “depopulation” in Simon’s text is not backed up by anything in the series’ canon and would not mean much more — right until depopulation was presented as the (a?) conspiracy’s endgame in 10X6: My Struggle II. It could be then that the conspiracy’s initial objective was depopulation and choosing who would survive. Then came along the colonist aliens who offered the conspiracy with a means to achieve this objective: a potent pathogen, the Black Oil virus. In 1973, the conspiracy became the Syndicate by agreeing to share the spoils with the aliens in a post-depopulation colonized Earth. The Syndicate might have believed that the Black Oil virus would make humans into slaves that they, as new world leaders, would control jointly with the aliens. When the Syndicate discovered the aliens’ true purpose, the agreement was off and what remained of the Syndicate returned to the original plans of depopulation we see in season 10, using the Spartan virus injected into the population before 1973 along with the smallpox vaccinations.

Scully’s cancer was not cured, it only went into remission thanks to chip

Quote:

In the summer of 1997, I discussed with Chris some cool new treatments for curing Scully’s cancer. Scully’s health was getting progressively worse, until she lay near death in the sequel to the episode ‘Redux’, called ‘Redux I’. Chris decided to have Scully ‘cured’ when a synthetic chip was placed at the base of her neck. While watching the episode, I groaned. I knew what would happen the next day when I faced the 500 rabid X-Files fans in my Introduction to Biology class. Hands flew up as soon as I entered the room. ‘How could a computer chip in the neck cure cancer, Dr Simon?’ I was asked repeatedly. When I talked to Chris later that week, he said ‘It’s not a cure! It’s only remission!’ I remain hopeful that some new neat medical technology will prevail in the end.

The Redux trilogy ended in an excellent way synthesizing the core themes of the X-Files. Scully’s cancer disappeared, and it could have been due to her prayers being answered by God, or due to the conventional treatment she underwent, or due to the chip that was put into her again, a symbol of unconventional science and perhaps of the existence of aliens.

Studying Scully’s very first implant

That it would be just a remission instead of a cure makes some pseudoscientific sense. Scully’s cancer was caused by the experiments done on her during her abduction (radiation exposure to trigger hyper-ovulation? contact with alien genetic material?). A cancer is certain cells losing their constraints and duplicating endlessly growing into an unwanted tumor. The chip put inside Scully during her abduction put shackles on these cells and stopped their spread. The removal of the chip in season 3 caused the spread to begin anew; the addition of a similar chip in season 5 stopped it. Scully only has to remove the chip and her cancer could return; or, the chip could be reprogrammed to kill her by permitting the cancer to grow. Carter’s quote above could be both an acknowledgment that the chip did not magically cure her cancer, and a tease for a potential future development — one story thread that has not yet been pulled back to the fore.

Some additional short tidbits that have their significance

Dr. Anne Carpenter

In 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask, Dr. Anne Carpenter’s name comes from Anne Simon’s first name and not legendary director John Carpenter, but after Anne Simon’s husband name.

Magnetite

Magnetite is mentioned extensively in the description of the (real) Mars meteorite that might have contained fossilized bacteria, which served as inspiration for 4X09: Tunguska. Magnetite is of course a widely common iron compound found on Earth and elsewhere and there is nothing particular about it, however magnetite’s importance as the aliens’ weak spot introduced in season 9 does make this research relevant. One theory would be that the presence of magnetite in the Mars meteorites is what weakened the Black Oil’s potency and allowed the research into a vaccine to proceed faster in Russia compared to other, more potent Black Oil strains, like the ones in Fight the Future and 6X01: The Beginning.

Black vermiforms

Foum Tataouine

Discussing Mars meteorites, Simon also mentions the Tatahouine meteorite, which was analyzed in the wake of the potential bacteria find in the ALH84001 meteorite from Antarctica. That meteorite fell in the Foum Tataouine/Tatahouine/Tatawin region of Tunisia in 1931. This is the same place where we find Conrad Strughold at the end of Fight the Future. It is possible the Syndicate installed GMO corn fields above findings of Black Oil, some of which might have landed on Earth with meteorites.

S.E.P.

In Scully’s and Pendrell’s analysis of smallpox vaccination tags in 4X01: Herrenvolk, the aminoacid sequence that appears onscreen is not random: it is that of the cowpox virus, as could be expected from a smallpox vaccination!

Look what Pendrell found inside Scully

The chimera organism

The chimera organism in 5X02: Redux that develops under Scully’s microscope and could be alien is actually footage of a proteus urchin!

Alien urchin

Genetically modified plants

Fight the Future and colonization in general is based on genetically modified corn that carries the DNA from the Black Oil virus, which is passed on to bees when the bees come into contact with the corn’s pollen: the transfer of genes from one organism to the other is something that is observed in nature with Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which transfers its genes into plant cells and has been used to insert specific genes and thus create genetically modified plants.

Black Oil worms

The Black Oil coalescing into worms was inspired by dictyostelium slugs. It looks like the Black Oil behaves intelligently, for example when it forms worms that “attack” a host in Fight the Future. There is however a real nature counterpart to such behavior, as odd as it seems. One could imagine the Black Oil virus organizing itself and the hydrocarbons in the oil it is bathing in order to behave like a multi-cellular organism looking to infect a host, in a broadly similar way to the ‘dicti‘ organism.

Dictyostelium discoideum life cycle

ADA enzyme & gene

There is mention of the severe immunodeficiency syndrome caused by a faulty gene producing the ADA enzyme. Years later, Simon would use that knowledge to come up with the mechanism with which the conspiracy would depopulate the planet with the ADA-removing Spartan virus, in 10X6: My Struggle II.

Southern blot

Simon is well aware that the Southern blot test conducted by Scully in 5X02: Redux was done way too quickly because the narrative of the episode demanded it, and it has become a bit of a recurring joke that she has received criticism for this. (To accelerate the test, more heat is needed, thus the mention of a “blazing hot probe”: little did she suspect that FOX censorship might take issue with that expression!) I wonder how the same people would react to 10X6: My Struggle II and its extremely quickly produced alien DNA vaccine.

Annex: Book contents

An overview of all the information in the book’s six chapters:

1: Hidden and Hungry
Episodes: The Host ; Ice; Darkness Falls; Firewalker; El Mundo Gira; F. Emasculata
Described: extremophiles; pathogens; antibiotics; hypothalamus & hormones; flukes & worms; hermaphrodites; reviving extinct species; spores; silicon-based life; fungi & enzymes; immune system; parasites & outbreaks

2: Visitors from the Void
Episodes: The Erlenmeyer Flask; Tunguska; Piper Maru; Ice; Gethsemane/Redux
Described: bacteria; microscopes; DNA, RNA & nucleotides; virus replication; Human Genome Project; ALH84001 Mars meteorite, PAHs, carbonates & magnetite; dicti slugs; Tunguska event; life in space & panspermia; ammonia-based life; chimeric organisms; Piltdown Man hoax; RFLP DNA test; mitosis & somatic development

3: Mutants and Monsters
Episodes: Post-Modern Prometheus; Home; Small Potatoes; 2Shy; Leonard Betts; Fight the Future; The End/The Beginning
Described: fruit flies; genetic engineering; DNA mutations; epidemics & mutant gene spread in human population; birth defects & genetic disorders; chromosomes, autosomes, sex chromosomes; dominant & recessive genes; extra chromosomes & chromosome inactivation; inbreeding; PCR DNA test; enzymes, proteases, lipids & digestion; regenerating limbs & repression by the immune system; cancer, proto-oncogenes, p53 gene & mutation suppression; bacteria redirecting the identity of cells & viruses activating genes; junk DNA; God module

4: Releasing the Genetic Genie
Episodes: Eve; Memento Mori; The Erlenmeyer Flask; Redux; Zero Sum; Herrenvolk; Fight the Future
Described: cloning; genetic engineering; chemotherapy & radiation treatment for cancer; gene therapy; Southern blot test; cloning & extra chromosomes; reproduction by cloning; forensic entomology; smallpox, immunization with cowpox, Smallpox Eradication Program; immunohistochemical staining & protein amino-acid sequence “tagging”; adding genes to plants & Agrobacterium tumefaciens

5: Seeking the Fountain of Youth
Episodes: Young at Heart; Dod Kalm; Roland; Synchrony; Our Town
Described: immortality & cell life ageing theory; HeLa cells; Hayflick cell division limit; human experimentation & consent forms; ‘wear and tear’ ageing theory, progeria, Werner’s syndrome, helicase enzyme; gene therapy; telomeres; cancer & telomerase enzyme; free radical ageing theory; antioxidants; male/female longevity, hormones & metabolism; cryonics; cells freezing process & ischemia; cryopreservants; vitrification; nanotechnology; brain diseases, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; prions; cannibalism & kuru disease; ‘mad cow’ disease

6: Fooling with Mother Nature
Episodes: War of the Coprophages; The Jersey Devil; Blood; The Pine Bluff Variant; Quagmire
Described: environmental problems; invasive species; species extinction from loss of habitat; mutations, global warming & Hsp90 protein; insect sterilization for pest control; man-made insecticides, DDT, environmental oestrogens & link to cancer; artificial chemicals & health problems; animal & human pheromones; adrenaline; biological warfare & US & USSR programs; flesh eating bacteria, Streptococcus, anthrax; terrorist groups with biological agents (Aum Shinrikyo & nerve gas sarin, domestic terrorism in 1998); amphibians extinction; Endangered Species Act; coelacanth; chytrid fungi

XF comics end: #14-17 review

Once more after his Season 11 was reduced from a two-year arc to just 8 issues because of the unexpected live revival of the series, Joe Harris has been cut short. For reasons still unclear (but likely related to cost-cutting measures on behalf of IDW and decreasing sales for the XF comics title), IDW has decided to scrap Harris’s plans for a two-year story and stop the current comics series with #17. Had Season 11 continued, it would have approximately spanned the sum of the issues Season 11 and this “ongoing” series ended up consisting in, and we would be now discussing the end of Season 11!

Despite these constraints, Harris manages to provide a compelling story in #14-17 “Resistance” and goes out with a bang. Earlier reviews at EatTheCorn: #1-9; #10-13.

THEY have taken over!

The world has changed a lot since this title started in March 2016, when Donald Trump took office as President of the USA, and his photo started dominating Skinner’s office. It is impossible to ignore it.

National Security Councils and constant news updates on imminent nuclear war with North Korea, an empty Oval Office and a President off playing golf: it has been absolutely chilling reading these nearly-prescient issues all the while these same events have been unfolding in the real world.

When a general who stands up for the corruption of democratic values says “I have advised five presidents on national security matters without any regard for party affiliation or personal viewpoints“, how one could not think of ex-FBI director Comey testifying? When a corrupt Admiral Harkin (a reference to ex-Admiral Grand Moff Tarkin?) reverses the accusation of conspiracy and turns those who would stand for democracy into traitors (“There is a conspiracy at work against this nation and its leadership, forces intent on undermining our efforts to transform this country are out there.“), how one could not think of fake news and misdirection? Skinner’s line reaches a documentary-like level of realism: “The news media hasn’t been shy with some of the colorful ways they describe the situation in Washington these days. Sometimes I think they have no idea how tame they’re still being.

The evil alien conspiracy is no longer hiding in the shadows, difficultly discovered by the efforts of valiant honest FBI agents: it is now right in our faces, it has taken power, it is the one making the decisions in public, it is in the White House! Now is not the time for The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the times call for a more direct kind of political science fiction. Joe Harris is anti-Trump and could not be more explicit, using the medium of The X-Files in a very partisan way, something never seen before for this series and losing tons of subtlety along the way — but how could he not be given the uncommon circumstances? Firas summarizes the situation: “This Cabal is operating with a mandate only they recognize now…gods above, watch over us all.” It will be interesting to see if and how the Carter-led X-Files tackle such controversial themes next year.

The Strughold connection

It is interesting that in this context, even the enemies of old can become potential allies. The old conspiracy/Syndicate, which in this comics and continuity survives as Firas Ben-Brahim-Strughold, had less-than-honorable plans for world domination, but has found a new and powerful opponent that has taken him by storm (akin to how outsider Trump overtook both GOP and the country by surprise?). Firas operates from his base in Peters Mountain, Virginia, which must be an acquisition
of what used to be the secret government’s base in Mount Weather Complex in 9X19/20: The Truth (same exterior looks, itself shot at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Clorado).

In an unexpected but expertly hinted at turn of events, Firas Ben-Brahim, introduced in the Come Back Haunted arc (#6-9), is revealed to be Conrad Strughold’s son. Strughold was the leader of the Syndicate, only seen and referenced in the movie Fight the Future in 1998 and vanished since (albeit obliquely referenced by a Tunisia connection in 6X10: S.R. 819 and 7X22: Requiem). Joe Harris resurrecting that most dangling of dangling threads is a testament to the attention to continuity and constant effort at quality that he has given to the X-Files comics since the beginning over four years ago.

Firas was thus the secret child of Conrad Strughold and a Tunisian “washwoman”, illegitimately begotten in those GMO corn crop fields in Foum Tataouine (that we saw at the end of FTF); Conrad must have had a liking for his progeny as he got passage for the mother and young Firas to Europe in 1982 and could have kept an eye on Firas from afar in the same way the Cigarette-Smoking Man was following his son(-apparent) Fox Mulder. Grown up Firas has taken a liking to his role and plays with his alter ego Mulder: “We are the children of visionaries. We are the heirs to a conspiracy, agent Mulder, the likes of which the world had never seen bef[ore].” “It’s awful, I think you’d agree, that which fathers sometimes do to make men out of their sons.” This revelation and this parallel with Mulder might have been more fleshed out had Harris had more issues to develop his story.

This self-aggrandizement goes so far as for Firas to request from the Old Ones some recognition and a ‘seat in the table’ in their plans for world domination. Ultimately, Firas appears to be absorbed willingly by the Old Ones and loses his bodily shell in this transcendental process; his personality contacts Mulder psychically one last time before moving on to wherever this faction of the Old Ones went. After so much teasing throughout the first issues of this arc, the level of ambiguity of what happens at the end is a bit frustrating. Again, this is a story that could have been told more smoothly or been continued had Harris been given more issues.

In addition to their ascendance, Firas and Mulder also share a liking to agent Scully! The Firas/Scully sexual tension is explicit since the Came Back Haunted arc and is reinforced here, complete with Scully wearing a black dress similar to that she was wearing while dining with the CSM in 7X15: En Ami, with Mulder hardly hiding his jealousy, and with Scully being dismissive and focusing on “the work”. The cessation/pause in the Mulder-Scully relationship established by Carter in the live revival gave Harris the freedom and the direction to play such games, as this is similar to the ambiguity around Scully and Tad O’Malley in Carter’s My Struggle I & II; given the comics follow Carter’s lead in characterization, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, however one hopes future live and comics developments be less soap operatic.

The Old Ones’ Endgame

With these closing issues, Harris connects his new mythology back to the very first issue of this comics run. We first met the Old Ones in issue #1 Active Shooter and Mulder had a very close encounter in #6-9 Came Back Haunted. Their resemblance to the Black Oil/Purity is made explicit here: Firas tells Mulder & Scully “You’ve known about the phenomena the “Old Ones” can be more properly likened to for over twenty years now. You knew its relative as Purity — the fabled “Black Oil” — which possessed human beings in order for the alien sentience to get where, and what, it wanted.

Like the alien Supersoldiers infiltrating the highest levels of government in seasons 8-9, the Old Ones have been infecting people and getting closer to power, manipulating policy decisions to their own gain and bullying anyone that doesn’t follow their new rule. They are the allegory Harris chose for the new Trump administration.

However, there are many sides to this game as well. An Old Ones-possessed Firas tells Mulder: “There is a conflict between those, like us, who would reach the holes in the sky and those who no longer wish to return through them. They hide within your government.” Later, the Old Ones (or an ascended Firas?) tell Mulder: “For millennia Old Ones have sought to leave this place. But not all of us wish to go.” Although one of them tells Scully “We do not care for control or for power, for us there are only the holes in the sky“, its faction was vying for control within the US government. So it is all left a bit ambiguous and hazy as to what faction was attempting what — however surely both factions didn’t seem to have humanity’s best intentions in mind.

And thus, certain Old Ones manipulate events so as to reach an underwater spaceship in the Sea of Japan and leave Earth (creating a hole in the sky) — nearly creating a nuclear conflict between North Korea and the USA in the process: another example of Harris cleverly using real-world events to propose an alternative X-Files-y version of history.

Certain other Old Ones apparently have other elusive plans but that do involve a conspiracy for controlling human destinies as well: an arch-enemy for another day. Firas hoped to reveal the “bad faction” Old One’s conspiracy inside the government; he is outpaced by the power in place, in the form of Attorney General Jeff Sessions himself (!), accompanied by the two Men In Black from 3X20: José Chung’s From Outer Space (!!), there to brainwash or blackmail Skinner into obedience. The comics series leaves Skinner in his classic seasons 1-6 role of ambiguous ally. Mulder and Scully are left to collect what weak evidence they have, ever the heroes doing the never-ending good fight, and only have each other. In the same issue #17 we get both some friendly camaraderie with a punch in the shoulder and some love declarations in which only the word “love” is missing — and a forehead kiss straight from Fight the Future.


In short, what one could expect from The X-Files. The ending is nothing groundbreaking, being a return to status quo of the inescapable “golden age” of the series (around seasons 2-5), but is fitting enough: the adventures of these characters never end. It is certainly less of a conclusion compared to the resolution in the last issue of Season 11 but more of an open-ended final arc. It is a good enough ending to a 17 issues series that hit quite a few bumps in the road, and overall the stories and the fan reception for this series have been lesser than what they had been for Seasons 10 and 11. Perhaps it is due to a general loss of interest in these tie-ins ever since the 2016 live revival de-canonized the comics and made it clear that “canon” is only to be found in the live incarnation of this franchise.

And so after four exciting years, the excellent Seasons 10 and 11 and several dozens of comics issues starting in June 2013, Joe Harris’s run on The X-Files does end, though! For penciller Matthew Dow Smith and colorist Jordie Bellaire, perhaps it’s not the end yet. Apart from the young adult series “Origins” and a two-issue special “JFK Disclosure”, IDW’s plans for any more future X-Files for 2018, if any, should be revealed soon.

X-Files music: Event Series release + more to come

After their impressive multi-CD box sets with music from all Ten Thirteen shows, The X-Files in particular, soundtracks specialists La La Land Records released a set with music from the recent season 10 of The X-Files — or, as it is officially known, “The X-Files Event Series“.

lll_eventseries

The 2-CD set with music by Mark Snow was released on April 25 2017, just over a year after the series aired. Soundtracks for each season of television series have become common practice over the past ten years, so this should not come as a surprise. However, given how scarce Mark Snow XF material was until LLL started focusing on the franchise, it is some event!

2 CDs with a total running time of XXX just for 6 episodes means that this release is close to being a complete score — compare with 12 CDs for 89 episodes covered by the “original series” box sets, there’s a lot more material per episode here. Here is the track list:

Disc One

MY STRUGGLE

1. Prologue (2:59)
2. THE X-FILES Main Title (Season 9) (0:36)
3. Ride to Roswell (2:09)
4. Call to Mulder (1:49)
5. Sveta (4:31)
6. Sveta Exam (1:47)
7. Alien Replica Vehicle/Element 115 (3:09)
8. Lab Labors (2:16)
9. Sveta’s Story (3:17)
10. Mulder’s Office (1:58)
11. Deep Throat (2:35)
12. Home Fire (1:55)
13. Conspiracy Montage (5:14)
14. Sveta Confesses (1:48)
15. Parking Garage (2:26)
16. Sveta Gets Zapped (1:18)
17. Smoking Man (0:44)

FOUNDER’S MUTATION

18. Insecure Insecurity (2:30)
19. Hand Message (3:33)
20. Pull the Thread/Semi-Alien Boy (10:04)
21. Capsules (5:01)
22. Aquaiescent (1:46)
23. A Mother Never Forgets (2:23)
24. The Farm House/Catching Kyle (3:32)
25. The Real Molly (2:46)
26. Mulder’s Memories (2:47)

Disc One Total Time: 75:55
Disc Two

HOME AGAIN

1. City Shower Services (1:15)
2. No Prints/The Call (2:17)
3. Extubation (0:37)
4. Remorse (1:41)
5. Sub-Urban (3:05)
6. Tulku (3:33)
7. More Remorse (2:20)

BABYLON

8. Prayer (1:13)
9. Einstein/Miller (2:01)
10. Mugwump (5:02)
11. Evacuation (3:25)
12. Ummu (2:48)
13. Motel (1:35)
14. Walk With Me (1:24)

MY STRUGGLE II

15. Recap (1:31)
16. Scully’s Story (2:27)
17. Fed Ford/Alien American DNA (4:35)
18. Vaccine Alienation/One-Class Infection (2:27)
19. Smokin’ God (6:58)
20. The Spartan Virus (7:48)
21. Crispr Cas9 (6:33)
22. William Is Out There (4:32)
23. THE X-FILES End Credits (New Orbit) (0:35)
24. I Made This/20th Century Fox Fanfare*(0:08)

MULDER AND SCULLY MEET THE WERE-MONSTER

25. Bonus Track: Suite (4:32)


Disc Two Total Time: 79.14
Total Set Running Time: 154.69

The music in the aired episodes is notoriously absent: it is there, but the audio mix has the music sound track usually turned low and the unusual amount of dialogue left very little space for the music to shine (and the episodes to breathe — one major drawback for season 10). This left me disappointed at Mark Snow, but my misgivings were wrong.

A mix of old and new

The music in this set is nothing short of excellent! Mark Snow shines by writing music that feels both modern and in continuation with his soundtrack for the ‘original series’. This is very much intentional: the series might not have been perfect but its clear intention was to try to be modern while attempting to recall the classic, early seasons of the show.

The tone of the music harkens back especially to the early seasons of the show, seasons 3-4 especially, rather than the comedic seasons 6-7 or the horns melodies-heavy seasons 8-9. There are some specific audio libraries that Snow dug up from some twenty years ago and reused them here: that very same paranoid piano melody from E.B.E. (in Founder’s Mutation: A Mother Never Forgets), those pensive horns like in Quagmire, these piano melodies on top of bass synth moods like in Little Green Men, these awe-filling choirs like in All Souls, that unsettling undulating drone like in Colony, even melancholic violins like in Millennium (in Home Again), there is plenty here that feels like home. Even the comedic cues sound like Small Potatoes or Bad Blood.

This is all mixed with the music style explored by Snow in the soundtrack for I Want To Believe: splicing his trademark synthesizer orchestral-like sound together with elements of electronic music. There is a lot of old-school Mark Snow synthesizer mixed with electronic pulsating rhythms and tempo beats here, similar to IWTB tracks A Higher Conscious or Mountain Montage/The Plow.

Six Episodes

Here is the breakdown of the set per episode:

10X1: My Struggle39:55
10X2: Founder's Mutation34:22
10X3: Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster04:32
10X4: Home Again14:48
10X5: Babylon17:28
10X6: My Struggle II36:51

Mark Snow establishes a soundscape for the two My Struggle episodes, reprising some of the music of the first in the second, in particular the music for the teaser (which we might get a third time in the new season?); the sense of rising tension and world-spanning stakes as My Struggle II develops is very palpable and really is X-Files at its most blockbustery massiveness.

Founder’s Mutation alternates between action-oriented music, horror and warmer tones in the William dreams. The music for Home Again, like the episode, is an odd mix between horror music like in Home, and the warmer music of the “relationship” scenes of I Want To Believe. Home Again ending includes a soft rendering of the X-Files main theme; thankfully, Mark Snow didn’t overdo it by quoting that melody too much (unlike the show’s taglines in the dialogue!).

Very unexpectedly, even the music for Babylon was a pleasant surprise — outside of the short comedic cues of which I was never a big fan of (including a quote of Beethoven’s Letter for Elise)– what is there makes one think of a tense, dark episode. Were-Monster gets just a medley, and it is true that its music was not that memorable.

The set wraps up with Snow’s remix of the main theme, with heavy use of electronics, used in the end titles. The opening titles used the original mix of the iconic original theme.

All of this makes me look forward to Mark Snow’s score for the upcoming season.

 


 

Volume 4 and beyond

We are still waiting for Volume 4 of La La Land’s music for the original X-Files, after Volume 3 was released in 2013.

The massive list with requests for cues has been updated — music from 147 episodes!

What was covered in Volume 3 was removed, more requests were added (cues gathered at FSM or sent to EatTheCorn).

The latest news from LLL is that they are indeed considering a Volume 4 given the sales of previous volumes, however indications are that this would be the last volume. The focus is expected to be on episodes not covered in previous volumes, however requests for important cues that were skipped the first time around are so recurring that I hope LLL might reconsider.

Another idea that has been floated by LLL is that of complete episodic soundtracks: the complete score of episodes instead of episode selections, with one CD containing perhaps 2 episodes. This has been attempted before with, for instance, the episodic scores to Babylon 5; the limited edition would be fewer than the 3000 units for the Volumes releases. This approach would make sense once the “best of” Volume 4 will be out, given the amount of material out there and the dedicated fanbase of Snow’s music.

Volume 3 was an odd mix of selected cues and complete episodic soundtracks where precious time could have been saved for short cues that are considered of higher priority. Volume 3 featured a peculiar selection of music, with some excellent material from the first couple of seasons that many had asked for (Deep Throat, GenderBender, 3) but also spending comparatively a lot of CD space on episodes for which a selection would have sufficed (Small Potatoes) or that were not on anyone’s list (El Mundo Gira, Trust No 1) or giving select episodes the complete soundtrack treatment. For example Drive was covered in its entirety with 32 min (only missing: two very short cues that are actually samples of the released cues), and Field Trip and Essence were also very close to complete.

Despite these quips, LLL has been issuing high quality box sets with material that was only the stuff of dreams a few years ago, so the fact that LLL does have plans for more releases to come can only be good news!

 

The X-Files: Cold Cases review & podcast

The X-Files: Cold Cases was released on July 18 2017. It is an audio drama adaptation of the first half of the Season 10” comics of Joe Harris (2013-2014). Not an audio book reading of prose, but an audio drama, featuring a cast of actors and audio effects that make it as if it were an audio recording of a theatre play or the sound track of a movie. Like the radio dramas popular up to the 1950s-1060s (the most famous of which would be Orson Welles’ 1938 adaptation of H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, which genuinely generated panic that an alien invasion was going on!). There had been a previous attempt at doing X-Files audio dramas, by Broken Sea Audio Productions in 2009-2010, however it was unofficial and did not feature anyone from the original cast.


Hear Carl Sweeney and myself discuss X-Files, EatTheCorn and Cold Cases
in (quite fittingly!) an audio format, in The X-Cast podcast: here!


Cold Cases was produced by Amazon’s Audible, adapted by Dirk Maggs (also interviewed by the X-Cast here), directed by William Dufris, and featuring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, Bruce Harwood, Dean Haglund and Tom Braidwood from the original series. Chris Carter gets a “written by” credit, although we know his involvement with the comics was very minimal; Joe Harris’s involvement in this was non-existent, as Audible must have just gotten the license to exploit X-Files products directly by the owner, FOX, and not by IDW comics (with some odd results, such as Harris not being invited on-stage at the Cold Cases panel in the San Diego Comic Con).

coldcases

It totals about 4 hours in length, broken down into chapters, each being a story arc from the comics that spanned from one to five issues. Here is the story, along with the detailed series of “Lowdown” articles analyzing each issue as it was coming out here at EatTheCorn — and thus there are no spoilers for future issues in each Lowdown:

  • Episode 1: Believers (1:10:13): Lowdown #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
  • Episode 2: Hosts (00:37:55): Lowdown #6 #7
  • Episode 3: Being for the Benefit of Mr. X (00:24:56): Lowdown #8
  • Episode 4: More Musings of the Cigarette-Smoking Man (00:23:21): Lowdown #10
  • Episode 5: Pilgrims (01:27:53): Lowdown #11 #12 #13 #14 #15

51WjHkKMTRL

Some remarks on Cold Cases:

The story: This is a page-per-page adaptation of the comics, surprisingly very faithful to the source material. There is plenty I loved, as my Lowdowns show, and although not perfect in many aspects this is a superior continuation to the one we got in the 2016 Event Series. However, experiencing 15 months’ worth of comics issues along with the awarding re-reading sessions and analysis that came with it adapted into a condensed 4 hours is very odd; I would say the medium does not invite one to ponder the meticulous mysteries in Harris’s new mythology and explore the connections with past mythology. That being said, it is difficult to imagine how one would receive this audio drama if he/she wouldn’t have read the comics; my imagination is certainly shaped by what I saw on the printed/tablet page.

Canonicity: Cold Cases follows the post-I Want To Believe “Season 10/Season 11” comics continuity of the Joe Harris comics that started in 2013, when there was no certainty that there would be more (live) X-Files, and are thus at complete odds with the continuity established by the 2016 Event Series (itself unofficially dubbed “season 10”). There is no attempt to reconcile continuities. As pointed out by others as well, it’s unfortunate and an odd starting point for an audio adaptation, but one has to deal with it.

511GAiUI07L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Differences with the comics: Some things are added in the audio that are good (better links and flow between episodes, things missing from the Event Series like FBI training for reinstatement, a particular rape scene in #13 was removed, some reordering in the scenes so as not to have much back and forth in the timeline) and some are…less good (some of the obligatory exposition, like some of the Lone Gunmen not remembering Scully had a child, more ambiguity as to who William’s father is, the CSM constantly being called “Spender” and all the Elders like Well-Manicured Man being called that in-universe, a very talky Mr. X…).

On the audio drama itself: There’s some excellent stuff here: W.B.Davis’ and Pileggi’s performances in particular are top-notch; there was extensive work on the sound design and sound effects (particularly Hosts; but the voices of all the shapeshifters and Black Oil-possessed people do sound silly); there’s even some moody background music, although you have to pump the volume up (and not using Mark Snow’s music is a missed opportunity); and although nearly all actors did their recordings separate the editing is well done. And then there’s some…less good stuff: Duchovny in particular was not into this, and Anderson is at times into it and at times not; as a result, some scenes that are supposed to have urgency fall flat (the climax to Pilgrims, for instance); and not all of the original cast is back and for substantial roles (Krycek, X, Deep Throat) this takes you out of the story.

XFiles_s10_v3-mini

Overall: It’s an interesting product, but one can’t shake the feeling that it’s a marketing product, a tie-in to a tie-in merchandise. The choice to adapt these comics in particular with very little changes is odd, though. There was no attempt to reconcile these comics with the live series continuity; there was no attempt to rewrite parts of it so that the Season 10+11 story would be a more cohesive whole (given that the Season 11 comics were cut short and several threads were left hanging, e.g. Krycek and the Acolytes); there was no attempt to flesh out the scenes between Mulder and Scully and give more material to Anderson and Duchovny given this unique opportunity (Joe Harris is a big, big fan of the mythology characters and of Mulder but his scenes where Mulder and Scully interacted were lacking in depth and feeling).

10X15_syndicate

Next: Cold Cases will continue with Stolen Lives, to be released on October 3 2017, which will cover the second half of Harris’s Season 10 (#16-25 and also #9: Chitter, which was skipped in Cold Cases). The recordings for both halves were done together around Autumn 2016, however Audible is releasing these separately. In order to wrap up the story, they would have to go back to recording and adapt the Season 11 comics, which ends the story in a satisfactory way. Given that Cold Cases became an Audible best seller in the first days of its release (!), that might just happen!

XF comics update: Comics to end soon? + #10-13 review

The X-Files comics at IDW continue their course since their launch right after the live revival in March 2016.

Writer Joe Harris, who has been around since the comics started in IDW in 2013, broke the news in The X-Cast podcast: the current run of the comics is set to end soon! The next story arc, #14-17 Resistance (May-August 2017), will be the last — with a return to the “mythology” Harris has been building (modern-day politics and Syndicate remnants). After this, Harris will no longer be involved in the X-Files comics. Will the recent announcement of the making of a live “season 11” change these plans? Will IDW continue with comics under a different writer? Frankly, this announcement came as a surprise and given the way Harris was developing his new mythology it felt like he had some plans for many more issues. This comics run somewhat gives the impression that Harris’s motivation to write these comics has decreased compared to the Seasons 10/11 comics — or is it that the fans’ reception post-revival has been more lukewarm? After over 50 issues it is understandable; perhaps this decision was Harris’s. Do the decreasing sales also have something to do with this? We might know some answers to all these questions soon.

Issues #10-13 (January-May 2017) are covered below. Both stories are two-parters, this format definitely works better than one-offs. Both of these stories are character studies not focusing on the protagonists Mulder & Scully, in both of them the past plays a much more important role than the present (a bit like the Ishmael story with Scully’s father in issues #4-5 of this comic), further reinforcing the feeling that…it looks like this franchise’s most interesting part lies in its past.

Issues #1-9 were covered at EatTheCorn here.

 


#10-11: Contrarians

…or the Cigarette-Smoking Man’s 1980s adventures, featuring President Ronald Reagan and William Mulder! Joe Harris’s love for the character of the CSM is no secret; he was already a very prominent character in the Season 10 comics (or at least a version of the CSM) and Harris misses no opportunity to write for him (he was again featured in the 2016 Christmas Special). Here he is again, still justifying his actions as nothing wrong in the middle of an affair that nearly toppled an administration, and directly advising or ordering about the President himself.

This is something we had never seen in the series itself, where the relations between the Syndicate and real-world power figures were kept vague (final cut scene of 9X20: The Truth with G.W.Bush notwithstanding). This is much more “in your face” and straightforward conspiratorial. The politically charged time of today, with the arrival of the current US president, has been compared with the 1980s and the shock of another outsider arriving in the White House with economically radical policies and who was later accused of “constitutional subversion“. However, The X-Files series managed to never be partisan and certainly never equated the Syndicate’s agenda with the Republican Party’s; while parallels can be made, much is in the eye of the beholder. The Watergate scandal might have served as an inspiration, but the scandal itself was never the focus of an entire episode. The open politics of the Harris XF comics do reflect the status of the world today, where it is very difficult to discuss anything without taking a stance; and while I don’t condemn these parallels, they are a change of approach compared to Carter’s.

IDW_ongoing_10_reagan-csm

The story of these comics issues, in true XF fashion, mixes real historical events with the alternative shadow history of conspiracies and aliens: a secret US-Contra mission in 1980s Nicaragua that also served as a mission to destroy a crashed UFO in the middle of the jungle. The UFO provided healing and resurrecting powers to those that came in close contact with it (something we saw in 7X03: The Sixth Extinction), or that sniffed the cocaine mixed with the UFO’s metal components. The US-backed Contra war lord “El Comandante” Manuel Suaréz/Suárez was one of the resurrectees; he became a drug lord; in the present day he reveals himself to Mulder to stop the cocaine trafficking into the US and stop this chain of events. This is a crazy story worthy of the alien ganja of Season 10’s comics G-23! The story works well in a “complementary information” kind of way, however the present day story is limited and its drug bust resolution lacks much impact.

At the heart of the story are really the CSM and William Mulder, their personal history and their deep character differences that made many mythology episodes interesting — Fox Mulder and Scully here only play a peripheral role and do little investigating. We know of Bill Mulder’s involvement in secret State Department affairs from early on before he retired in his home in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts (2X25: Anasazi); indeed in 1987 he “came out of retirement just to check on this nest egg” in this story. He is paired with the CSM to deal with alien business, just like a reluctant Deep Throat and the CSM did in 1991 in 4X07: Musings of a CSM. Bill is the one with a heart and a conscience, something which led him to part with the Syndicate in 1973 (6X12: One Son). In 1987, Fox Mulder was in the Violent Crimes division of the FBI. The CSM teases Bill repeatedly about his wife Teena, and indeed as Fox later says “my parentage is something of a matter of dispute” (see 3X24: Talitha Cumi). This is all fine, however it is difficult to imagine that the CSM and Bill Mulder would keep such unresolved “family” business over such an extended period of time, or that Bill would continue to be involved in shady State Department businesses well into the 1980s and be grumpy about it while he had already expressed his discontent in the 1970s. Harris had already paired these two in a 1952 flashback in his Season 10 #10 More Musings of a CSM, and the CSM-Reagan scenes are also a delight; it is something that works — but only in small doses.

IDW_ongoing_10_csm-bill

Cut scene from 6X11: Two Fathers

Cut scene from 6X11: Two Fathers

Notes:

  • History check: Of course, the background of the story is the whole Iran-Contra affair, a US scandal in the middle of a war-by-proxy of the Cold War. The Hezbollah, revolutionary Islamist group with ties to Iran, held US & Western hostages during the Lebanese civil war (1982-1992); the US secretly negotiated a hostages-for-weapons trade deal; the arms were passed from Israel to Iran, which was then recently out of the Islamic Iranian revolution of 1979 and under the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini (pictured in the comics); the money was sent back to the US from Israel; part of the money was used by National Security Council member Oliver L. North (his mug shot was used as reference for the comics art, and he is actually featured in one of the variant covers for #10) to finance the Contra in Nicaragua; the Contra (from “Contrarevolucionario”, counter-revolutionary movement) was a right-wing paramilitary group against the socialist Sandinista government of Nicaragua (aided for some time by the Soviet Union, ruled 1979-1990, and again from 2006 to today). The affair broke out in 1985; Congress started hearings about it in 1987; most involved received a presidential pardon in 1992 by George H.W. Bush (himself involved at the time as Reagan’s vice-president).
  • The presidential address at the opening of comics #10 took place on March 4 1987, when Reagan was forced to come clean with his involvement on the affair. “I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.“: the double-speak in this sentence could very well be a character description for the CSM!

IDW_ongoing_11_ufp

  • The 1987 flashbacks take place in Bluefields, Nicaragua, one of the places that was mined by the Contra with the help of the US in the 1980s.
  • some mealy-mouthed bedwetter from Massachusetts“: refers to G.H.W.Bush’s opponent in the 1988 Presidential elections, Michael Dukakis, Democrat and then Governor of Massachusetts.
  • My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.“: Reagan really did say this, minutes before an official broadcast, as a joke to the sound people present.
  • Regan’s nickname was “Dutch“.
  • After he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994, Reagan retired at his home in Simi Valley, California, where the CSM pays him a visit in 1999. Does his “legacy” refer to the upcoming election of G.W. Bush after the Democrat interlude of Clinton?
  • The case starts with a dying man saying “Mulder” when he really only knew Fox’s father: this is similar to the beginning of 5X15: Travelers.
  • 1980s events and conspiracies name-dumped to by Mulder: the US invasion of Caribbean island nation Grenada (1983 overthrow of leftist revolutionary strife); the 1986 baseball World Series (Bill Buckner’s loss to the New York Mets); G.H.W. Bush vomiting on the Japanese Prime Minister in 1992; the Berlin Wall conspiracy theory (the wall as a containment boundary for evil / the Antichrist, which was released once the wall fell).
  • The Iran-Contra deal was previously mentioned in The X-Files: Mulder shouts it at Deep Throat’s face in 1X16: E.B.E.; and the man who killed Melissa Scully with Krycek, Luis Cardinal, was a Nicaraguan who had participated in the Contras deal and became part of the School of the Americas as revealed in 3X16: Apocrypha.
  • Scully plays the old videogame The Legend of Zelda (1986).
  • Nitpicking: The Nicaraguan flashbacks in #10 should be in 1987, not 1988. Several mistakes in the Spanish (also, the CSM himself speaks Spanish! Maybe he learned it during his Cuban days?)
  • The art is by Greg Scott (also: S10 #9 Chitter, and X-Files: Year Zero), who does a great job at the likenesses of Ronald Reagan and William B. Davis; oddly enough, all the 1980s flashbacks are drawn in much more detail than present-day Mulder & Scully, which appear to be done much more in haste.

 


 

#12-13: Skinner

Skinner’s past as a soldier in the Vietnam war in 1970 are the focus of this unimaginatively titled two-parter. During the Seasons 10-11 comics run, Joe Harris had mentioned that he wanted to do a Skinner-centric story, and had Season 11 not been cut short this story might have been part of it.

Skinner famously described his near-death experience in Vietnam in 2X08: One Breath.

I enlisted in the Marine Corps the day of my eighteenth birthday. […] One night on patrol, we were caught and everyone, everyone fell. I mean, everyone. I looked down at my body, from outside of it. I didn’t recognize it at first. I watched the V.C. strip my uniform, take my weapon and I remained in this thick jungle, peaceful, unafraid, watching my, my dead friends, watching myself. In the morning, the corpsmen arrived and put me in a bodybag until I guess they found a pulse. I woke in a Saigon hospital two weeks later.

His succubus history was explored in 3X21: Avatar.

She was there with me. Watching me as I was watching myself dying, my blood spilling from a hundred different places. Until she lifted me up and carried me back, away from the light.

XF_ongoing_13_skinner

Here, Harris adds a third paranormal dimension to his experience, with a Southeast Asian amulet and a sort of curse that follows Skinner and his platoon. Ultimately this paranormal curse acts as an allegory for the soldiers’ remorse on their morally questionable acts during wartime — namely, the murdering of civilians and of children. Echoes of 2X04: Sleepless and its guilt-ridden Vietnam War vets. The demon haunts the soldiers and torments them to their death; Skinner escapes because despite his guilt he stands his ground and doesn’t give in to despair. An excellent profile of Skinner’s strong character! — although the spell is broken in the conclusion in a sudden way, just like in the previous story.

That’s a lot of paranormal phenomena linked to a single event in Skinner’s life! The concept is a bit hard to swallow just because of this accumulation and the willingness to “top the ante” every time Skinner’s past is explored. An out-of-body experience is interesting enough and was instrumental in drawing Skinner’s character (of course, One Breath was a Morgan & Wong script); but two additional paranormal phenomena taking place simultaneously? That being said, this is less incredible or out-of-character than the past of the Scully family explored in #4-5 Ishmael.

The entire first issue is devoted to events in 1970; half the second issue travels in various moments in the past, leaving just a few pages taking place in present day. Mulder and Scully play minor roles, like in previous Skinner-centric episodes, however this extensive focus on the past is original. One could have imagined the narration starting from the present and explaining the past via dialogue, à la Skinner’s confessions, or focused flashbacks embedded in the story instead of this back and forth.

Notes:

  • The temple is mentioned as pre-Buddhist. The amulet has an inscription in Latin which is never fleshed out or mentioned in the dialogue: “Tibi, magnum Innominandum, signa stellarum nigrarum”, which can be translated as “To you, the great Not-to-Be-Named, signs of the black stars/dark stars”. This is a callback to H.P. Lovecraft’s and Robert Bloch’s Cthlhu mythos: it is a spell or invocation to one of the Ancients that cannot be named, found in the fictional De Vermis Misteriis (Of the Mysteries of the Worms). The revival comics are building quite a few Cthulhu references!
  • The ghostly appearances of the amulet demon resemble a lot the demon glimpsed in #4-5 Ishmael. Is the reader meant to make a connection, is Harris building something here? Or is this just lack of imagination in the drawings?
  • “Born to Kill” helmet: a Full Metal Jacket reference!
  • Is the smoking agent in the 1970s trial…the CSM? Was that the CSM’s first meeting with Skinner?
  • Compared to the previous two-parter, this one is much, much less dense! It even indulges in two entire pages with no dialogue at all.
  • The art here is by Andrew Currie and colors by Sebastian Cheng, the same team behind #4-5 Ishmael. Same comment applies: the drawings are very “comic book-y”, i.e. targeting a young adult audience, the colors are very bright, and there is little mystery and dark atmosphere, an overall very un-XF-like product. Although Skinner’s likeness is expertly done.

XF comics update + #1-9 review

The X-Files comics by IDW have been covered extensively at EatTheCorn. The main series was a continuation of the season 9/IWTB storyline, written by Joe Harris, and which managed the impossible: to serve an elegant conclusion to the mythology. The “Season 10″/”Season 11” series ran from 2013 to early 2016 and for a long time was the continuation of the series, considered canon. That is until the 2016 revival started to materialize and pushed the comics into non-canon territory. Alas, I found the comics more interesting and satisfactory than what the live revival proposed; you can find all the detailed EatTheCorn reviews of these comics, one per issue, here.

The live series taking precedence over the comics due to how many eyes saw it, IDW adjusted itself to the new canon of the live revival. It accelerated and cut short its “Season 11” series, which wrapped up with the “Endgames” story in March, and in April relaunched a new series, simply titled “The X-Files” (or “The X-Files Ongoing“) shortly after the revival aired in January-February. Joe Harris is still the writer for the series, bringing his own sensibilities — such as his progressive politics and his interest in the geopolitical aspects of the mythology. Chris Carter is still credited as Executive Producer and this is still labelled as “official canon”, but we now know this is more of a marketing façade rather than anything of true meaning.

372288._TTD_QL80_SX400_

The “ongoing” series is thus set in the continuity defined by the revival. It’s unclear when exactly, with some IDW interviews mentioning it takes place during the revival (so in between the bookend My Struggle episodes; those were some busy 6 weeks!) and others placing it after the resolution of the My Struggle II cliffhanger (implying that we are to expect that everything will return to “normal” despite the cataclysmic events in that episode?). Of course, the revival did all kinds of controversial things with the mythology of the show, to the point where it is nigh impossible to do a mythology story without risking to contradict whatever story the revival was attempting to develop (and might develop more if more episodes are made). This is an impossible exercise, and the best approach would be to develop a parallel mythology, which is what Harris seems to be doing.

The new comics series follows the look established by the revival series: Mulder has aged quite a bit, Scully has her horrible wig, they are no longer a couple (or at least shown to be one), Skinner is the same but sports a beard. Matthew Dow Smith is again the main artist, and is still great both in drawing the new likenesses of the actors and in creating darkly lit panels that fit the dark mood of the show; Jordie Bellaire and menton3 still excel in colors and covers, respectively.

An overall impression of the first 9 issues is that they are much less engaging than the Seasons 10/11 comics. Stories either lack narrative flow (Active Shooter, Came Back Haunted) or are downright hard to believe (Ishmael). Harris had to cut short his ambitions with his own S10/11 storylines and start new ones from scratch, with the added enormous uncertainty surrounding the nature of the mythology after the live revival. One could go as far as to say that maybe his heart is no longer into it; his attention is certainly spread thin, as he has many comics series going on at the same time. The quality of the comics is reflected in the sales (at least physical, non-digital, sales), which have regularly dropped from the very beginning of the series. They are now significantly lower than where Seasons 10/11 were and are in similar territory to those of the Millennium comics, which did not go further than the first 5-issue story because of this. Perhaps the reception of the comics is also suffering from the lukewarm reception the live revival itself got as well. This doesn’t automatically mean IDW might discontinue the series just yet, given that The X-Files is important as a brand name to feature. See below (source):

2016IssueSold (physical)
April#114732
May#29077
June#38299
July#47963
August#57539
September#67244
October#76362
November#85921
December#94502

Upcoming issues are character pieces that focus on the CSM and Skinner (#10-11: Contrarians, #12-13: Skinner) that should be pleasing for fans; these could very well be ideas that Harris had for his Season 11 that never got made. Time will tell, after #14, if the series overall will get more interesting. Given the delays in the potential production of more live episodes, Harris might get ample time to figure out a direction and stretch his mysteries. No end in sight for this franchise!…

Spoilery reviews of the first 9 issues (March-December 2016) follow after the jump!

 


 

#1: Active Shooter

The first issue establishes the series with a single-issue story. As seen in previous attempts, e.g. S10 #9: Chitter, one issue is very short to tell an interesting story, especially now that issues have shortened to 20 pages instead of 22 or more. Events unfold very quickly, scenes change abruptly, the plot bears many coincidences to make much sense (multiple hostage situations in the same building the same day without Scully being aware?)… In future issues that lesson seems to have been learned, as stories cover at least two issues.

IDW_ongoing_1_Mulder

IDW_ongoing_1_Scully

As such, this first issue is an introduction to mysteries that will return in the larger “mythology” in #6-9: Came Back Haunted. We are introduced to what looks like a controlled experiment, where individuals are under surveillance labelled as test subjects in an exposure group (“*GROUP SUB ** EXP +** HRS“). To what they were exposed, we do not know yet, but it made them violent — reminiscent of the mind control experiments in sprayed chemicals in 2X03: Blood or in TV signals in 3X23: Wetwired.

The framing of the story is one of mass public shootings, a staple in American events in recent decades and unfortunately something that seems to be on the rise in recent years and months. Connecting the X-File case to current events is a very welcome move and helps make the story interesting and fresh.

 

#2-3: Día De Los Muertos

(Also labelled as “Dia De Muertos“, “Días de los Muertos” and “Muertos“. Spanish is not their forte.)

The story here centers around a ruthless Mexican drug lord that is expanding operations in the US side of the border, and the revenge exacted on him by two children he had left orphaned. The paranormal element is from Mexican folklore: Santa Muerte (“Holy Death”), a deity resulting from the syncretization of Aztec and Christian faiths, celebrated on the Day of the Dead (which coincides in date and spirit with Hallowe’en and All Souls’ Day). She and the celebration is indeed associated with the Mexican marigold flower, cempasuchil (misspelt here as “cempaúchil”), the “flower of the dead”. She is worshiped more in the center and south of the country, which is why in the story the cartel is based off Oaxaca — although it is not a major drug trafficking territory and, while immigrants do transit from there, it is too remote from the border to have trainloads of immigrants moving north.

IDW_ongoing_3_Muerte

The X-Files has been in Mexican territory before, with the parody episode (and in my solitary opinion, it seems, a good one) 4X11: El Mundo Gira, and the “Traffic“-inspired 9X07: John Doe. In both these cases it escaped the cliché suffered by the Mexican people in the eyes of their US neighbors: drug cartels. To be fair, XF did have its share of non-WASP clichés, and illegal immigration from Mexico is one of those hot topical themes in 2016.

But if one passes these elements, the story is actually well executed and makes for a solid “monster-of-the-month” case. It is one of these cases, of which the series had many, where Mulder and Scully encounter a paranormal phenomenon but ultimately have little effect on the plot. They investigate a crime scene, talk with witnesses, Scully does autopsies, Mulder brushes with the monster (and miraculously escapes death himself!), but they neither prevent more murders to occur nor catch the supernatural killer.

 

#4-5: Ishmael

How to suddenly pick up interest in your product? Reveal a shocking secret from the past! This is the method chosen here, with the revelation of an old Scully family secret that is tied to a supernatural mystery today. Alas, Harris plays for maximum shock value and the secret itself is one that is hard to believe in given what we knew of the characters and their morals.

IDW_ongoing_4_Scullys

It is revealed that around 1975-1977, William Scully, Dana’s father, had a relationship with a Vietnamese woman he helped save in the Vietnam war; Dana witnessed her suicide when Scully Sr. refused to assist her further or continue the relationship. The attention to detail of Scully’s background is remarkable: as seen in 3X15: Piper Maru, the Scully family was indeed stationed in the Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego while the father of the family was serving in the Navy, and young Dana was indeed friends with the son of a colleague of her father, Richard Johansen (here named Ritchie; he later died in the Gulf War). Although I’m not sure Dana Scully would have been enough of a fan of Star Wars to don a Princess Leia haircut (released in 1977). And of course Scully Sr and Dana called each other Ahab and Starbuck, from Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” (established in 1X12: Beyond the Sea). Featuring the long-deceased Queequeg on the cover of #5 was a nice touch!

Given how Scully Sr. was always a moral compass Dana looked up to, it is difficult to accept he would do such a thing (and hear him call her affair “sweet lotus flower“!) to the point this feels wildly out of character. Additionally, the woman Scully Sr. had an affair with had a baby (not from him, at least!) who grew up to be a petty criminal; and Dana knew exactly who he was and where to find him! Dana Scully knowing about all this and never once contacting him feels further out of character.

Today, decades later, Scully is stalked by an individual obsessed with her, someone who has a psychic link with her, channels what she says and hears, and has intimate knowledge of these secrets from the past. The reason why Scully and this deranged person are linked is never established. He fixated on Scully, kidnapped her, got caught, and in one of his intense psychic seizures he dies.

Furthermore, the art in these issues is by guest artist Andrew Currie; his colorful and bright art is completely in-adapted to the world of The X-Files and would be more fitting for a young adult series.

The whole thing is more than forgettable.

 

#6-9: Came Back Haunted

After these “monster-of-the-month” issues comes the first story that is self-described as a mythology story. Which means opening mysteries for later issues to explore.

The beginning of the first issue is a repetition of the revival’s Babylon — Middle Eastern man living in the US, Muslim prayer, suicide bombing — which is surprising. Babylon had already received bad press for repeating the Muslim terrorist stereotype a few months ago; however, recent events in Europe and Turkey have not helped to cool things down.

The Muslim extremist terrorist theory is disproven soon enough, as the case is linked to the “exposure” experiments of the first issue. Something old and sinister has been dug up in Hungary, and this entity is spreading like an infection. The “infection” makes the host’s eyes brighten up like fire, and it hops from person to person — if the host doesn’t go mad and kills himself first, that is. There are of course similarities to the Black Oil — “evil” infection, spreads through the eyes. But most relevant, the “evil as a contagious disease” idea and the burning eyes are exactly similar to 8X17: Empedocles; this new evil might prove to be the same as the one from the episode, but for the time being Harris does not directly reference the episode. The idea of treating evil like a disease that corrupts individuals and institutions was also investigated in the third season of Millennium, some years before 8X17: Empedocles; along with episodes like 9X04: Hellbound and 9X16: Release, I believe it could have constituted the core of a new mythology centered around Doggett and Reyes. Harris might be picking up this thread here.

IDW_ongoing_6_forest

hoia-forest-the-5-freakiest-places-on-earth

Mulder identifies the Hungarian wood with the oddly shaped trees: the “hauntedHoia-Baciu forest in western Romania. This is a real forest and the trees there are indeed remarkable. It has been dubbed the “Bermuda triangle of Transylvania” because of the alleged paranormal phenomena there, including UFO sightings and balls of light in the sky. The comic story takes place in the Hajdu-Bihar region in Hungary, which is across the border from Hoia-Baciu. Perhaps Harris moved the action of the immigrant work camp in Hungary instead of Romania because of the rising fascism in Hungary (anti-semitic Jobbik far right on the rise, 2016 referendum rejecting the welcoming of barely 1,000 Syrian refugees in a Europe-wide burden sharing). Of course, one can’t mention “Transylvania” and “possession” without thinking of all the vampire and Count Dracula myths of the region; this might come into play later.

What they dig up there seems to be a hive mind-like energy entity that absorbs the mind of those infected. “Old Ones wait. Old Ones know. Old Ones lie deep beneath.” “To gaze into the holes in the sky.” There are definitely some elements of Lovecraftian horror here, with ancient forces much superior to mankind rising from the deep. The oft-repeated “holes in the sky”, visible only to the infected and so horrible it can literally make you mad, seems like a parallel reality accessible only to select few — also reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft and works he has inspired, like John Carpenter’s “At the Mouth of Madness” or the end to the first season of “True Detective“.

IDW_ongoing_8_Old_Ones

The entity infects Mulder and sends him to the source, in Hungary. This is a similar situation as in Harris’s own Season 10 arc Pilgrims, only Mulder had been infected by the Black Oil. Mulder finds himself in a labor camp, where prisoners are forced to dig in order to release more of the mysterious entity; this also is reminiscent of past episodes, namely the Russian gulag in 4X09: Tunguska / 4X10: Terma. The big reveal is that the whole mining operation is orchestrated by “Strughold Mining Company“. The fan will link that to Conrad Strughold, the apparent head of the Syndicate only seen in the Fight the Future film. The attentive fan will remember a plaque similar to that seen in the comics, in the files storage facility in an abandoned mine in 3X02: Paper Clip! Harris once more shows his knowledge and love of the show’s (old) mythology. Remnants of the old Syndicate, if not old Conrad himself, have survived, and are still proceeding with their dark plans. These plans apparently involve the monitoring of those infected, as first seen in Active Shooter; the woman monitoring them is killed here by Ben-Brahim’s men. These are all the slim elements this story arc reveals, however this is obviously a setup for a continuation in later issues.

IDW_ongoing_9_Strughold

3X02_Strughold

The mythology story is told within a larger frame, which is that of the refugee crisis. This is another element of current news intelligently incorporated in the X-Files by Harris. The result of extremist Islam or American interventionism in the area, depending on who you might ask, the refugees fleeing war and the associated humanitarian crisis occupy the European news daily for some two years now. The refugee crisis has been a real bonanza for NGOs and other aid organizations, which get significant amount of financing from State and international institutions to provide much-needed help. We are introduced to one of them, the Shyma Foundation, headed by Firas Ben-Brahim.

Ben-Brahim is a wealthy individual that talks a lot about his impressive humanitarian achievements — for example his refugee sheltering facility in the middle of the Atlantic ocean — but appears to be hiding his own agenda as well. His plane appears to be equipped with some advanced nanotechnology, as it self-seals after an explosion. He is able to extradite Mulder with a private military platoon. He is the target of infiltration and attacks on behalf of the Bihar entity, perhaps on behalf of the Syndicate as well. He seems to have some Tad O’Malley in him, including in the way that he offers Scully a drink and at times seems to be flirting with her — something that is bound to get on the nerves of a part of the fandom, albeit in line with the new direction defined by Carter. It is clear that Firas’s character will be further developed in future issues, as the mysteries around him are merely introduced here.

IDW_ongoing_8_plane

gillian-anderson-promoted-to-hannibal-series-regular

The whole series seems to be teeming with cameos. Firas is drawn like Mads Mikkelsen, which is of course significant since he and Gillian Anderson shared the screen in “Hannibal” (the comics even include them both onboard of a plane, which mirrors exactly the “Hannibal” second season finale!). The Quantico technician is a Kumail Nanjiani lookalike. The pilot of Firas’s plane is a Simon Pegg lookalike.

In all, these issues present some interesting elements, a mix of the new and current world of the 2010s, with elements that seem recycled from older X-Files episodes. Harris begins to build his new mythology and it will be interesting to see where he takes this. However, the four issues follow a slow pace and a confusing plot; they are not as enjoyable as Harris’s previous multi-issue mythology stories. The entity jumps body and kills somebody; then we jump to Firas who talks to Scully; then again to another random victim of the entity. The whole thing is talky and is plotted rather confusingly and without a real sense of pace and climax. It could have flowed better had it been a 3-issue rather than a 4-issue story (especially compressing the second issue and tightening the ending in the fourth issue). Despite the length, at the end we are left with what feels as not even the first part of a story but an introduction, a mere scratching of the surface, with the real plot to come later.