Continuing with the lowdown series (#1, #2), on to the issue of the “Believers” arc that writer Joe Harris called his favourite: “upon which shit gets very, very real.” Obviously, spoilers below, proceed at your own risk.
Scenes in this issue:
- Teaser, Wyoming: Agent Reyes visits the Van de Kamps
- Arlington National Cemetary: the CSM contacts Mulder
- Wyoming Wilderness: Scully, the Deacon, and the Acolytes
- Washington Diner: the CSM & Mulder face-to-face
- End: Mulder & Skinner exchange a phone call
Returns & Departures
Just as the teaser in #2 reintroduced ex-XF agent John Doggett only to present what appeared to be his demise at the hands of the Acolytes, this issue reintroduces Dogget’s partner ex-XF agent Monica Reyes, and her similar demise. Both ‘deaths’ happen off-screen, so for all intents and purposes both agents are dead until, quite cynically, the story needs them again and they are resurrected…
The teaser very closely follows the teaser in 9X17: William, where we saw William being given to the Van de Kamps: the Wyoming flag with the white buffalo, the Van de Kamp residence, Mrs Van de Kamp sweeping the floor, Mr Van de Kamp carving wood, the clothes of the Van de Kamps: Michael Walsh obviously studied the episode. The teaser is also longer than the previous ones and does a very good job of setting a menacing atmosphere.
Agent Reyes arrives to warn them of a potential threat to William, who is nowhere to be seen, and the Van de Kamps prove to be dead already. Incidentally, that’s an on-screen/on-panel evolution that a potential XF3 will not be able to ignore. We see the Acolytes impersonating the Van de Kamps take control of Reyes and, we suppose, kill her — or make her one of their own? That would make some interesting ‘trust no one’ intrigue for the rest of the season.
The Amazing Cigarette-Smoking Man
And so this franchise’s arch-villain, the Cigarette-Smoking Man (CSM), is, in comic book manner, not dead — or you could say in X-Files manner, given that he was already left for dead and resurrected twice during the TV series already. But no end was more final than the one given to him in the series finale 9X19/20: The Truth, when, as Mulder says in this issue, “Last time I saw you, you were smoking on rockets fired from black helicopters through a hole in your neck“.
In this issue, we do not learn more of this CSM’s relation with the Lone Gunmen, as it was implied at the end of #2 that they were somehow in contact. The CSM behaves in his trademark CSM way, chain-smoking cigarettes, talking in enigmatic phrases, even direclty referring to Mulder as his son!
The CSM’s dialogue is at times directly taken from previous episodes: 9X19/20: The Truth (“You look like you’ve seen a ghost“) and 2X08: One Breath (“Don’t try to threaten me… I’ve watched Presidents die“). In particular the second one: when he has that malaise he seems to revert back to mumbling pre-recorded dialogue. During that malaise he also seems to be struggling to keep his face, his shape from collapsing altogether. Mulder: “What are you?” The question of how he survived the helicopter missile attack and whether this is really him is not answered here, it is a question clearly not ignored and left for later issues. The mystery deepens: Was the CSM really pieced together and restored to life (by whom?) after he got fried and now has minor side effects? Is this a persona pieced together from other people’s memories of the real CSM (Mulder’s memories might be being read)? Is he a shape-shifting alien or hybrid or Acolyte impersonating him? A homunculus or Golem?
Whatever or whomever he might be, this CSM is clearly in the know of the wider situation, as you would expect of him. However, and this is a departure from his old self, he says: “The time for conspiring with our would-be conquerors is over. Now is the time for preparations. For survival of the fittest.” The CSM, part of a new form of resistance? Have things become less dim for a resistance for the CSM to consider it as a solution, finally?
Resist or Serve Reloaded
Mulder mentions that the invasion date the CSM had revealed to him has come and gone and “none of it came to pass”. And so we are after December 22 2012, close to present date, and the alien invasion is suffering delays!
The CSM defines the Acolytes as “an assemblage of beings determined to help bring about the alien re-population of the planet Earth“. Not the aliens themselves, but rather a number of beings that might themselves not be of the same origin, that have an interest (power, religion, other?) in having Earth colonized. There is even a panel where the Deacon chases away some Acolytes, and we guess a non-human fanged face under a dark hood.
And opposite to them, “there are forces who would see the Acolytes defeated in their attempts to bring about this new day“. Again, an assemblage of forces is what the CSM refers to, and he and the Deacon manifestly belong to this new Resistance.
As we learnt in 9X08: Trust No 1, Supersoldiers can be fought against thanks to magnetite, a magnetic iron compound, and the Acolytes are sensible to it as well. What the Wyoming pipeline is carrying, it seems, is magnetite in liquid form that is glowing blue; I will not get into how veracious, chemically speaking, that is; we did see William get a liquid injection of what could have been magnetite in 9X17: William, however. During season 9, with the revelation that magnetite could be an alternative weapon to a cumbersome vaccine against the alien colonists, fan speculation went about on weaponizing the magnetite, building strategic stocks, constructing magnetite-enhanced armament. This pipeline is fully in line with these old ideas. As the CSM essentially says, who controls the magnetite flows controls the fate of the world — the real-world parallel with oil is striking!
What is puzzling though is that certain Acolytes appeared to be protecting the construction of the pipeline in #2, and even acted against Agent Doggett when he discovered it. Is that an error in interpretation and these Acolytes that had drawn Doggett there had nothing to do with the pipeline? Are there two factions in these beings, one alien-friendly Acolytes and one building a magnetite pipeline with the Resistance?
Additionally, it now seems that the blue glow of the liquid magnetite is entirely unrelated to the blue glow of the Acolytes’ eyes; it is a misleading artistic choice though. And unlike the season 9 Supersoldiers who just turned into metal and exploded, the Acolytes burn at the contact of magnetite.
The Deacon uses the same wording as we saw the Acolytes use in #2 on Scully and William: “I have ushered the Bringer“, “[William] is the future we fight for“. This pseudo-religious prophetic choice of words is similar to everything surrounding William uttered by an alien-loving cult group in 9X10: Provenance / 9X11: Providence — there was even a dissident to that group that tried to thwart the group’s (and the aliens’) plans, Agent Comer, similar to the Deacon here. This is not exactly the most memorable part of the mythology to draw from, but Season 10 has the merit of continuing the show where it left off, bringing a considerable amount of continuity to a story that we hope will move beyond the trappings of the seasons 8-9 mythology.
The Deacon protects Scully from the Acolytes at the expense of his own strength as he too is hurt by the magnetite, but he shows a much greater strength than the Acolytes — he even uses some Star Wars Force-like telekinesis and throat choking against them!
A sweet sense of deja-vu
Season 10 has played a lot on the sense of nostalgia of the old XF viewer to attract readership, and the end of this ep…this issue provides several moments that bring back old memories from specific episodes, but also a general sense of being at a loss in front of the expanding mysteries presented to us, something only the best episodes could do!
Skinner tracks Emily Van de Kamp’s blood samples (who as we found out later is the Deacon) and finds the samples were involved in a car crash. The blood samples appear to have turned into a green toxin , the familiar alien and hybrid toxic blood from seasons 1-7, that like an acid has eaten away through the transport vehicle. The vehicle could have crashed like in 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask, when the the paramedics and driver were hurt by the release of the green toxin inside an ambulance. The discovery of the toxin in the back of the vehicle is exactly like when Scully discovered the body of a hybrid Samantha melting into the green toxin in 2X17: End Game. But how did the blood turn into the toxin? (obviously if it was green in the beginning Scully would have noticed) Is the Deacon a hybrid or an alien shapeshifter like the Alien Bounty Hunter, both of which have green blood? Or more like a Supersoldier, who fears magnetite but does not have the green toxin? The XF mythology was complex and confusing, and there are several indications that Joe Harris either ignores or chooses to simplify certain aspects.
Unless there’s more going on here. Along with the green toxin, Skinner sees cigarette butts. Had the CSM anything to do with it? Did the CSM cause the crash wanting to retrieve the samples? Why? Theorizing further, did the samples behave in a way similar to Black Oil and potentially infect a paramedic? Did that infected person turn into a shapeshifter, into the CSM?
Finally, the last full-page panel of the issue is devoted to the return of an iconic weapon from the series, the alien stiletto! This rare weapon was seen several times from season 2 to season 6, and the scene of Mulder discovering it here is reminiscent of the scene he found it hidden in his parents’ summer house in 3X24: Talitha Cumi. Its use was to execute alien/human hybrids and alien shapeshifters, but once the Supersoldiers were introduced in the mythology it was never mentioned again, presumably the Supersoldiers could not be killed with it. Could the Acolytes? A theory is that this thin metal blade that must pierce the base of the victim’s neck is actually made of magnetite, making all forms of alien life vulnerable to it.
The sides are more clearly defined, other mysteries are introduced and others are deepened, and the story continues!
Elsewhere on Eat The Corn
- “Previously on The X-Files”: The Mytharc Primer
- Dossier on all the previous comics
- All Season 10 articles
- Season 10 #1: The Lowdown
- Season 10 #2: The Lowdown