Frank Black is back! The “Carter-verse” in comics form expands with the start of a 5-issue story reviving MillenniuM, January to May 2015 — with IDW promising that if it goes well more MillenniuM comics could see the light of day.
The MillenniuM comic was a certainty once we saw Frank Black pop up in the X-Files world in #16-17 of Season 10: Immaculate. After The X-Files and the Lone Gunmen, IDW continues to exploit what Ten Thirteen properties have to offer. Given the low cost of producing comics compared to a live show and given MillenniuM’s cult following, once X-Files got started in comics it was a no-brainer to do a MillenniuM comics as well. So this is less of a surprise compared to the launch of Season 10, and I won’t go about the different aspects of the monthly comic book format that are new and at times frustrating to the TV show fan, notably the 22 page limitation (see the Lowdown for XF S10#1).
However, MillenniuM was a very different beast from The X-Files and it was not necessarily a given that both series should be handled by the same person. Joe Harris proves an impressive versatility in managing to give this comic its own voice, while continuing to intertwine this present-day continuation with the past mythos of both series.
We have not seen Frank since the New Year of 2000, a long 15 years! This 5-issue arc further joins the worlds of the two series together, essentially using Mulder as the reader’s entrance into the world of Frank. Mulder will be more of a guest star rather than a main character in the rest of the arc, but this was the opportunity to enjoy another discussion between the two and an excellent cover by menton3 featuring both heroes (à la True Detective!). Harris cleverly digs up a story thread from the very pilot of XF that never got explored during the series’ entire run and gives it a MM twist, making the two series siblings separated at birth.
More after the jump.
Tying the X-Files and MillenniuM closer together: Monte Propps
The issue is decomposed in few scenes, fewer than the fast-moving XF comics; this must be deliberate, to reflect the slower, more brooding pace of MillenniuM.
- Teaser: NYC & Y2K on Dec-24-1999
- Federal Penitentiary, Terre Haute, Indiana: Monte Propps’ parole board
- Motel: Frank & Mulder discuss
- Criminal Justice Services: Propps meets his fate
We see here the hearings of the parole board for prisoner Monte Propps (hinted at in XF S10#18!), the serial killer whose capture in 1988 Mulder was famous for — and Scully had heard about — and for whom Frank Black and some form of the Millennium Group have taken interest in. We first see Propps and his modus operandi here and discover that something supernatural might be involved, in the runes that appear in the cellar he kept his victims in and in the way he managed to persuade his victims to commit suicide — the “Black Lake murders“. This somehow reminded me of the brainwashing of the brave by Lucy Butler in 2×20: A Room with No View.
Frank has his signature visions when observing Propps, sensing that there is more than meets the eye. This is one of the most memorable aspects of the TV series and the challenge to convert this intricate visual effect on a printed page is big, not only in terms of images but also because the time dimension on an illustrated comics works differently from film; in one the filmmaker has control, in the other the reader can proceed at his own leisure, and a large part of the effect of film comes from editing and the combination of visual and sound stimuli. Given these limitations, what artist Colin Lorimer and colorist Joana Lafuente manage is excellent, mimicking the overexposed image and often golden hues of the imagery of Frank’s visions — showing the world as if two parallel universes existed, the one we see with our eyes and the hidden one where “patient, deliberate, and dark forces” are at work.
These visions are not only of Propps but mix aspects of Frank’s personal life that make these pages very emotional for the MillenniuM fan: Catherine Black in the woods and the Marburg virus outbreak from the memorable season 2 finale 2×23: The Time Is Now (or 3×12: The Sound of Snow), Jordan Black in distress (like in 2×17: Siren). The way Frank collects newspaper excerpts and tries to find hidden links between events, persons, words, is an obsession found in many works of mysticism — in this case it reminded me of 2×06: 19:19 or of the Old Man in 2×02: Beware of the Dog.
Somebody claiming to be with the Federal Department of Corrections who pulled strings to get Propps released comes to “collect our due” and savagely kills Propps. A serial killer with past connections with the lead character flirting with freedom, his freedom given by somebody who proves to be even more evil that him: there are big echoes of the landmark episode 1×17: Lamentation here.
Back to Frank Black and the world of MillenniuM
After a year in the FBI, we last saw Frank exiting a psychiatric hospital with his daughter Jordan on New Year of 2000, in the X-Files episode 7X05: Millennium that served as a conclusion to MillenniuM. Struggling between standing up for good in this world, protecting his family and suffering from what obstacles, psychological and physical, were put on his way, what would have been Frank’s next steps after this? The comics presents him to us as a loner, “off the grid for most of the past decade“, and he hasn’t seen Jordan for years. He appears to live between motels, following wherever his visions might take him, from one manifestation of evil to another, trying to tie things together to understand a coming Apocalypse in a similar way to the Old Man. Surely the connection of this case with Jordan will lead him back to action in a more open way.
I liked the little detail of the painting with the raft of Medusa in Frank’s motel room; sailors struggling to survive after a catastrophic event, having to resort to cannibalism: a good summation of the horrors people do to each other, of hell being paved with the best intentions. (More on the artwork in MillenniuM here.)
Another signature aspect of the series was the literary quote at the beginning of an episode, after the teaser. The comics follows the same format, with a quote from Seneca that perfectly echoes the ouroboros symbol: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end“!
Something dark is going on, linking Propps (“We hear you“, to Frank) and the woman who claims Propps’ life (“You can hear them now, don’t you…?“), and even Frank (vision of Jordan “Do you hear them, daddy?“). Symbolic runes, violent deaths, supernatural visitations, Frank and his family, this is MillenniuM.
We last heard of the Millennium Group as being dissolved right before the coming of the new millennium — but then, as now, that sounds improbable and surely the Group has transitioned to a more secret sting-pulling phase in its millennial plans. It is mentioned here, as in XF s10#17, but nothing concrete about it. Then there is the teaser, which shows two Group members working undercover as IT technicians working on the Y2K bug in New York City, preparing for…something. In full view of the World Trade Center twin towers. Is this a hint that the conspiracy theories of the 9/11 attacks being an inside job are going to be applied to the Millennium Group? This could be a slippery but very interesting direction.
MillenniuM’s story has always been torn between those that consider the show’s three very different seasons as three linked but quite independent works of art with different sensibilities — the serial killer show with hints of rising evil in present-day society; the mythology-heavy show with religion, cults and mysticism; and the “we are moving towards an Apocalypse of our own making” attempt of a theme in the third season — and those who tried to tie everything together in a coherent picture. Joe Harris’ interviews here and there show that he has given all this some thought and that all three aspects of the show will find their way into the comics; they already have. In his comics-y approach, of which we have seen a lot in Season 10 and the return of so many deceased characters, Harris has even said he has plans for Jordan, Peter Watts, the Group and Lucy Butler.
All in all, Frank Black is back, and a certain fan campaign has been vindicated! I’m interested to see how this evolves. Despite its name fixing it to a specific period in time, the years up to 2000 (or is it 2001?), the themes of MillenniuM still are and will continue to be topical. The world is in no shortage of troublesome news and existential angst and while we no longer fear an Apocalypse linked to a specific date, there is much to “wait, worry and care” about. “This is who we are“. And yes, I still write the name of the series with two capital Ms!