The X-Files goes on a drug-induced psychedelic journey in the two-issue “G-23” — a half-serious half-crazy trip before things get very real with the five-issue conclusion to Season 10, “Elders“.
More after the jump.
- 1966, State Route 375, Nevada, Military base: Bill Mulder & the CSM see the effects of G-23
- Washington café: The CSM points Mulder to G-23
- FBI Academy, Quantico: Mulder & Scully discuss
- TLG HQ, Arlington National Cemetary: TLG brief Mulder on G-23
- State Route 375: Mulder & Langly exposed to G-23
- 1991(?), Capital Head Shop: Mulder & Fowley find I Want To Believe poster
- Mulder (& Langly) hallucinate continuously through State Route 375 and the Military base, until the real Scully arrives
- W 46th Street, New York: The CSM enjoys himself some G-23
Here, the X-Files world crosses paths with artist Tom Mandrake once again! He drew the 6-issue crossover with “30 Days of Night” in 2010-2011. Here, likeness of actors is not much of his concern, the focus was rather on the story. The pages where we realize Mulder is hallucinating, full of transitions and abstract color, are definitely the highlight of both issues — colors by Sian Mandrake, Area 52 Studio! Nevertheless it feels like the whole would have benefited from a bit more time than what the schedule of a monthly comics allows, to refine and detail the art.
The X-Files has had its crazy episodes that involve hallucinations (6X21: Field Trip) or off-beat situations to comical effect that get resolved by the episode’s end (6X04/05: Dreamland), along with some drug-induced hallucinations too (ayahuasca in 3X18: Teso Dos Bichos, designer drugs in 5X01: Unusual Suspects). But for a series that close to the spiritual world and to “opening the doors of perception” never did it focus directly on drug use — that’s a shame! Joe Harris goes down this route head-on and takes Mulder on a colorful trip on the Extraterrestrial Highway.
The “G-23″ story is that, in the middle of the 1960s and its deep social changes — from the conservative 1950s to the emergence of youth culture, the 1960s counter-culture, the hippies and the general accompanying drug use, even war veterans protesting against their government and young people being seduced by anti-American communism (#20 page 6), in summary total societal collapse from the point of view of the conservative powers that be — the Government saw an opportunity to design a drug that would, well, in Bill Mulder’s words, “bring out the worst in people“. A drug so strong that it would turn its user mad, and once distributed to the masses of America’s unsuspecting youth would kill the whole counter-culture movement in the egg. This is very much like the Government designer drugs EH and AH in 5X01: Unusual Suspects and 6X19: Three of a Kind, the objective of which was to induce alien sightings and pass top secret projects for alien activities. But G-23 was so potent that the Government shut the project down — and G-23 survives as an urban legend and in occasional gatherings if a stash is discovered, which is what Mulder experiences and what the CSM tracks down in these issues.
Of course, since we are talking 1960s, Harris can’t resist using the CSM and Bill Mulder in the time they were working in top secret projects for the Government, even before the Syndicate was formed. The domes in the abandoned Nevada base look like the bee hive domes from Fight the Future — it is implied that what’s in there is a genetically modified plant, possibly marijuana, to carry the G-23 substance, which could be made out of…aliens. Why G-23? As one astute fan pointed out, “G-23 Paxilion Hydrochlorate” is also the name of a drug in Joss Whedon’s “Firefly/Serenity” (spoilers in the link!), similarly linked to governmental experiments and madness — nice reference!
But apparently this G-23 could induce much more than just hallucinations and madness: in the 1966 flashback it’s implied it can motivate unrest in university campuses, “ignite a war between the races or light up the Moscow sky with UFO sightings“. With all the protests of 1968, the US African American civil rights movements and, yes, even UFO sightings in Moscow, is G-23 responsible for all big things that shaped history in those years? Like with all tentacular conspiracy theories, G-23 is everywhere.
The setting is Nevada State Route 375, AKA the Extraterrestrial Highway, which goes by Area 51, Groom Lake and Nellis Air Force Base: all well-known places in UFO folklore. This is where Mulder and Morris Fletcher exchange bodies in 6X04: Dreamland, and this is where the (real) Little A’le’inn bar is in 6X05: Dreamland II. The endless straight roads of the great American desert landscapes, that’s where that is.
So the military base in question could be a part of Nellis Air Force Base itself. Nellis exists officially since 1950. The X-Files referenced it from the very beginning, with the Ellis base in 1X01: Deep Throat, and spared no time to talk about the real Area 51 in Nevada when the shooting moved from Vancouver to California with 6X04/05: Dreamland!
Mulder hallucinates massively, interestingly what he fantasizes is Scully as femme fatale — when actually it is the CSM, which is the opportunity for father and son to have a road trip discussion about the other father and ideals. The CSM ends up in the possession of The Truth and he enjoys that very much.
Among all this madness, Harris manages to squeeze in a scene that he had wanted to do from very early on in Season 10, he had mentioned it in interviews in 2013: younger Fox Mulder finding his iconic “I Want To Believe” poster! Not only do we see him discovering that poster in a very appropriate location, a… head shop (!), but we also see who he was working with right then: Diana Fowley! Mulder is recently out of the Academy, a new FBI Agent, and he is discussing with Agent Fowley about pressuring Section Chief Blevins to open the X-Files bureau in the FBI! As an FBI profiler, he is “uncovering the worst in people” — is that a parallel to G-23? This is somewhere between 1984, when Mulder graduated, and 1991, when Mulder and Fowley started working on the X-Files, before 1992 when Scully came in. The years Mulder was (working) with Fowley and the first years in the X-Files is a dark part of the background of the show, and a good source for story ideas in case of need of flashbacks. Of course there is no hint here that Fowley might be working for the CSM, nor is it certain that she was at that time. This is a great piece of X-Files history!
Actually, Harris had also mentioned that he wanted to do an off-beat story in the vein of the experimental and funny episodes of the series and these issues might be it, along with the humorous “Season 10 Greetings” in the X-Mas Special that came out at the same time. This is something very difficult to pull off in the comics format, and “G-23” gets better with a re-read! Harris’ dialogue is, as always, channeling the characters very well, dense with witty Mulderisms and sinister monologues of the CSM and, here, with references to headshop culture. On the other hand, a somewhat annoying aspect of these issues, and Season 10 overall, is how much the Cigarette-Smoking Man is used. He is an iconic villain and there is much fan service in resurrecting him, and clearly this is one of Harris’ favorite characters as well — but where it used to be that Mulder-CSM scenes would be far and few, making us relish in each line and bit of exchange between them, now there is really no surprise to see him. He has been in 10 out of 20 issues so far, and will probably be in the 5 next ones too. Being a great fan of the mythology, I should not complain, and really having more stand-alone stories out there would spread things very thin given the release schedule of a monthly comic — but it would be interesting to ponder what would be a good mythology/stand-alone issues balance if/when there is a Season 11.
Next, back to some very serious stuff with the mytharc “Elders” that will actually conclude Season 10, while the “MillenniuM” comic also develops in parallel!