After a season 10 in comics that lasted for 25 issues, a number close to that of the number of episodes in a television season, IDW switches to a season 11. However, much has changed since January 2013 when IDW announced this series. IDW seems to have resurrected the XF franchise at the correct time, preceding only by a short while the return of XF to the popular discourse. The revival of the XF live series both accompanied and reinforced the presence of the X-Files in people’s minds, with several retrospectives, art projects, podcasts and discussions having appeared over the past year and a half, and IDW’s comics are part of that general movement. What is old is new again, and popular culture has reached the point where late 1980s-early 1990s items are what is being recycled and what given inspiration to the creations of today.
Chris Carter and comics Part I: Not Harsh Realm
Joe Harris’ Season 10 in comics was successful in certain surprising ways thanks to its plotting, using a lot of fan service with the return of old (often deceased) characters, a staple of comics, and a close adherence to the show’s past mythology. However, in other ways it was overall it is not going beyond what tie-in merchandise confines itself to, drawing much more from the past and from what readers identify with the brand name, than evolving the concept and innovating with new topical threads. Season 10 did have several novel ideas and nicely incorporated in the X-Files’ fictional world several real-world elements in the way that the TV series did, however it veered little from the status quo of “two agents investigating the paranormal” despite the passage of time. Building off of Season 10, Season 11 could try to expand beyond that into unexplored territory.
Scully melts in anticipation for another alternate universe
That being said, Season 11 comes into being in a very different context. The X-Files (live) revival will air when issues 6 and 7 of Season 11 will be published. The revival is being referred to as “Season 10” in several media outlets and even in the scripts and call sheets themselves. The risk that the IDW comics will be relegated to a non-canon “alternative universe” status, while it had been launched as a canon continuation of the story with the benediction of Chris Carter, is very real. Joe Harris has said that ideally the comics storyline will dovetail into the revival, i.e. that the comics Season 11 will end where the live series will begin. This is a seductive outlook, however given the first indications as to the state of things at the beginning of the revival series — not to mention the likely appearance in the revival of a certain character that was given a central role in the comics — this progressively seems as a challenge.
Previously on the X-Files…
Let’s not judge too early. The mythology Harris has created is worth taking more time to explore and resolve, one possible outcome could be that the comics series continue for a while — why not years? — before eventually wrapping up, either concluding where the revival series will start or confirming that this is an alternate world in which Harris has the full freedom to drive storylines where he wants and for as long as he wants. In all cases, it would be a shame to shorten the comics Season 11 because of the revival. Given the excitement around the revival, it makes full commercial sense for IDW to continue as it has: alongside the central line of Season 10/11 there is the Annual one-shots, the Jonathan Maberry-helmed “Trust No One” prose short story collections (of which at least 3 volumes are planned), the board game (for which an expansion pack is planned), the republishing of the XF comics of the 1990s (which is nearly complete already), the prospects of more comics (like the Lone Gunmen or Millennium), and who knows what now that the XF brand is hot again.
And so Season 11 begins with #1, “Cantus“! Lowdown and spoilers after the jump!