Joe Harris uses the opportunity of the special holidays issue to tie it in directly with the Season 11 on-going storyline and make it an integral part of the story. Mixing the goofiness of the Lone Gunmen with the deadly serious developments of the Gibson storyline, this issue sees the Season 11 story come to a climax — right before the next 3-issue story arc, “Endgames“, that should wrap the whole thing up. A lot of twist and turns in this Special, along with Harris’ way of writing that brings about developments in a mysterious disjointed kind of way, which greatly captures the feeling of watching the series — confusing but attractive!
Many spoilers ahead.
The double-length special is composed of:
- Teaser: Chesterfuss, Illinois: The Lone Gunmen discover the whistle, Langly and Frohike are abducted
- Flashback to the Medici-3 satellite destruction
- Homerton, Illinois: Mulder has landed, Gibson greets him
- Later: Morales, Scully and FBI at site of landed airplane
- UFO: Langly and Frohike are probed on by aliens
- Homerton, Illinois: Motel: Byers takes Scully on the TLG van, Morales watches
- Edgerton County, Illinois: Diner: Gibson and Mulder enter, talk to abductee, are spotted by a Rebel
- Outside Edgerton: Byers and Scully spot a signal
- UFO: Langly and Frohike interact with the aliens
- Outside Diner: Gibson and Mulder are attacked by Rebel
- Everyone watches as they see the UFO
- Gibson leaves, everyone is regrouped, Mulder finds Gibson’s gift, Morales has been watching the scene
The Season 10 Christmas Special was essentially an independent story, it certainly had its moments — the CSM now Vaporizer-Sucking Man — but it could difficultly be seen as canon — aliens coming down the chimney? This season’s Christmas Special fulfills the role of being both a wacky “X-Files lite” story and an essential chapter in the on-going storyline.
This being a Christmas Special, more humor and some goofiness is to be expected — and obviously the focus is on the Lone Gunmen. Frohike is the obvious choice for working as a Santa in a mall and a good way to make some money now that the band is on the run — where the Lone Gunmen get their funding is a very good question, especially now that sales for their bulletin must be decreasing because of on-line free media and that the kind-but-dumb-ish benefactor Jimmy Bond is not around.
The Lone Gunmen receive a red “Commander Crunch Space Whistle” as a gift. As Langly explains, the Bosun whistle was a gift in the Captain Crunch cereals in the late-1960s to early-1970s and it generated a tone at a precise frequency (2600 Hz) that allowed to trick a telephone operator’s signaling system, essentially giving the ability to pass long-distance calls for free. This is one of the original “phreaking” stories: notably, John Draper came up with and popularized the use of the gift whistle to create a simple “blue box” device that could trick the system — one of the original hackers. Draper was travelling around in his Volkswagen van at the time, a true ancestor to the Lone Gunmen; he later went on to have a busy life as a nomadic software developer and being an inspiration to many generations of hackers and developers. An excellent addition to the X-Files and Lone Gunmen mythos!
In our story, the vintage whistle becomes the missing key for a transmission that is a hailing signal to the aliens. The bit with the whistle’s frequency had been willfully erased from the recording on the chipset that Mulder recovered in S11#1, so that the signal cannot be used by anyone. Gibson (and the aliens, of course) are the only ones in the know, and so Gibson’s gift to the Lone Gunmen is an abduction and probing session — odd humor, that Gibson!
And so Langly and Frohike join the growing list of X-Files characters that have been abducted by aliens. The imagery on board the UFO is directly inspired by the look in season 8 episodes — 8X01: Within, 8X02: Without, specifically, showed Mulder being strapped in a chair and experimented on with various pulling and drilling equipment; dark environment, rock-like structures, white lights — but also by the abduction scenes in 2X05: Duane Barry — tables with lights in geometrical shapes, lasers (although whether all this with Duane is reality or false implanted memory is a question). The anal probing didn’t make it on the show, although it’s one of those aspects of popular culture related with alien abductions that everyone knows about — South Park even dedicated to it its pilot episode in 1997! Aliens create crop circles, mutilate cows, abduct people, run experiments on them, sexually mistreat them, have all kinds of things go into and out of them from all kinds of places, have unborn babies pulled out of them, “rape” their brains also by manipulating their memories, and in general act all medieval on poor humans. The body horror and rape fantasy aspects of alien abductions are interesting when the alleged paranormal phenomena are examined from the point of view of psychology, as if they were the imagined expression of real fears and repressed limits-crossing fantasies.
Whatever real-world studies of the phenomenon might say, in the world of the X-Files the poor Gunmen had their share of bad Christmas surprises, but it looks also like their memories have been erased.
The Lone Gunmen pages are also the bits where we see the aliens up front and close and even makes some fun with them — something the X-Files never did, keeping them consistently menacing and half-hidden. Again, the issue balances between its comedic half with the Gunmen and the serious half with Mulder and Scully.
Gibson’s objective with the Medici-3 communications satellite was precisely to enter into contact with the aliens. In this Special, the signal is broadcast by the Lone Gunmen van, an unexpected intruder switching into the telecom network of a more advanced civilization! This telecom sabotage is reminiscent of what the Rebels did in 5X13: Patient X / 5X14: The Red and the Black: make use of the signals with which the aliens commanded the abductees via their implanted chips in order to bring them together in appointed places, and destroy them by fire. At the time, it was theorized that the Rebels must have hacked a communications satellite of the Colonist aliens and used it to summon the abductees. A “communication” is mentioned in 6X12: One Son as the means with which the Syndicate called the Colonists in order to convene and start the colonization process — a communication that was intercepted by the Rebels, leading to the Syndicate’s demise.
Control the signal, you control the relationship with the alien Colonists, and hence you control the fate of the world. Gibson has been trying to get the aliens’ attention for a while, and it seems that this is a tricky task. Whatever happened over the past decade, the aliens must have continued their plans without using a human Syndicate. It looks like Gibson is trying to become that point of contact, to become the new Syndicate — as the CSM said in 7X22: Requiem, drawing the attention of the aliens is “our chance to rebuild the Project“.
That being said, there are still a number of questions. Gibson mentioned that “something’s happened, something that wasn’t supposed to happen for a good while yet” which accelerated his moves: that sounds like it is the Gunmen’s abduction, but it was actually something that happened in earlier (in the previous issue he said “outside factors have sped up my plans“): what was it? If the signal was useless without the addition of the whistle’s frequency bit, then what was the purpose of bringing the Medici-3 chipset to the antennas-posing-as-drilling-rigs in S11#2-4 “Home Again“? If Gibson knew how to contact the aliens, perhaps after intercepting their signal in outer space and re-broadcasting it with the satellite, then why put the Lone Gunmen in all this trouble and not broadcast it directly? If he wanted to attract the aliens’ attention without risking abduction and experiments, then how did he know where the UFO would exactly be after the Gunmen were abducted? (He does mentions something about doing the math, as if the UFO is following a precise course.)
And, more essentially: what the hell happened? We readers are rewarded with an impressive panel of Gibson and Mulder witnessing the UFO — echoes of Mulder in 1X01: Deep Throat or Skinner in 7X22: Requiem — but the UFO quickly departs, and so does Gibson; and we come to understand Mulder was in some kind of trance, and lost part of his memories. Some exchange between Gibson and the aliens took place during that missing time — a whole lifetime’s vindication for Gibson! — but we do not know its content.
With this contact, Gibson seems to have got what he wanted after orchestrating everything and now has no more use of his tools Mulder and Scully: “For the first time in I can’t even remember, I can’t feel him rifling through my mind“. Mulder’s exposure and persecution in “Elders” (S10#21-25), his travels around the country, and the UFO sighting, it’s all perhaps contrived in how it all works together, but we haven’t yet seen the end of it and for the time being the comics moves with a sense of purpose and direction that the series itself only rarely had.
Alien factions: Rebels and Colonists
In the diner, by stirring that barmaid abductee’s memory, Gibson only made their presence more known, but also by rattling the cage he saw who the Rebel was. However, how did Gibson know that a Rebel was stalking them at that diner? Gibson neutralizes that Faceless biker killer and he prefers to commit suicide rather than reveal who he is working with. A proficient mind-reader, Gibson cannot penetrate the minds of the Faceless Rebels: their minds are shut just as their faces are closed to the Black Oil virus. “They tend to work in teams“, Gibson says, and the hunt is out on who the undercover Rebel is.
One player that we haven’t quite figured out yet is Assistant Director Morales. She tries to become friends with Scully against Cantus and Gibson, and she spends this issue stalking Scully’s moves; she somehow manages to find Scully at the site of the UFO sighting at the end of the issue. Could it be that Morales is a Faceless Rebel? This would explain why she was unaffected by Gibson’s mind controlling and memory swipe of all the OPR members in S11#1, and Morales’ interest in Scully as a means to reach the elusive Gibson. It would also explain who the narrator of this issue is: the narrator is never identified, it is certainly an alien of some kind observing humans, the narrator takes special note of Scully, and in several instances the narration occurs in scenes with Morales.
However, how can Gibson not know she’s a Rebel? Surely he must have attempted to enter her mind due to her proximity with Scully, and noticed that she’s blocking.
Gibson calls the Rebels the “Faceless Ones” — something that is reminiscent of the “Forsaken Ones“, which appears to be the name the Rebels call the Black Oil alien Colonists (S10#15). In the “Pilgrims” arc (S10#11-15), we came to understand the Rebels were still busy tracking down the Black Oil aliens and exterminating them, while Gibson was trying to catch up to who was who and was certainly not yet an ally of neither Colonists nor Rebels. Since the last issue, the Rebels have caught up with Gibson and seem intent on stopping him. They have been keeping an eye on him ever since his childhood (S11#5), trying to get him to side with them (“the original Syndicate weren’t the only ones trying to control me“). But Gibson has other plans. He doesn’t state them clearly yet, but with the Rebels against him and with him trying to contact the Colonists, it does sound as if Gibson has given up on the idea of resisting the alien invasion. “The outcome is obvious, even if you haven’t reached it yet. And when you finally realize what I’ve already determined to be inevitable I’ll be waiting for you.” Gibson sounds cynical, another version of the devilish Cigarette-Smoking Man ready to offer Mulder to work with him as in 5X03: Redux II.
Is Gibson selling out and “all mankind is expendable“? Or is he playing a deeper game, playing faction against faction for a greater purpose? Faceless Rebel mole, Gibson’s ultimate plans, Gibson’s gift audio tape to Mulder, plenty of Gibson clones running around, the Acolytes, a revived Krycek somewhere… there are plenty of balls up in the air and mysteries to resolve in the last three issues of Season 11! Because of the live X-Files revival next month (!) IDW might want to have the current storyline quite resolved so as to continue the post-revival comics in some different fashion, perhaps fully aligned with whatever will happen in the revival and chronologically after them. We will know shortly enough. S11#6 comes out barely a few days before the broadcast of the first revival episode, and around that time we will also know of comics solicitations for whatever comes next. We do not yet know and both IDW and Harris have been quite vague — however, the teases are out there and we know that IDW and Harris are far from being done with the X-Files!