Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Chris Carter, Dana Scully, Fox Mulder, Joe Harris, Jordie Bellaire, Michael Walsh, Mulder, Scully, Season 10, The X Files, Walter Skinner
‘Believers’ Part 1 of 5
Story by Joe Harris with Chris Carter
Written by Joe Harris
Art by Michael Walsh
Colours by Jordie Bellaire
Published by IDW
£2.85 (Or £1.99 with SuperCard Go!)
The X-Files, when it works, is as perfect as conspiracy thrillers can be. You get just enough information to perform, just enough of a sense of the world to make your way around it and, right at the end, a glimpse behind the curtain at what’s really going on. It’s Lovecraft in good suits, cosmic horror mixed with State of Play. When it’s bad, it’s everything awful about mid-90s TV. When it works, it’s brilliant.
Here, it works.
Here’s what you need to know to get up to speed in case you’ve never seen the show; Mulder and Scully were FBI agents assigned to The X-Files, the designation for unexplained, paranormal and supernatural cases. Mulder was a dyed in the wool believer, Scully was a skeptic. As the years went on they grew closer both to each other and the immense, trans-national conspiracy behind many of the cases they investigated. Ultimately forced to go on the run, they were eventually tracked down by their former boss, Walter Skinner and persuaded to re-open communication with the FBI. They could never come home again but they could at least see it from where they were hiding.
There’s a lot more going on in there but suffice to say if you haven’t seen The X-Files you should. It’s both a fascinating artefact of fin de siècle pre-millennial tension and the definitive piece of conspiracy fiction produced in the latter half of the 20th Century. Plus many of the individual episodes are brilliantly inventive and witty, the thing’s funny as all hell and without it you wouldn’t get Fringe and, arguably, 24.
So with all that in mind, the comic opens with Scully, injured and running for her life. She gets a garbled message out on her phone then falls and-
Then we’re earlier in the day and Scully, working under the name Doctor Blake, is treating a little girl. Her next patient is Deputy Director Skinner, there to tell them some bad news; the FBI network was hacked and the details of everyone who ever worked on The X-Files were amongst the files that were accessed…
This first so perfectly with the tone of the show it’s like we’ve never been away. Bad things happening on dark nights, that glorious type-face font used to tell us the time and place and shadowy things done by shadowy people for shadowy reasons. This is quintessential X-Files in style, and Carter and Harris cleverly seed what seems to be the main plot throughout the issue; this doesn’t seem to be the traditional conspiracy, rather a group of very enthusiastic people who know what the characters know and for some reason want them dead. They also absolutely nail one of the things about the characters that always fascinated me; Scully is painfully emotionally honest whilst Mulder still hides behind the sense of humour the show sometimes forgot he had. Their conversation with Skinner is wonderfully sparky, Mulder clearly revelling in the civilian life whilst Scully still feels the hole where their jobs used to be. It’s also a treat to have Skinner back on deck. He was always one of my favourite characters (Big, dutiful balding dude with glasses. Who knew that’d hit me where I live, huh?).
It’s the little moments where the book really hits its stride though. Skinner waiting until he leaves to smile at his old colleague’s joke is one and Mulder finding Skinner, post-attack, hanging from the ceiling is another. There are some moments of true visual unease here too, especially the panel where Scully is shot and the inhuman expression of the shooter in the panel below. Likewise, there’s genuine emotional punch to Michael Walsh’s art, and one panel in particular, involving Scully, is heart-breaking. The art is considered, intelligent and captures the likenesses of the characters whilst still having its own identity. The colours, from the always excellent Joride Bellaire help too, especially the explosive orange splash of a gunshot and the muted, sinister greys and greens of night-time Virginia.
The X-Files took a lot of flak for the glacial pace of its conspiracy uber-plot and the relentless extra twists they threw into it. A lot of that criticism was deserved but, at its core, it’s still an idea with a tremendous, if very different, relevance to 21st Century life. It’s also huge, crazy pulpy fun and you get both those sides of the show here, wrapped up in top class art and scripting. This is the best possible restart the show could hope for, perfect for fans, perfect for newbies and massively, gloriously creepy. It’s great to have it back, and even better to see it done this well.
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