In Review: The X-Files: Season 10 #20

I'm not blowing smoke telling you to snatch this up before the man takes it away.

The covers: The Regular cover is by Francesco Francavilla. He continues to use a giant star filled X atop his imagery which includes a very serious Mulder against his famous “I Want To Believe” UFO poster. Nice combination of images, with good coloring, and this is an actual story component of this issue, so big thumbs up to Mr. Francavilla. The Subscription cover is a photocover of David Duchovny as Fox Mulder, standing in a laboratory created for a publicity shoot. I’ve seen several photos from this session, and I’m more than willing to see more; they haven’t gotten old for me yet! The final cover is the Retailer Incentive and it’s the one you want to track down. Do not drink or use drugs while looking at this piece drawn by Tom Mandrake and colored by Sian Mandrake. Looking upon this cover is like stepping into Mulder’s shoes after he’s exposed to the potent G-23 drug. Fox’s profile bleeds and morphs into an eyeball upon a falling figure, tumbling into a cascade of bright colors. Scully is smoking a cigarette as her hair blows about, until balding as she changes into an alien. Skinner stands at a forty-five degree angle and begins to mutate into a smiling fiend until only a gigantic grin remains. It’s impossible not to hear Iron Butterfly’s famous song while looking at his. Overall grades: Regular A, Subscription A, and RI A+

The story: The second part of two-parter “G-23” by Joe Harris begins with a flashback, of a kind, with young “Spooky” Mulder in a head shop in D.C. The owner of the store is trying to sell him an item. “Perfect for your intake and ingestion of various aromatherapies and–AHEM–tobacco products.” A fellow agent saves him from the man’s pitch, though his eye is caught by a poster on the wall he wants to buy–the iconic “I Want To Believe” poster. As he gets closer to it, the UFOs have multiplied and fly out to him. Fox is still suffering the effects of the government-manufactured marijuana. He wakes from this tip on the ground to see fishnet-stockings-wearing Scully with next to nothing on under a short raincoat pulling up a raver’s head, while holding a pistol on him, demanding to know where the rest of the stash is. This is an excellent story. Readers will be constantly challenged, like the protagonist, to decide what’s real and what’s a hallucination. On this trip Mulder learns more about his father’s past and Langly faces his fears. There are some intense scenes and some funny lines as wacky tabaccy goes weird. Overall grade: A

The art: I’ve raved over Tom Mandrake’s art in the previous issue, as well as in other books, but with this book he’s gone into uncharted territory for me. I’ve never experienced an acid trip, but if it’s even close to the one he’s created in this book, I’ll take vanilla! Mandrake’s ability to warp reality is teased in Fox’s reflection in the third panel on Page 1. Additionally, an alien head makes a quick cameo on the label of a jar of incense. When the UFOs soar out of the poster the shine coming off of them and onto Mulder gives readers a clear heads up in what to expect from this story. Page 7 is my favorite of the entire book–it’s abstract, it’s frightening, and it’s just awesome. The title characters, and three familiar faces, look fantastic throughout, with the not-Scully stealing scenes constantly. I enjoyed the reveal at the bottom of 13, showcasing that character’s two greatest fears, and the arrival of the group on 16 is sweet! Mandrake is my drug of choice for this book. Overall grade: A+

The colors: What would a drug trip be, I’ve been told, without a spectacular splash of colors. The X-Files is a series normally set in shadows and darkness, but not this month, thanks to colorist Sian Mandrake. The book begins with good, normal coloring one would expect in a normal setting, but look what Mandrake does with the backgrounds on the second page–lava lamp swirls consume it. Things resume to normal on 3, but Mandrake unleashes a rainbow explosion upon Fox when the UFOs emerge. It’s a stark visual awakening for Mulder and the reader. My favorite page is 7–the coloring is absolutely gorgeous. Even when reality rears its head, colors tell a story as they do sensationally at the top of Page 16. If the first Mandrake is my drug, Sian is the chaser. Outstanding! Overall grade: A+

The letters: The talented Neil Uyetake contributes dialogue, series’ title and story title, sounds, an exceptional warp to characters’ dialogue as Mulder trips, a loudspeaker voice, and scene settings. That dialogue warp matches the exuberant art flawlessly. Overall grade: A

The final line: I’m not blowing smoke telling you to snatch this up before the man takes it away. Enjoy over a bag of chips. Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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