In Review: The X-Files #14

This is a story building issue, so there's not much drama, but the visuals are perfect.

The cover: The first of two covers is the Regular edition featuring work by Menton3. This is a dramatic cover showing a pistol emerging from the book’s title. The gun is pointed down at Scully, who is looking up at the weapon emotionlessly. She appears to be unafraid of the pistol, which is only inches from her face. The colors make the situation even grimmer by using a pale yellow-green cover that gives it an almost noir quality. This is a stark, creepy frontpiece. The Subscription cover is a photo cover showing Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully. The photo is from the last season of The X-Files. I’m a fan of photo covers, so this is the cover I had to purchase. Overall grades: Regular A and Subscription A+

The story: Dana Scully is at home, unthrilled with what she’s looking at on her computer after a long day at work. On a yellow tablet she writes down FBB and SHVMA FOUNDATION. After a sip of wine, she calls up an article on a congressional inquiry into a DOD contract probe, which features a photograph of Firas Ben-Brahim. Her computer chooses that moment to give her a PING with a reminder: NOT A BIG DEAL. She changes clothes and goes to a chic restaurant where she’s expected. She sits down and Ben-Brahim leans into her and says, “The man seated in the back of the dining room has a rifle aimed in this direction.” He goes on to point out several other people in the establishment — seemingly everyone — that is a killer. There’s a reason for his doing so, but Scully fails to grasp why, ultimately doing something that she shouldn’t have. The first part of “Resistance” starts out solidly by writer Joe Harris and then moves to Peters Mountain, Virginia, where Dana sees something that defies description. Who do you call when you see something that’s not natural? Fox Mulder arrives on the scene, with more than one snarky quip, immediately distrustful of Ben-Brahim and what he has to say. The remainder of the issue has this character going public with the FBI agents, and Dana trying to convince Fox that the man is telling the truth. The conflict is whether Fox can or can not. The reader is privy to a scene on the last two pages that the agents are not. What the fallout from this action is won’t be known until the next installment. This issue has Harris setting up the pieces to knock down in a future issue. One’s love of this story will depend on how much one knows of the previous issues from this run of The X-Files. This was enjoyable, but only the opening salvo. How the entire story plays out will change how this issue is considered. For now, on its own, it’s just getting things started. Overall grade: B

The art: Matthew Dow Smith has been the artist on IDW’s X-Files adventures for several years and he is a master at making every panel look shady, even when a character is smiling. The first page contains no dialogue whatsoever, but look at how every panel just seethes with tension: the opening, establishing shot of Scully at home, her computer screen containing the most mundane of information, some words she’s written on a tablet that may or may not mean nothing to the reader, and the final shot, a close-up, of Scully who’s got a look of concentration on her face. Perfect visual storytelling. Look at the masterful way Smith moves the point of view around during the dinner scene with Ben-Brahim, using horizontal panels that mirror a letterbox episode. When Scully makes a decision to do something at the bottom of Page 5, the large panel on 6 brilliantly shows the effect of that action. The large panel on 9 is an excellent WOW! panel, with the image under it containing a good reflection of Dana, showing that what she sees she has now taken to heart. The bottom panel on 11 the best wise-ass image of Fox I’ve seen in quite a while: he’s completely full of himself, knowing how funny his line is. Much of this issue focuses on delivering information to the reader, with characters standing or sitting. Smith really has to move the view about often to make the book visually entertaining, and he does, with even a conversation in a car, within a parking garage, looking suspenseful because of his close-ups and use of shadows. The final page, which features the most dramatic action of the issue, doesn’t really require a reading of the text to understand what is occurring, though the dialogue does make the action that much more shocking. Smith is the go-to artist to make The X-Files creepy. Overall grade: A

The colors: Creating tone as much as the artwork, Jordie Bellaire’s colors constantly keep the reader on edge. The brightest colors of the book can be found in the opening two pages as Scully considers what to do for the rest of her evening. As soon as she goes to the restaurant to meet with Ben-Brahim, the colors go sinister, with this swanky locale becoming washed out, symbolizing the lack of life around the man she’s going to dine with. The colors on 7 are outstanding and they are the darkest of the book. This is the finest creation of a dark location where all the line work of the artist can still be seen. My hat’s off to Bellaire for doing an exemplary job here. This page also allows the reveal of 9 to really stand out, with the colors being in complete opposition. There’s also an outstanding reflection done in some glass on the same page. The remainder of the book has Bellaire using color to add some great tension to the conversations, such as 16 (with a window) and the dread of the parking structure. Overall grade: A

The letters: A document, computer text, dialogue, the iconic logo, the story’s title, scene settings, sounds, and the teaser for next issue fall under Christa Miesner’s domain. When the visual could contain a clue to someone’s motivations or a tease of a horror to come, it’s impressive where Miesner places the text so that it doesn’t step on any element of the art that a reader must see. X-Files’ fans are going to pour over everything for a clue, so Miesner knows that the balloons can’t fall on certain things. The first sound of the book is a tremendous one, which is perfect in design and size for what’s shown. The second panel on the final page has the most fun sounds, as anyone who speaks them aloud will automatically fall into the pacing that’s intended. A well done job. Overall grade: A

The final line: This is a story building issue, so there’s not much physical drama, but the visuals are right in line for fans. Harris has never disappointed in a story, so I’m sure that next issue will show the importance of this installment. Overall grade: A-

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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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