In Review: The X-Files #19

The only reason you haven't read this is because the government doesn't want you to know the truth. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: Three choices to expand your mind with mystery. The Regular cover is by Francesco Francavilla and it has two images separated by a giant starfield X. On the left is a portrait of an intense Fox Mulder. He’s colored by the night, with the exception of a radiant green eye. The right side of the illustration contains several pipes and levers with a huge tank marked as G-23. This drawing is colored in rusts and dead yellows, save the one window on the tank that’s colored the same as Mulder’s emerald eye. After reading this issue it’s simple to see how much this cover tells. Excellent work, Mr. Francavilla. The Subscription cover is a super photo of David Duchovny as Fox Mulder in a lab. Fox is a good focus for this issue’s frontpiece, though his father or the Smoking Man would be just as good. The RI cover is by Tom Mandrake with colors by Sian Mandrake. This is a superior cover dominated by the Smoking Man whose cigarette’s trail is creating a trapped Mulder. In the background the Lone Gunmen watch indifferently. I’m normally a runaway fan of photocovers, but the design and execution of this image make it a winner. Overall grades: Regular A, Subscription A+, and RI A+

The story: Part 1 of “G-23” opens at a military installation off State Road 375 in Nevada, 1966. The Cigarette Smoking Man and Bill Mulder have arrived at the installation that looks similar to the one in The X-Files: Fight the Future. The facility has been breached, forcing a lockdown of the Cultivation Level since it “brings out the very worst in people.” A young couple have been detained, saying they were just out looking for some adventure. Nervous at their situation, the man produces a pack of cigarettes labeled G-23 and lights one up, instantly causing his girlfriend to hallucinate with frightening results. Joe Harris’s story then moves to the present where a lunch date with Scully is interrupted by an old foe needing help in stopping the return of a dangerous compound to the streets. In his investigation Fox gets input from Dana and the Lone Gunmen. The inclusion of this trio in any story is always a highpoint. Their dialogue is informative and funny. All this information has Mulder going on his own to a location that closes with one of the most bizarre, yet welcome, cliffhangers in the series’ history. This was like reading a lost episode, though it’s set in the present. Fantastic! Overall grade: A+

The art: Tom Mandrake is an illustration god. He is the absolute go-to artist for realism and terror. The opening seven page flashback begins cinematically with a single car entering the military installation, and the second page introduces the facility and its intruders. The angles Mandrake employs instantly makes the mood sinister. The young trespassers are shown as innocent as can be on Page 3, but after that first drag on G-23 on Page 4 the visuals explode as the reader is taken on a drug induced trip. Any sympathy that the characters may have garnered earlier is ripped away on 6 and ends with graphic finality. This was a slow burn that blew up in the reader’s face. The familiar faces of the cast look terrifically like their television counterparts with the Lone Gunmen, especially Frohike and Langly, outstanding. And that final splash page–Wow! On behalf of the fans, thank you, Mr. Mandrake! Overall grade: A+

The colors: Excellent coloring on this book from Sian Mandrake. Colors are a key component of the story and a signpost for readers to know something bad is going to occur. The opening pages have all the excitement of the desert–boring and dull. As someone who’s driven through Nevada often, she nailed it. Page 4 is a marvel of colors as the first puff is taken and readers are transported far away. The startling actions on Page 6 are intensified by reds in a pristine environment. In the present, colors are gorgeous on a warm day at an outside restaurant. Breaking up the concrete and the characters’ flesh tones, Mandrake wisely colors the tablecloths brightly to focus attention. Coloring is also key at the bottom of Page 19 as a character begins to go down an unintended road. This is essential, solid work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Robbie Robbins is this issue’s letterer. He creates the iconic X-Files scene settings, dialogue, the sensational “trip” dialogue, sounds, screams, opening title, speaker orders, and a character’s weakened speech. The font used for the trip dialogue is perfectly in harmony with the illustrations. Perfect, man. I dug it. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The only reason you haven’t read this is because the government doesn’t want you to know the truth. The truth is that this is perfect entry point to one of the best written series on the market. The truth is in here. Highest possible recommendation. 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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