In Review: The X-Files: Season 10 #21

A good entry point for new readers.

The covers: A blood red background that highlights a gigantic X in a room of shadowy men, one of which is holding a file marked as classified, seems to be forcing one member to leave. The remaining men watch the Cigarette Smoking Man exit. You know things are going to go badly if he’s leaving them behind. Excellent atmospheric Regular cover from Francesco Francavilla. The Subscription cover is a photocover of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as Mulder and Scully. I’m still not sick of these pictures. The Retailer Incentive cover is by interior artist Matthew Dow Smith. It features Cigarette Smoking Man painted and framed like art. This is the last portrait I ever thought I’d see hanging in a gallery. Upon reading this issue, the cover’s imagery will become clear. Colors are used to define the shapes more so than lines, which gives it an odd impression. Overall grade: Regular A, Subscription A+, and RI C+

The story: Surrounded by several monitors giving simultaneous newsfeeds, a glasses wearing man goes through pages of data on the floor, lit only by the circle of screens. As he stands at hearing something from the evening news, the Cigarette Smoking Man enters. “They’re waiting for you, you do realize.” This unleashes a cold, calm diatribe from the glasses wearing man that he can’t be outwitted, leaving the CSM uncharacteristically silent. At the gathering of the Elders its members debate hiding so long in the darkness. The arrival of the glasses wearing man on Page 5 quickly changes things, making one member very happy. Writer Joe Harris leaves his unsettling opening for a carnival attended by two famous FBI agents. A recognition of one causes events to spiral out of control and go viral. There’s no hiding from the truth anymore. I like how Harris takes an already strange incident and twists it even more on Page 17. Background is given on Mulder’s investigations before he and Scully were a team, and this history is going to play out over the next four issues in frightening fashion. Page 19 puts one agent in immediate peril, while another character is ready to begin a rebirth. Things are changing, and there seems to be no way to fight the future. Overall grade: A

The art: Artist Matthew Dow Smith has created a very moody look to his book, emphasizing a lot of shadows, which goes excellently with this story. The opening seven pages show the Elders and their member of focus barely emerging out of the dark to make their plans. Only one member of this enclave is clearly shown, the CSM, and that should elicit plenty of cause for concern. At the fairgrounds Smith shows he’s equally adept in the light as what occurs there is clearly seen. The slow build up on Page 8 with equally sized panels is an excellent example of creating tension and setting. The conclusion of this scene, thankfully, isn’t shown, and its ending is made more powerful by witnessing a character’s reaction to it. I’m liking what Smith is doing. Overall grade: A

The colors: The eerie atmosphere of this tale is completed with Jordie Bellaire’s coloring. The blues that illuminate the opening two pages make that person’s room very alien. The Elders’ meeting is wonderfully done in different shades of gray to show how committed they are to the dark. The carnival is a blast of color, with the jacket on the mysterious individual a strong eye-catcher. I like how the colors on page 13 are dulled, creating a subtle similarity to the Elders’ room. The coloring on Page 17 is perfectly suited for a flashback, plus it makes the imagery all the more grim. Excellent work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Broadcast voices and dialogue (the same font), a stream of data, iconic X-Files’ scene settings, sounds, yells, and a next issue teaser are crafted by Chris Mowry. The sounds that begin on Page 9 dominate that sequence. I wish that a different font had been employed for the television transmissions, rather than a change in shape of their dialogue balloons. Overall grade: A-

The final line: A good entry point for new readers. The human villains of the series are making changes and Mulder and Scully can’t help but be drawn into their plans. 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.
    2 Comments on this post.
  • Ian
    27 March 2015 at 2:11 pm -

    Smoking man looks pretty sinister in that picture. Any idea if the comics are going to tie in with the new six part series that Fox are doing?

    • Patrick Hayes
      28 March 2015 at 3:48 am -

      I don’t think so. The comic series was planned out almost two years ago. I know that writer Joe Harris is in contact with Chris Carter, and that after this arc there will be a Season 11 for this series. Nothing specific has been stated by anyone about crossover storylines between the six parter and the comics.