Guest Review – Cue the “Spooky” Synthesizers!

The X-Files #0
By Frank Spotnitz and Brian Denham
DC/Wildstorm – saddle-stitched, $3.99

SO, my boyfriend, Brendan, asked me to write a review of the new X-Files comic because I’ve been a huge X-Phile (that’s an X-Files fan, if you haven’t figured) for literally an entire half of my life. As a teenager, my bedroom wall was plastered with the posters, and my action figures were neatly arranged by my Mulder & Scully Barbie dolls. I’ve currently gone back on the message board with the release of the new movie. I am, however, not a comics fan and have not read many comics (ones I’ve read and loved include: Preacher, anything Jeffrey Brown, and currently, Fables). It is with this X-Files-insider, comics-outsider perspective that I review The X-Files #0.

The X-Files #0 page 1, featuring a drawn version of the show’s title sequence.
Click for larger image

This is the first X-Files comic to be written by someone from the TV show — Frank Spotnitz, a producer and writer on the television series (as well as co-writer of the new feature film) — and it nicely captures the feel of the show. In fact, this comic could very well be an episode of the show in drawn form. It’ll definitely feel familiar to anyone who used to watch the series and remembers its stand-alone episodes: It starts with a supernatural and violent incident in a small American town, and Agents Mulder and Scully arrive to help local authorities because of their expertise in “cases that defy rational explanation.” From there, evidence and victims mount as Scully contributes her medical knowledge, and Mulder makes leaps of logic that turn out to be right.

Similarly, the art also captures the aesthetic of the TV show. The colors are dark, and everything seems to be barely lit by small or out-of-reach light sources in dark places, creating persistent shadows. Every panel looks like it could be a freeze-frame of a shot from the show, and has a logical, straightforward progression. There are also a few visual inside-joke gags for the observant fans. Unlike the ‘90s X-Files comics from Topps, in this new comic Mulder and Scully actually look like the show’s stars (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson). Even their facial expressions (or lack thereof, depending on who you ask) are spot-on. By comparison, the old Topps comics look inappropriately superhero-y.

“This looks like a job for Super Mulder!”
Superhero-style art from Topps’ The X-Files #31.

The only problem with this comic partially results from what is good about it: that this is a self-contained mini-episode of the TV show. That is to say, it feels exactly like the TV show at its height – except imagine if an episode was half as long. This comic so closely follows the formula of a prototypical X-Files episode, it has the effect of simultaneously feeling rushed and being too thin. It feels rushed because it attempts to cram in everything that is “supposed to” be in an X-Files episode in a small space, and it feels thin because once all of the formulaic aspects are laid out, there really isn’t much room left for the storytelling to be very innovative (I figured out what was going on before Mulder did, which almost never happens), or to do anything too deep with the characters or themes.

The more restrained, television-like look of The X-Files #0.

I have reason to be optimistic. As I was telling Brendan my take on this comic, he told me something I couldn’t have known as a non-comics reader – that a #0 issue typically implies that it is an introduction, a teaser. From this perspective, I can see that this issue could be a good introduction for something more. Perhaps in a multi-part series, stories, themes, and characters can be more fleshed out. Maybe they’ll start to feel more comfortable with breaking away from a strict formula. Or, they could possibly find a way to take more advantage of the comic book medium without sacrificing that X-Files feel. After all, watch the pilot episode of the TV show, try to not have it unintentionally make you laugh out loud, and then watch a solid mid-season episode like “Beyond the Sea” or a quirky gem from a later season like the black-and-white “Post-Modern Prometheus.” Tell me that the show didn’t grow to change, evolve, and take risks.

With the TV show long over and the new movie honestly leaving me a bit unsatisfied, some new stories in comic book form could be refreshing. Like Mulder’s poster says, I Want To Believe.

––Akiyo Horiguchi


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One Response to “Guest Review – Cue the “Spooky” Synthesizers!”

  1. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » July 30, 2008: A legal but unethical instrument Says:

    […] Akiyo Horiguchi on Frank Spotnitz and Brian Denham’s The X-Files […]

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