Tony Black reviews issues #6-7 of The X-Files: Season 10 comic run, ‘Hosts’…
Written by Joe Harris
Art by Elena Casagrande & Silvia Califano
For many years, people wondered what became of the Flukeman, arguably one of The X-Files‘ most iconic ‘monsters of the week’, who appeared in ‘The Host’ early on in Season 2 (which we covered on the podcast just last week). Apart from a blink & you’ll miss it appearance on a National Enquirer tabloid headline in one of Darin Morgan’s Season 3 comedy episodes, the Flukeman’s on screen return never happened, despite how the end of ‘The Host’ showed he’d survived being sliced in two by Mulder in the New Jersey sewers. ‘Hosts’, the first ‘monster of the week’ episode by Joe Harris in the Season 10 revival comics, delivers that sequel and does it well.
The very nature of the Flukeman was its biological imperative to reproduce its fluke larvae inside human hosts, using them as incubators to bear more man-made flukes, just like their parasitic counterparts would – therefore it makes complete sense that Harris here would give us more than one fluke, if indeed the Flukeman has been down in the sewers (this time of Martha’s Vineyard) for over ten years potentially reproducing. That’s the nature of the sequel template – take what worked before and expand on it. ‘The Host’, while being a horror episode, always felt one slight step away from parody, so oddly enough the Flukeman is almost scarier on the comic book page, and ‘Hosts’ arguably is a darker episode than its predecessor.
What Harris also does is tackle the greater underlying mythology behind the Flukeman’s origin, only really hinted at in ‘The Host’ by Scully toward the end, and gives us an origin story by using the classic ‘two-parter’ trick The X-Files did by starting part two with a context setting flashback or alternate place to complicate the story; here its the city of Pripyat in 1986, a few miles away from Chernobyl, the site of course of the Soviet nuclear disaster which remains the worst ever on record. I talk more about that here, but Harris actually uses this disaster as his jumping off point to give the Flukeman an identity essentially, an original identity, and makes him the victim of administrative and military callousness in the face of disaster.
This serves to not just further make the Flukeman more of a victim than true monster, but also tackles the question of whether the Flukeman had or has intelligence in his actions, with Harris using the immigrant local Sheriff character, Michael Simmons, as a conduit to explore whether or not the Flukeman is seeking a kind of vengeance for his fate at Pripyat. It’s an open question, and provides the final stinger for Mulder to ponder at the climax primarily, but it adds extra dimensions and shades to the Flukeman as not just a monster but a character which ‘The Host’ didn’t have time to explore. It’s just a shame only on the page do we get to see Mulder fighting off a ‘host’ (pardon the pun) of Flukemen or being infected by larvae, as they would all carry off even better on screen.
Beyond the horror of the main plot, this story sees Mulder & Scully fully returning to their empty office in the basement of the FBI as they return to the X-Files, and Harris continues capturing both characters well as they have to adjust to a new boss, Assistant Director Anna Morales (now Skinner is Deputy Director, he now becomes the boss of their boss). She’s interesting in that she genuinely appears interested in the X-Files as a department and how to expand their reach, which is refreshing and new after years of bosses reluctantly indulging Mulder or doing what they can to shut him down. While we only see Morales briefly before we’re carried off into the plot, we see enough to be intrigued where she may go as their new superior.
On the whole, ‘Hosts’ is a solid follow up to the reach of ‘Believers’; an in-and-out story re-introducing the classic ‘monster of the week’ formula to The X-Files with a sequel the majority of people would have wanted for quite some time. It’s not as good a story as ‘The Host’, lacking that iconic concoction the TV episode brought, but it adds new shades and dimensions to the creature, and ends with an excellent, thought-provoking and bloody stinger.
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