Tony Black reviews issue #10 of The X-Files: Season 10 comic run, ‘More Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man’…
Written by Joe Harris
Art by Menton J. Matthews III & Tony Moy
If you’re a fan of The X-Files, you must surely remember ‘Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man’ from Season Four. Quite a format-breaking episode, from the re-telling perspective of Melvin Frohike, it gave a possible legend and backstory to the show’s most iconic villain, as a young man who became a military officer in the early 60’s, later assassinated JFK and Martin Luther King, and went on to be a failed pulp novelist. ‘More Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man’ takes a leap off Glen Morgan & James Wong’s original story to provide another myriad amount of possible memories from the shadowy government figure himself, allowing Joe Harris to zip across 20th century time periods with abandon.
What’s important to note is that the issue is unfocused for a reason, as it hangs on the tether of the reconstituted Smoking Man in the present day trying to figure out why he’s back from the dead, by accessing his latent memories. It’s not as good a hook as Frohike in a rifle sight telling Mulder arcane history (indeed there’s no sign of Mulder or Scully anywhere in this story, well almost), but it works as a construct allowing Harris to go everywhere from the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, to darkened shadowy conspiracy rooms where the original Syndicate gather, top secret facilities, and to even shine a light on relationships with the two women in his life – a pregnant, unhinged Cassandra Spender and a young, reluctant Teena Mulder, wanting out of the affair she’s been having with the man. All through all of these interactions, Harris keeps one relationship central: CGB Spender & Bill Mulder.
In every memory the Smoking Man accesses, Mulder is there, usually as his partner whether it’s in the military or destroying a vicious EBE for the government. There’s no bromance involved but Harris makes the point that the lives and fates of these two men, the ‘two fathers’ (we even see the photo from that S6 episode), are inextricably intertwined. There’s not always a central narrative through line to these memories, but Mulder is that constant. Harris does manage to create the same kind of retro stylistic look at secret 20th century history, but the real standout is the stunning artwork here by Menton J Matthews III & Tony Foy which is spellbinding; dreamlike, washed out, smoky and shadowy, it gives the issue a spectral, mysterious hue that perfectly befits the Smoking Man as a character. You couldn’t do every issue this way but man does it look gorgeous in a dark, twisted way.
Come the end of ‘More Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man’, we also have a few fascinating insights into the ongoing mythology, and the shadowy figure pulling the strings behind Smoking Man’s resurrection. I know who this is but for fresh readers I won’t spoil; suffice to say it suggests even more that Smoking Man, and perhaps other revived figures, are reappearing for a key myth arc reason. As a hook to allow more fascinating insights into our villain’s enigmatic past, this works as an off-kilter, vibrant and different X-Files issue.
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