REVIEW: The X-Files Season 10 (comic) – ‘Pilgrims’

Tony Black reviews issues #11-15 of The X-Files: Season 10 comic run, ‘Pilgrims’…

xfiless10-11-cvr-7df6d

Written by Joe Harris

Art by Matthew Dow Smith

For the second major five-part story in the Season 10 comic run of The X-Files, Joe Harris is joined by his most frequent collaborating Matthew Dow Smith to craft, with ‘Pilgrims’, a sprawling mythology tale in the best traditions of Chris Carter’s show – globe-trotting, expansive, action-packed and filled with surprises, recurring character appearances and at times maddeningly unresolved plot points. If ever you could throw that ‘fan service’ claim out there at Harris, this is the story you would point to as proof, but those who have levelled that accusation seem to miss the fact Season 10 has been all about reconstructing the show as we remember it in the Nineties; nebulous, labyrinth, and filled with the kind of anticipatory stories you couldn’t wait for because your favourite characters would be popping back up. Even more than ‘Believers’, this felt like The X-Files of old.

Perhaps because it has so many reference points and call backs, many of them intentionally as Harris is deliberately using an in-story enigma to play on and reconstruct classic characters and situations; bringing back Alex Krycek serves to deepen the ongoing mystery of how presumed dead nemeses of Mulder & Scully are reappearing seemingly as alien clones of some kind, and here it becomes clearer they’re in some kind of waking dream state as they recall past moments in their lives. It gives Dow Smith the excuse to draw Krycek coughing up black oil from the silo in ‘Apocrypha’, while Harris plays out a nearly identical scene as in ‘Tunguska’, only with Scully delivering a captive Krycek to a shirtless Skinner’s apartment. Crucially, the characters are aware of how events seem to almost be replaying in a sense, while from an audience point of view Harris is touching back on elements and beats that people loved from the original mythology; you only have to see Krycek, captive, in the same orange boiler suit Jeremiah Smith wore in ‘Talitha Cumi’ being interrogated viciously by the Cigarette-Smoking Man to feel these are the glory days on a loop.

u0hlylsr

It gives Dow Smith the excuse to draw Krycek coughing up black oil from the silo in ‘Apocrypha’, while Harris plays out a nearly identical scene as in ‘Tunguska’, only with Scully delivering a captive Krycek to a shirtless Skinner’s apartment. Crucially, the characters are aware of how events seem to almost be replaying in a sense, while from an audience point of view Harris is touching back on elements and beats that people loved from the original mythology; you only have to see Krycek, captive, in the same orange boiler suit Jeremiah Smith wore in ‘Talitha Cumi’ being interrogated viciously by the Cigarette-Smoking Man to feel these are the glory days on a loop.

Not that Harris immediately launches us into old ground complexity, as the tale does begin with a classic mytharc mystery as the black oil reappears, appropriately, in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and Harris spends a good couple of issues with Mulder & Scully involved in military conspiracy & espionage in the locked down state, struggling with ritual & custom (there are a few nice moments of Scully struggling with the rampant sexism) as well as figuring out what’s happening with what they know to be a sentient alien virus. It’s when we come to know more about the oil do events take a surprising turn, with Mulder possessed by ‘Sheltem’, a being who seems to be the intelligence behind the oil, or at least part of it.

xfiles_15-prjpg_page3

This is a major development for the mythology, giving the black oil a character beyond Purity & being the essence of the colonizing force, and Harris manages to retain the mystery among blinding UFO lights, alien rebels burning abductees with fire, and terms like ‘cradles’ and ‘forsaken ones’. It’s exciting given he’s unafraid to push the mythology forward by expanding on elements the show left out there for twenty years or more, and while we don’t have all the answers yet, you feel as though he’s building to revelation. Certainly by the end, with a reconstituted Syndicate under the control of the mysterious new leader, the show is now operating in the way we always remember.

‘Pilgrims’ still does manage to cram in, despite all the aliens and mythology and story elements, character work for Mulder and specifically Scully, who is still grappling with her own level of belief after what happened at Yellowstone in ‘Believers’. She also remains haunted by William, and his absence, as is Mulder, so Harris touching on these elements keeps our leads moving forward while a ton of other plot points are going on. While it may be enormous fan service, ‘Pilgrims’ without doubt gives the people what they want – a big, sprawling, international conspiracy thriller which makes the mythology as slick and fun as it was in The X-Files heyday. The finale is, no question, going to be off the hook!

Rating: 8/10

You can follow Tony on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s