Our bi-weekly look back at the classic X-Files comics published by Topps in the mid-1990s continues with issue #2: "A Dismembrance of Things Past". Read after the jump for our recap.
Title: A Dismembrance of Things Past: Part 1 of 2
Writer: Stefan Petrucha
Illustrator: Charles Adlard
Published: February 1995
Currently Available: X-Files Classics Volume 1
Issue #2 of the Topps series opens on a Kansas farmhouse in the early hours of the morning. An old man awakens and walks to his window, suddenly remembering something. As he stands there a bullet hits him in the forehead and he falls to the ground. Over in D.C. Mulder is asleep on his couch wearing a rather fetching dressing gown while what appears from the dialogue to be an old episode of Kung Fu drifts from the TV. He is awoken by the set being clicked off and finds five men in suits standing around him - no one ever knock in the X-Files universe. He is bundled into the back of a car where an off-puttingly bleach blonde Scully (her hair colour was fixed in later issues) is already sat, remarkably calm for someone who apparently had the same thing happen to her not too long ago. The agents are handed a file by their driver who tells them that the life of a General Palmer, whose name Mulder recognises from "Neola", might be at risk.
We quickly jump to Neola, Kansas, in the story the "Home of The Flying Saucer" but in real life so resolutely uninteresting that the history section of its Wikipedia page lists nothing besides the opening and closing years of the town post office. While they drive, Mulder fills Scully in on an incident there from 1948 which he describes as being "second only to Roswell". The last remaining witnesses of the incident appear to be dying at a frightening rate; four within the last three months. The agents argue about the validity of the witnesses claims. Mulder asks Scully why they would be killed off if they saw nothing to which Scully counters by asking why bother to kill them forty-seven years later on? Mulder questions what's left if you begin to doubt memory, reminding her that memories of Samantha's abduction are "all [he] has".
The agents visit the wheelchair-bound and now mute General Palmer who, via paper and pen, calls them "idiots" and tells them to leave. Before they do, Mulder conveys his respect for the General and his coming forward about what he saw, leaving the man in tears. The pair split up with Scully performing an autopsy on the most recent victim and Mulder attending a lecture given by another Neola incident witness: Meg White. Meg discusses the nature of memory, specifically eidetic memory, in not entirely accurate terms. While she speaks the illustrations show us a younger version of herself and some others discovering the remains of a crashed UFO and of an alien body in classic Roswell flashback style. Meg is interrupted by another man - Kent - who shouts out that her story is "a filthy lie". He is escorted from the building by security. Mulder catches up with him and asks for his side of the story. Kent refuses, claiming that Mulder "stinks of the military government" as other attendees leave the talk, whispering about how Mulder must be a Man in Black sent to kill Kent.
Mulder heads back inside to talk to Meg and the two take a drive to the supposed crash site. Mulder asks about the other deaths but Meg had thought they were natural considering that the witnesses are all "getting on" in years. She begins to feel faint, asking Mulder if he can smell oranges. Mulder calls for an ambulance while Meg begins to remember details from the night that she never recalled before. Mulder smells the oranges too and realises that they are being exposed to a gas, he's too late though because just then Meg appears to be shot in the head. We cut to a new scene as the Sheriff approaches Scully at the morgue to tell her that Meg has apparently been shot by Mulder. She visits Mulder in the town jail and also smells the citrus, realizing immediately that Mulder has been exposed to something. The poor guy was only recently exposed to government sanctioned gas when "Blood" aired a few months prior to this story being published! Mulder tells Scully that he remembers shooting Meg even though he knows he couldn't have. He now believes that there never was a UFO crash, and that instead the town has been subject to an experiment on civilians that is still going on. His memory is faulty and he collapses on the floor while Scully yells for help.
Scully takes a trip to visit Jonas Kent at his dilapidated house on the outskirts of town. While she pokes around in the dark, we read excerpts from her toxicology report that show traces of a compound similar to one experimented with by the military in the 1950s. Scully finds Kent who is aware of the "Orange Gas" (quite probably named such to invite comparisons with Agent Orange) and believes it was given to him by aliens, because "what kind of person would do this?" He recounts to Scully a story about helicopters arriving at the town and dowsing the citizens with the orange gas which made them forget - another similarity to "Blood". He makes Scully promise to remember his wife's name, a promise she agrees to until General Palmer arrives wearing a biohazard suit and spraying them both with the gas. As he does, he monologues to Scully about his part in the plan and how he has faked his disabilities in order to appear "feeble". He tries to force Scully to believe herself responsible for Jonas Kent's death, until Jonas attacks him seeking revenge for the death of his wife.
The issue ends with Scully in hospital typing up her report. Mulder, currently in a wheelchair, arrives from therapy where he is starting to regain fragments of memory such as getting his first library card, "unfortunately the name on it was Hans Holzer" (Holzer was a paranormal researcher and author most famous for investigating the Amityville Horror case). Mulder points out that the case is still open and that they still don't know what happened in Neola, however the name of Kent's wife might give them a new lead, only Scully can't remember what it was. The final panel shows an excerpt from The Myth of Repressed Memory by Dr. Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham which was published the year before in 1994 and is still considered the seminal work in the field. To be continued...
Issue #2 gives us our first letter section with answers from Stefan Petrucha and editor Dwight Jon Zimmerman. Many of the letters comment on the art, mostly in a positive light regarding how well it captures the moody feel of the show, however it is noted that Scully's cross has been absent and that Mulder's ties have been far too normal! Another thing that gets lots of positive feedback this month is the dialogue between Mulder and Scully, with readers commenting that it contains "just the right mix of humor and sarcasm".
Many readers commented on how hard they found it to actually get copies of issue one because retailers had been caught unaware by the demand. Issue one was published in January 1995 (for reference, that's halfway through season two when episodes like "Irresistible" and "Die Hand Die Verletzt" were airing) so the show was still growing in popularity, moving from a cult hit to the phenomenon it would become. The final letter came from 11 year old Jennifer who wanted to grow up and become "an FBI agent for paranormal things". Jennifer asks if any posters will be made available and Stefan replies that "the first licensed poster should be available in about a month". These really were the early days.