IDW returns to The X-Files with their new comic series which is set during the recent six-episode revival series of the show. The first issue hit comic book stands today, and moves on from the universe laid out in the earlier comic series Season 10 and Season 11. Read after the jump for our review of issue one, “Active Shooter”.
The X-Files 2016 brings across writer Joe Harris, artist Matthew Dow Smith, and colorist Jordie Bellaire who were previously working on IDW’s other X-Files series, Season 11. This new canon series introduces the Mulder and Scully we saw on TV earlier this year, back working at the FBI under Assistant Director Walter Skinner.
In this first issue the pair find themselves assigned to investigate a mass shooting at a Maryland mall after an employee at a food court burger chain - Toby Fitzsimmons - opens fire and kills 17 people. Before the cops can take him down, Fitzsimmons speaks to one victim who has escaped his bullets, a young mother with her baby. “Can you see them?” he asks her, “the lights. They’re like holes in the sky.” Before she can formulate much of a response, Fitzsimmons is shot dead by police, his eyes glowing orange.
Mulder and Scully are initially confused by their requested presence at what is, depressingly, an all too normal crime scene, especially as nobody can seem to account for why they've been called or who assigned them. However, it doesn’t take long for Mulder to notice that something is amiss. Between comments on the easy availability of weapons that will fail to please more right-wing readers, Mulder points out that Fitzsimmons’ ex-girlfriend is missing from the scene despite being on duty at the burger chain, and also notes that the shooter appeared to have been aiming in a specific direction, and not at the crowds of people trying to flee. Meanwhile, somebody is watching the scene from the crowds. “PHA02 FIELD EXPERIMENT INITIATING” the text on their camera reads as it identifies Mulder and Scully by name.
Mulder and Scully begin investigating the scene and soon they are in the thick of things when another active shooter situation begins, the earlier victim now having stolen an officer’s gun and repeating Fitzsimmons’ entreaties. “The holes… we’ll all fall,” she cries while Scully dramatically rescues the woman’s baby and takes aim with her own weapon. Once the cops take down this second shooter, Mulder realises where Fitzsimmons was trying to get to and heads up to the roof to discover the ex-girlfriend - Kim - and a hostage situation in progress. “I never wanted it to be like this,” Kim tells him, staring into the distance, “I don’t want to miss this”. Her eyes glow the same fiery orange we saw earlier, and she leaps from the roof. Downstairs, Scully is shocked to see the tiny baby she was cradling in her arms stand up in its pram, staring upwards towards the ceiling. All the while, we see glimpses through the lens of our mysterious “watcher”, each one bearing concerning captions: “EGROUP SUB 02 EXP +29 HRS.”
Back at FBI Headquarters, Mulder physically attacks Skinner a la "Anasazi", which seems more than a little out-of-character this far into the pair’s relationship. He demands to know what happened at the mall but Skinner is having none of Mulder’s crap and hits back, proving that he remains the stronger man. Go Skinman! Of course, “whatever [Mulder and Scully] both stumbled into” has been classified leaving Skinner none-the-wiser. All he can tell them is that “somebody wanted you at that shopping mall,” just as they wanted the events that occurred there to take place. He sends the pair home to get some rest, but as he does we see our mystery voyeur approach Kim's bizarrely unguarded body and whisper to her, “gaze upward… toward the holes in the sky,” revealing his own eyes glowing with the same orange light. The camera we have been looking through focuses on Mulder and Scully. “CGROUP *NEW SUB” it reads.
IDW has their work cut out with this new series given how many fans currently feel burned by Seasons 10 and 11 being publicised as canon, then suddenly dropped from that status once Fox brought the TV show back. I have to admit feeling slightly put off by the introduction of yet another overarching conspiracy with a shadowy bad guy manipulating Mulder and Scully given that the series is supposedly set during the short miniseries. Honestly, I would have preferred to just see Mulder and Scully investigating monsters, mutants, and murderers together rather than dragging in yet another plot line to keep track of. Wasn't the "new" conspiracy Mulder uncovered in "My Struggle Part One" enough to work with?
I also find myself torn on the use of an active shooter situation as the backdrop to this story. On the one hand, it is a tragic fact of American life in 2016 that these types of events increasingly commonplace, and The X-Files does indeed have a history of taking current and historical events and imbuing them with a darker, more conspiratorial edge. This issue merely continues a long-standing precedent. On the other hand, there is an unshakable feeling that the story somehow cashes in on these tragedies, using a situation that too many have been devastatingly affected by in order to gain cultural brownie points. "This is the modern X-Files! Look how relevant we are!" it screams. Still, I'll be interested to see where this goes, and to see how this new modernised version of my favorite partnership translates into comics.
Don't forget to pick up your own copy of The X-Files 2016 #1, either digitally or from your local comic book store.