It’s been sometime since we’ve heard from Agents Doggett and Reyes. Earlier on in Season 10, Reyes was kidnapped when the Van De Kamp residence was attacked and Doggett disappeared when an explosion took place at the Blackstone XL Pipeline worksite in Wyoming. We haven’t heard from them since… Honestly, it’s been a long while.
The X-Files: Season 10 #18, titled “Monica & John”, brings some kind of closure to this arc, though don’t expect that it will answer all your questions, as we’re used with all things X-Files.
For my recap and review, click on 'Read More'
Since we last saw her, a mysterious man has kept Monica captive but unharmed in a dark underground cell on a farm in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She may not be his only prize, but we know from him that her captivity, and their time left together, might be coming to an end soon. This man navigates the nearby community with ease, even frequenting something as common as a post office, where we learn that indeed a general alert has been given about Monica and John’s disappearance. To the postal clerk, the man seems familiar, and that may be because he looks like a weathered version of… John Doggett himself.
A flashback narrates how Doggett disappeared: in the midst of the confusion during the explosion, an Acolyte shapeshifted to his form, killing the witnesses, and taking the agent with him. In present time, we land in Doggett’s cell, where he’s spent “eighteen months, two weeks and three days,” routinely interacting with his captor. Every day the same, until today.
Something has changed that has pushed this entity’s patience to run thin and he shows himself to attack John in his frustration. He has been waiting for a sign as to what to do, an instruction. In the hastiness of this encounter, he allows John to exit his cell and roam the hallways of the underground structure. There he learns that he’s not the only one; Reyes’ badge hangs alongside his, and he dashes to look for her. She attacks him at first, suspicious of his true identity; he could just be the Acolyte but John rushes to assure it is him.
Back in Washington, D.C., Scully is manning the office by herself while Mulder is away, dealing with the Monte Propps case (a storyline that we’ll learn in detail in the new Millennium comics). Just then, Skinner comes in to inform her of the situation in South Dakota. The postal clerk alerted that a man matching Doggett’s description had been in her branch and they have to get going.
On the farm, while John and Monica try to make their way out, they run into their captor. He has finally received the sign he was waiting for; they’re supposed to kill him. John doesn’t want to do this, he believes in hard justice, bringing him to the authorities - he doesn’t understand the significance of their captivity. Reyes doesn’t wait for further discussions, and stabs the entity with a Stiletto, causing the being to dissolve into a green steaming puddle. For her, John doesn’t “get it”, the outside world forgot about them… about all of them.
Just then Scully and company arrives, running into a somewhat distraught Reyes. Scully rushes in, calling out for the paramedics and then she notices, effusively, that Doggett is also there, safe and sound. He vows to testify in front of whatever board that will hear them, but for the time being, they’re fine, and the issue comes to a close.
Now, there are a number of things I liked about #18. For the most part, I believe that Doggett and Reyes’ characterizations are good, both in their voices and art wise, especially Doggett’s true to character monologue on how he’d profiled his captor. I could hear these words come out of Robert Patrick’s lips any day; I can even predict his mannerisms, and no nonsense attitude towards this situation.
Dow Smith does a great job with the character’s appearance, especially since we’re so used to seeing Patrick and Gish so often in hit shows nowadays. It’s a great exercise to imagine what Doggett and Reyes might look like today. Jordie Bellaire’s work is sharp as always, especially when it comes to the shadowy scenes and I'm such a sucker for the work done in parallel realities and flashbacks. I think in this particular issue the colors were vital to translate the mood and reinforce the stregth of those, reinforcing the stakes brought by the script.
I think by now this series has settled comfortably on it's visual identity. Since the first issue I've liked the raw, almost story board look that was chosen for most of the episodes. For me this is the comic book translation of what the show did with the play of shadows, framing and coloring that their directors and cinematographers made so famous. I'll be even more honest with you, this following panel killed me. I'm a romantic, not much I can do about it.
Francesco Francavilla’s cover is great, one of my favorites from his latest, and Tom Mandrake’s Artist Edition cover is quite amazing, though I question if this being an issue based on Monica and John, it would have been better to feature them instead. The subscription cover might be a great asset if you can get this puppy to one of the upcoming conventions and get it personalized by any of the involved artists.
Now, coming back to the plot of the issue, I have to admit that the moments that bother me tip the balance to an unfavorable impression overall for me. I’m at odds with some of the interactions between the characters and even the outcome of the storyline. It's hard to settle when you know that this is a one-shot for now, even when there are plenty of opportunities to tap back into this storyline later on.
On a personal level and giving full disclosure, I’m a gigantic fan of Monica and John, as much as I am of Mulder and Scully. You can call me a DRiper and I’ll wear that as a badge of honor as part of that audience that put faith and gave a chance to what the writers attempted to do in the last seasons of the show. I have entertained more scenarios than I care to admit about the possible state of affairs for them were they to be involved in a possible third picture, but in no way I’m basing my opinion in a head canon that wasn’t a direct result of what the show presented to us.
When The X-Files ended, and even throughout the development of Monica and John’s back stories during seasons eight and nine, we learned that not only did they share very difficult times together in the past but also during their stint on the X-Files. They went to great lengths to fight for each other’s safety and their “relationship” - whatever the unspoken nature of it was. The inkling at the end of season nine, based on episodes like “4D”, “Audrey Pauley”, “Release”, “John Doe”, “The Truth” and even “Sunshine Days” is that they were leaning towards a romantic relationship, something even backed by Barbara Doggett’s opinion. Monica and Doggett were at ease with each other sharing some time during the finale, if you’re to judge by their informal attire at Doggett’s residence. Let’s be honest here, the wardrobe department of this show hardly left these poor actors out of a suit without a purpose when they shared a scene with other people, and there they were, in undershirts and casual outfits, hanging out in Falls Church, VA. They were the sexy, flirty side of season 8 and 9 with a heartbreaking backstory that brought to The X-Files a different texture, less poetic, less platonic but still very full of promise.
Why do I bring this up? When John finds Monica’s badge alongside his own in the basement, the sense of urgency that’s there is not the one I’d expect from him. When he calls out for her, he calls for “Agent Reyes” not “Monica”. I understand being cautious, bracing for impact, but we’re talking about an old friend of his that might be in danger. I am rewarded though by the moment between them once they make sure that they’re their true selves; it’s as touching on a comic book panel as it can be and I imagine the moment being quite breathtaking were I to see this on screen. But the previous setting threw me off. What is the back story for these characters from the moment we last saw them in the show to the people they are today?
The same uneasiness goes for Scully’s effusive reaction upon encountering Doggett. While I agree that they share a great amount of empathy and closeness because of their partnership and experiences together while in the FBI, the truth is that: 1) we see none of this worry seeded in previous issues that make this reaction come naturally and expected, and 2) a part of me is not comfortable with the fact that she’s reacted to his return with such emotional force, comparable to the moment when Mulder returns, overtaken by an entity in "Pilgrims, Part 3". To each their own, but my opinion is that the intensity should have been on a different level.
Another aspect that left me unsatisfied by this issue is that I feel that this is a transitional “episode” that needed a longer aftermath, or even a second part. This kidnapping belongs to the larger mythology arc that has been developing throughout the season; the significance of the Acolyte’s objective through the time that he held them captive unfolds in a cryptic unveil that’s on the wrong side of even hinting that it will come full circle. Doggett’s conclusions feel rushed or maybe not deserved to me; Monica’s are closer to seeming logical to the situation and her character, but even then, the thought process is somewhat skewed.
Harris clarifies that while this issue doesn’t have a continuation, the characters will be coming back in future instances. I’m fully aware too that this is the ‘Mulder & Scully’ show. Regardless, my hesitation with having such a short window into the situation in this issue, without cementing the significance of these events even with what relates to the protagonists, is that their impact will end up feeling diluted or losing steam as other storylines weave between issues. I understand the media - I know that it’s hard to cram so much in as the stories unfold and this is just my opinion, as respectful as I can be of Harris’ outstanding job so far and his autonomy when developing the master plan of this project.