The X-Files: Season 10 – “G-23" - Part 2 arrives in stores this week. It’s the final part of the trippy storyline that Joe Harris brought us in December.
If you haven’t read that one yet, I suggest you back away slowly, and fast as lightning go to your nearest comic book store. Then settle in with a steamy cup of whatever suits your fancy and let your mind wander… because you’re gonna need an open mind for this!
For our recap and review… you know what to do!
As you may remember, in issue #19 CSM visited Mulder while he tried to have lunch with Scully. He baited him with a picture that led him to the desert, a government drug, and a very suspicious group of individuals holding a psychedelic party in the middle of Nowheresland, Nevada. Suddenly, and while the partiers are under the effects the drug, government agents raid their party site. One of them is a very hot version of Scully.
Bam! Proof that I can summarize and write things shorter than five pages. If you still want the full take on that issue, you can find my previous review HERE.
Now, issue #20 opens in DC. Mulder is checking out the selection at “Capital Head Shop” – a place for all your hallucinogenic needs. We’re visiting the past, the past before Scully. The guy behind the counter is trying to sell Mulder a piece from his selection of artsy weed pipes, even showing him one of his most patriotic themed ones.
This is the time where Diana Fowley and he were partners, and she lives up to her enigmatic and mysterious reputation. Mulder is definitely caught up in her charms, planning and flirting, when he spots the “I Want To Believe” poster on one of the walls of the shop. He needs it.
But suddenly “Diana” argues that this is not the way this happened... That’s where we figure out that we’re in the middle of Mulder’s hallucination.
We’re now in the dilapidated ruins of the base we visited with William Mulder and CSM in the previous issue. The sexy “Scully” is pointing her gun at a young man; she wants to know where the rest of the G-23 compound is. The guy is clueless and addicted to the stuff, and this Scully has zero patience, shooting him in the head.
Next is his fellow druggie; he begs for mercy as the woman threateningly rants about how this is not just a fun drug but rather something that distorted the judgment of soldiers and college students. He sounds like some old war vet, complaining about the young ones… Get off my lawn!
Mulder intervenes, asking Scully to calm down and the woman requests, equally threatening, for him to stop calling her that. He eventually chooses to call her Red. She continues to rant like a mad woman about the evil effects of the drug, and at the young man’s refusal to give any more information, she shoots him as well. Mulder is shocked by her behavior. The truth is that this Scully is far from being the Scully we know; this one is a buxom and dark version with smoking tendencies. Are we in yet another hallucination?
Mulder bothers Red with his less-than-participative attitude while she searches the man she just killed; sure enough, they had a map to the stash of G-23. Mulder is overwhelmed by her actions, just in time to have another trippy transition.
He wakes up in a moving car. Red drives, cigarette lit on her lips and wielding colorful insinuations. Mulder has caught up with the fact that this is not his Scully. He’s sure that he’s been drugged, and that she’s not real. He looks to his left and the woman has disappeared from the driver’s seat but the car continues to advance fast down the road and now she goofs around on the roof of the sedan, challenging Mulder about his determination of reality. He feels like his impending death could be very real as they speed ahead and fall of a cliff, all the while narrated by some very sardonic commentary by the hallucinogenic Red Scully. When he wakes up, they’re back at the base and all the structures are on the ground; time has definitely not treated this place kindly.
Mulder wants to know what his father had to do with this business and Red pleases him with the story. According to her, he was behind Project #G-23 and he dealt with its spread. But Mulder won’t judge his father. For him, he did what he had to do and he paid the consequences for it. He knows a lot about his father’s past. He won’t let her tarnish that memory.
Cut to Langley waking up in the desert with some seriously questionable memories about the party they were in before the government’s strike in the last issue. That’s when “Frohike” appears, but is it really him? He carries himself like the strange Scully does, judgmental and serious; this is not his Frohike. Langley doesn’t catch this right away and actually thinks that he’s come to help him out. He couldn’t be further from the truth; he’s there to detain him.
Back at the ruins of the base, Scully welcomes Mulder to what’s left of Shangri-la, where this project destined to “delve into the worst of people” was developed. The objective of G-23 was to create discord in humanity, destabilization, and a situation that the greater powers could take advantage of.
Mulder insists that though his father was a conspirator within a government, he tried to do the right thing, and so in the spirit of the knowledge of his father’s life, he has to assume that he got involved with this operation for the right reasons. Red prompts him to continue the work of his father, to fight the resurgence of G-23. He refuses but asks her one last question: What was in the G-23 compound? The woman looks at him, enigmatically. He takes the leap; apparently… they’ve been smoking aliens. And with that… she melts away at the end of another episode of bent reality.
When Mulder opens his eyes again, he’s still at the base but it’s already dark. Dozens of red eyes stare at him, and aliens are in pursuit. He wants to escape, calling for the woman, and runs into some of the marijuana crops hiding in the structure. He finds a shut safe that he quickly cracks; inside there’s proof of the experiments. He protects it from the slaughter of the aliens, screaming and fighting back. Red reappears; she’s used him to find the missing G-23.
He wakes up again, and a bunch of kids are staring down at him, passing judgment on his current state. Scully - the real one - appears, though it takes Mulder a minute to realize he’s not in any danger. He starts giving her the details of what he’s endured and he looks for the evidence he’s sure to have, but it’s gone. Just then a tour bus drives by showing the sites of the touristy area, and literally dropping Langley at their feet. He’s as confused as can be, mumbling about the events that they’d gone through in the desert.
So Mulder poses a question; if the real Scully is there with him now then who brought him to the base?
In a dark apartment at West 46th St. in New York City, a couple of men smoke it out, suited men, sinister men… as they confirm for themselves and take a drag of the compound, that it truly brings out the worst in people.
Written by Joe Harris, as always, with art by Tom Mandrake and colors by Sian Mandrake, this was one triptastic issue for Season 10. Some of the statements made in the story are quite provocative; from the lewd and sexy characteristics that alternate Scully took on in Mulder’s imagination, to the implications of the effects of the drug.
If Mulder keeps imagining a version of Scully with such characteristics, can we assume then that the worst part of him imagines her like a femme fatale with questionable morals and a penchant for risky situations? Who is the one under the hallucination per se? CSM or Mulder? And if we’re on Mulder’s point of view, what is the “worst situation” in CSM’s perspective?
That would be an interesting storyline to think about. Maybe it’s one where people live in a world with no dramatic shadows; he’d have no place to hide.
One of the things I found myself wondering was the exact way this drug worked on people. Does it feed from paranoia? Does it feed from our own recognized but tamed worst impulses and fears? What are the rules here?
Another thing I’d note is that I found that Langley being in the story served no purpose; in my opinion he didn’t quite add on to what I was learning.
I believe that the choice of bringing the Mandrakes to tell this story with Harris was a great one. Their work setting the mood, creating the landscape of this story, and enriching Harris’ bold narrative was on point. I really enjoyed the many moments where this issue dared to break the mold of what we’ve experienced so far in Season 10, and I welcomed the change of pace as much as I would have with any MOTW from the original show.
I really liked the pacing of Harris’ narration, to the point where I was even smiling at the timing of dialogue and the transitions that established a pattern that aided the dizzying feeling of a trippy hallucination… not that I know how that goes. I’ve just been told as much.
Red’s dialogue, I have to say, was my favorite in this issue. I kept imagining what it would be like to have an evil Scully in The X-Files. Maybe an idea for #XFilesRevival? Please, do not take that suggestion; this fan just wants them to focus on Mythology for eight episodes straight.
The regular cover of the issue by Francesco Francavilla is pretty simple and to the point of the style he’s set for this series, and I enjoy it. It has that trademark character of The X-Files press graphics, or at least that’s what it evokes for me.
The Retailer Incentive cover by the Mandrakes is as trippy as the whole spread and I’d love to have this thing framed sometime. The Subscription cover is a traditional Mulder photo cover.
Other credits go to Neil Uyetake for letters, Denton J. Tipton is the editor of this comic book, and Chris Carter continues to be the Executive Producer.
Next month marks the beginning of a new mythology multi-chapter spread, entitled “Elders”. Joe Harris has been teasing us with it and we cannot wait. Remember to support your local comic book store by purchasing and subscribing, and if you can’t do that, you can always access these comics via Comixology.