Last week, IDW released issue one of The X-Files: Origins, a four-part comic series that will explore Mulder and Scully as teenagers. Each issue is double-length and features two separate stories, one focused on a 12-year-old Mulder living on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, the other on a 13-year-old Scully recently moved to San Diego. Read after the jump for our review of issue one.
Mulder's story opens with a scene we all know well, the abduction of his sister Samantha on November 27th, 1973. The events are narrated by the young Fox who reads the police report into a tape recorder before adding his own thoughts. Explaining that eight months have passed since the abduction, Fox tells us how as time passes it is becoming harder and harder to speak to his parents about what happened, and his guilt has only increased. "I'm her big brother. I should've been able to save her," he laments.
Fox has a couple of friends, Tim and Eric, who mock him for reading a book on Bigfoot. A book that Mulder interestingly refers to as "stupid" and "junk," annoyed that people care more about "pretend mysteries" than the real ones he has to live with. Tim and Eric convince Fox to sneak out with them after dark to go do "something cool" together. That night, he falters halfway down the trellis, imagining his parents discovering his room empty and their other child missing. He forces himself to continue down to the ground, needing to escape the house and the memories for a short while. It's a really touching moment from a young boy who is already showing that oh-so Mulder trait of caring so much about others that he ends up hurting himself.
Tim has heard reports of UFO activity in the area and claims of a sea monster nearby and is determined to see something for himself. Fox follows them down to the shore where they take up watch in an area that allows them a good view of the coast, woods, and sky. He's clearly unimpressed by the night's activities, thinking to himself how people are always claiming to see crazy things but no one sees anything when a little girl is kidnapped because it's "not exciting enough."
The boys grow restless in their vigil until Fox spots something, a dinghy coming ashore. Two men in uniform step out and begin taking readings before setting out into the woods, meanwhile Mr. Mulder receives a late night phone call that startles him into angry wakefulness. Fox and Eric are nervous at what they have seen but Tim is ecstatic to have actually found something and sets off into the woods to learn more. Eric takes off after him, as does a reluctant Fox, all the while thinking how the other boys don't know what it's like to lose someone. Quickly lost himself, Fox steps into a clearing and is immediately greeted by a blinding white light. To be continued...
Where Mulder's story leaps straight into adventure, Scully's is slower and more introspective. Rather than coming across as dull in comparison, it feels just right for a tale set around a young girl thrust into a new city at a vital age and is narrated as if we are reading the young Scully's private diary entries. Set in the summer of 1977, the Scully family has recently moved to San Diego following William Scully's promotion to Rear Admiral. While her friends back in Annapolis considered the move akin to "hitting the jackpot", Dana is less impressed by her new surroundings and clearly lonely.
The story picks up on the day of an incident mentioned only once in a throwaway line on the TV show. In season seven's "Orison", Scully mentions than when she was 13 she was "listening to the radio, to [Don't Look Any Further], when [her] mother came in and told [her] that [her] Sunday School teacher had been killed. He had been murdered in his front yard." It is this incident that forms the crux of issue one as we get to see that exact moment as described by Scully years later. Visiting the crime scene, young Dana overhears the local cops discussing the case and quickly dismissing it from their list of priorities, "it's not like anyone really cares what happened to him" they say, much to her obvious anger. Unable to find the solace she needs from her father, Dana visits her new church alone but finds the answers there lacking too.
Meanwhile, a second plot is opening with Admiral Scully who has discovered "millions of dollars in requisitions unaccounted for" at his new job. Demanding answers from a younger petty officer, we soon realise that Scully Senior has stumbled across something more than he knows when the petty officer calls an unknown associate to report "a problem." As Dana walks home from church lost in her own thoughts, a car that may belong to that same associate races up behind her and just as someone screams for her to "look out," the issue ends.
This is a really great beginning to Scully's story that so far feels true to the woman we know and love. Anytime something with such a deep and detailed history as The X-Files starts going back into its own past, there's the possibility for mistakes to arise - inconsistencies with the canon or scenes that just don't seem to tally with the people we know these characters will become. There's nothing here in either story that made me feel that way, in fact, Mulder's already feels like it has added an extra layer to the man that boy will become.
The artwork really adds to the sense of isolation around Dana with panels depicting her riding past vacant lots and sitting alone in church or at the seemingly vast Scully family dinner table. You get the sense that Dana is somehow lost in her own mind and body, the way so many of us are at the cusp of adolescence. While Bill is focused on studying and Missy focused on boys and the beach, (Charlie, Dana notes, is "too young for anything that doesn't have puppets in it") Dana exists in that strange point between childhood and adulthood and the sudden, brutal murder of a man she holds in deep affection is enough to shock her out of those last remnants of childhood and to begin questioning not only the world around her, but her own faith as well, and this is what we see depicted so carefully here.
Although written before the show aired, it's impossible right now to discuss Mulder's story without mentioning Stranger Things. The vaguely Spielberg vibe is present here too with a bunch of young boys heading off to confront the weirdness in the shadows armed only with backpacks, flashlights, and maybe some snacks. Mulder's mental state at this age is well-written, his constant internal monologue never able to stop thinking about Samantha no matter how hard he tries.
I love the way both stories effectively end on the same scene, the young agent frozen in a beam of blinding light: Dana caught in car headlights and Fox pinned by some unknown entity in the woods. It's a clever way to tie the two stories together while keeping them completely distinct. I can't wait to find out what happens next in both tales, although I'll admit that right now, Scully's is my personal favourite.