Two weeks ago we left our plucky duo of X-Files agents in dire straights. Mulder had been dragged before an international cabal of powerful men, and Scully was on the run from their associates in black. Why worry about them anymore?! Find out if our favourite agents succeeded in their private investigations or if it was all money for nothing in our review of Topps' The X-Files #6: "Firebird" part three after the jump.
Title: Firebird 3/3 or "A Brief Authority"
Writer: Stefan Petrucha
Illustrator: Charles Adlard
Published: June 1995
Currently Available: X-Files Classics Volume 1
We open this issue on the same scene that closed out the previous month as Mulder faces down a room full of powerful men with his usual aplomb. The men take pleasure in demonstrating their power, showing Mulder that all his proof, such as Doctor Florensky's skull, is in their hands, as is the flow of public information about the recent events. However their posturing soon proves to be a front. The firebird's power has grown out of control and they believe only the old shaman, Khobka, knows how to stop it and Mulder might be the only person who he will speak to. If Mulder doesn't agree to cooperate then General Shadenfreud (no, really, that's his name) will blow the creature to kingdom come, and everyone in the same State along with it.
Across town Scully is starring in her own action movie. It's great to see this role reversal as on the show it was so often Mulder jumping onto trains or racing off to Russia, or Hong Kong, or Alaska in rash pursuit of some thin thread of "Truth". It's really fun to watch Scully run about shooting at bad guys and leaping into speeding Jeeps while Mulder sits around waiting. Scully could always run with the big boys and here she gets the opportunity to demonstrate that. The owner of the Jeep is Walks with Fox and his friend who show Scully the footage they shot of Mulder's arrest while speeding after the fleeing men in black. Scully dramatically takes over driving, shouting a precursor to Fight the Future's classic line as she yells "Don't look. Don't think." and they race across the desert toward the firebird who annihilates the cars they were chasing. Pushing for better footage, Walks with Fox's friend is destroyed by the same forces as the military watch on with tanks at the ready.
Back at the Secret Government Facility (SGF), Mulder is being Mulder and refusing to cooperate. The men in black gloat over him by revealing that Scully was seen in the firebird's presence and is now "probably already dead". The revelation prompts Mulder to agree to speak with Khobka who carefully weaves the tale of the firebird in with real world Siberian mythology in the best tradition of X-Files stories. Mulder assures Khobka that he understands, while out in the desert the tanks fire on the firebird/Phoenix to no avail. All that is left behind are the ruins of half a dozen tanks which now appear as ancient as the creature itself.
After the failure, inside the SGF an evacuation is underway. As people race to flee the building the secret cabal who were so recently questioning Mulder agree to launch nuclear weapons on the firebird. "Who shall we blame - Iran, Iraq, or North Korea?" one asks as I struggle to remind myself this comic was written twenty years and not twenty days ago. "Oh you pick this time," another replies with a smile all too reminiscent of CGB Spender and the Syndicate in "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man". Down the hall Mulder and Khobka are found by Scully who has infiltrated the building in the most ridiculous spy getup you have ever seen. Mulder is astounded but Scully downplays her actions as they drag Khobka to his feet and help him from the building.
Outside Mulder retrieves the tape he threw from a window and orders Scully to return Khobka's strange amulet/egg to him as we see the firebird descending from above. With surprising strength the old man takes the egg and offers it to the firebird whose tentacles descend to take it from him. Khobka is raised up to face the firebird and Mulder drags Scully behind a building which begins to disintegrate from the creature's power, cracking a bad pun as he does. Well if you're going to die why not go out on a joke? In a beautiful, if horrifying two page spread we see Khobka's body disintegrated by the firebird. He concludes his monologue from the previous issue revealing that he feels no pain "only a sense of return". "In this moment," he concludes, "I am alive forever."
The issue ends back with the little fox who has appeared throughout the story. He sits alone in the desert looking at the dark sky as a strange red object streaks across it and disappears into the Heavens. Scully's report reads over the top of the scene, informing us that neither she nor Mulder suffered any ill-effects from their radiation exposure at White Sands. Mulder's tape was, of course, blank, and no one matching his descriptions of the cabal can be found in any database. The official records will show the incident at White Sands to be no more than a chemical reaction. "We have no proof to the contrary."
This month's letter's page included several items I found of particular interest. First up was a very short letter from a young lady named Quiena Frierson who wrote: "I just wanted to tell you that your comic rules. Being 14 and a girl, many think I shouldn't read comics. I say screw them." I agree with your assessment Quiena and find it depressing that twenty years on we're still having the same debates about female audiences for comics.
Next was a letter from John R. Shearer who commented regarding Charlie Adlard, "I realize that he's not a hot artist, and probably never will be,". After inking over 130 issues of the Eisner Award winning The Walking Dead and winning many awards himself, I think Charlie may have just cause to disagree with that statement.
The final item that caught my eye was a contest announcement from series writer Stefan Petrucha. Stefan reminds us how Scully bought Mulder a t-shirt back in issue #1, and informs up that "'twill be the season of giving again" when issue #12 rolls around; to which end he invites readers to suggest what gift Mulder should give Scully in that issue. "Some alien DNA? A nice sweater?" The winner will receive a copy of #12 autographed by himself, Charlie, Miran, and anyone else associated with the comic that could be grabbed. He signs off with some advice for those entering the contest, "Be bold. Be smart. Be bizarre." It's advice I'd like to pass on to the writer's room for the upcoming new season.