Review: The X-Files: Origins #1

You might be turned off by the limp, marketing-focused title of this mini-series. That would be a shame because I'll go ahead and say at the start here that X-Files: Origins has a lot of promise for previous fans of the franchise as well as for newcomers. The book wisely splits itself into two equal parts, spending time with each of the series' leads in their younger days. The TV series played up the tension between Dana Scully's religious faith and her role as the official rational skeptic. In young Dana, we see a curious idealist who is confronted by a seemingly random act of brutality that could go ignored if not for her inquisitive mind. The issue touches on aspects of Scully's adult personality without filling its pages with annoyingly overt references. Origins wastes no time before establishing the role Catholicism plays in the girl's life. And it's probably somehow telling that her first taste of tragedy is connected to the church.

XFiles_OriginsFox Mulder's half of Origins takes place shortly after the mysterious disappearance of his younger sister. He's convinced he cannot tell any adults about his suspicions regarding what was, in his mind, the abduction of Samantha Mulder. There's an amusing bit that references adult Fox's need to stand apart from other conspiracy theorists. Other than his selective skepticism, young Mulder lacks the overt rebellious streak that characterizes his adult self. This Fox is a good kid, afraid to cause trouble for his parents, filled with guilt over not being able to protect his sister. Hopefully, Origins delves into his growth with a delicate touch; being too heavy-handed with Mulder could result in some unintended parody. The writing does a good job setting Fox apart from his peers, making it clear that, to him, most relationships are transient. You get the clear impression that losing Samantha was a major blow to his world view.

The art might seem like an odd or inappropriate choice for an X-Files book. It's very clean and bright in a way that goes against conventional portrayals of this franchise. However, the setting, time period, and tone justify a more cartoonish style of rendering that simultaneously contrasts nicely with some of the darker events taking place. As kids, Dana and Fox are cushioned from the uglier aspects of crime. And, of course, it will be decades before either character truly faces a more insidious darkness covering the world. The overall look is of young adult fiction, but the book doesn't suffer at all from kid-oriented visuals. Howell's art seems particularly suited to shift into a more horror-themed atmosphere if called upon to do so.

I'm excited about this book, as a casual fan of the television series and as a reader of speculative fiction. The pacing of each half is very efficient, packing a not insignificant amount of backstory into the framing narration. There're fun and suspense in decent amounts. And I can imagine the twist and turns of the plot being very engaging.

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The X-Files: Origins #1 Writers: Jody Houser and Matthew Dow Smith Artists: Chris Fenoglio and Corin Howell Colorist: Monica Kubina Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $4.99 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital