The X-Files: Year One continues to soldier on in this issue, and it has started to attempt to bring in issues of the show to tie into it. Whether or not that’s a good idea remains to be seen. In this issue, the comic ties into an episode from season one of the show called “Shapes” where Mulder and Scully investigate a man in Montana who can turn into a Manitou (sort of like a werewolf, in this usage of the term). Some of the salient details from that case tie back into the very first X-File, being investigated in the 40s by Agent Ellinson and Special Agent Miss Humility Ohio (I still can’t get over those). Both teams’ investigations hit beastly snags by the end of the issue, and we’re all in suspense for what will happen next month.
I understand the impulse to tie this comic back into the beloved television series it’s working off of, but in this issue it ends up leaving the plot a little bit hamstrung. Those of us unfamiliar with the series will have to look to Wikipedia to figure out what episode it’s referring to, and if half your issue is going to be pulled from that episode, it seems the slightest bit lazy. One thing that the comics medium can’t overcome compared to television is that while David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson can deliver somewhat stilted dialogue and make it seem charming, that’s a particular magic of the television medium. In a comic when Mulder compliments a damn fine cup of coffee “as his friend in the Pacific Northwest might,” it comes off as an overt wink-and-a-nod that doesn’t add a laugh; it just seems stilted.
The art in this issue is fantastic. I don’t know how they’re splitting duties (I would assume one of them illustrates Ellinson and Ohio while the other illustrates Mulder and Scully), but Greg Schott and Vic Malhotra have got a really nice visual dichotomy that helps sell the conceit of this series. Where the sequences set in the 40s have a very clean line and color scheme, and look more like a Chris Samnee-type illustration, the Mulder and Scully scenes look gritty to the touch, dark and shadowy, in an Alex Maleev-ian style (apparently I’m using Daredevil as my artistic touchstone).
This issue presents the reader with several plot threads that you can see moving off into the distance and take a guess at what will happen; Mr. Zero/Xero is still mixing it up in both time periods, and now we’re adding in plotlines from episodes as well as a riddle for Ellinson and Ohio to solve, but the plot still feels murky. Murkier than usual, even for The X-Files. Part of the fun of reading a mystery is being able to feel like, given what the characters are given for clues, you could solve it on your own. The fact that they often solve it and it ends up being someone you never would have suspected is half the fun. In The X Files: Year One, they’re using cheat codes: not only do you not know what the clues mean, you have no idea who the suspects are, or what the connection to the past case is.
Ultimately, this series has intriguing moments and solid artwork, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll stick with it.
Writer: Karl Kesel Artists: Greg Scott and Vic Malhotra Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 8/20/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital