The X-Files has always been a property that benefits from the slow, creeping burn; I’m not sure The X-Files: Year Zero falls into that category, but it’s definitely not setting out to be a giant-action-blockbuster-so-many-explosions-I’m-going-to-throw-up-extravaganza. I’m not super familiar with the publishing history of IDW’s X-Files books, so I’m gonna just jump in here as a lapsed X-Files TV franchise fan and see where the wind takes me. A lot has happened since an eleven year old me watched the series finale of The Lone Gunmen (which was severely underrated), and since twelve year old me watched (and was thoroughly confused by) the series finale of The X-Files. For starters, Mulder and Scully got out of and have apparently subsequently been folded back into the FBI, and the Lone Gunmen are alive and digitizing the X-Files themselves for easy access on the go. The dialogue references Google and apps, which is an interesting development of The X-Files for me; it was always a series that was very of its time, with a lot of broad shouldered suits and low-tech versions of high-tech gadgetry.
In the beginning of this issue, Mulder and Scully track down a shape-shifting panther-man with the aid of a shlubby animal control man who was acting on a tip from the mysterious Mr. Zero, which let’s all be honest with ourselves, is what the next Rush album should be called. A lot of elements of this case relate back to the salient aspects of the very first X-File, a case covered by Special Agent Bing Ellison and “Special Employee” Humility (“Millie”) Ohio, which is easily the worst couple of made-up names I’ve ever heard, ever.
A lot of background and set up in terms of plot are going on in this issue, all of it in service of setting up the dynamic of the two teams (Mulder/Scully, Ellison/Ohio). When we meet Ellison and Ohio, he is on his very last chance with the FBI, and she is trying to get her very first chance after a stint in the WACS left secretary work cold. There’s a lot of context to this issue with relation to the end of the war, the return of women from the industrial and military workforces to jobs like “Secretary at the FBI,” and frustration at not being able to serve one’s country in a way that satisfies everyone involved. The downside is that Kesel, who certainly should know better, puts almost all of it in clunky expository dialogue.
The art in this issue is very solid. It’s a slightly looser version of the Michael Lark/Steve Epting kind of style, lots of scratchy inks, lots of very deep blacks without veering into the German Expressionism of Hellboy. It’s a style that allows for a lot of darkness and mystery, which is good for The X-Files, but it also doesn’t leave a whole heck of a lot of room for dry humor, which is the yin to the dark mystery yang of the whole thing.
The only standout problem of the whole issue to me was the dialogue. The story itself was interesting and well-put-together, but with character names like Humility Ohio and plot points that hinge on the different ways that letters can be pronounced... That kind of device works really well in an auditory medium, but with comics, I’m not so sure. And Mulder and Scully’s banter isn’t quite at the “comfortable banter” stage; it feels more like self-satisfied talking to each other than actual give-and-take banter.
I’ll definitely be checking out the next issue of the book, because I am hooked on the mystery, but the characters and dialogue have some ways to go.
Writer: Karl Kesel Artist: Greg Scott and Vic Malhotra Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 7/16/14 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital