X-Files: Year One issue 3 has been a radical shift for me from a series I was somewhat “meh” on to a series that I am 100% on board with. This issue wraps up the Manitou storyline of the last issue, and spends a lot of time going deeper into the reason the X-Files exist within the Bureau in such a state as they do, as well as the origin of Mr. Zero/Xero. The issue ends on a pulpy cliffhanger, and it seems that Kesel & co. are continuing the theme of the current, for-lack-of-a-better-term “hard-boiled” X-File stories vs. pulpy action-adventure stories of Bing Ellison and Millie Ohio, the original gumshoes.
The art on these continues to be stunning. I’m not sure between Greg Scott and Vic Malhotra which artist is doing which time period in the series, but both of them have their own distinct flavors, with Mat Lopes’ colors tying the whole package together. It sort of reminds me how the Mignolaverse books all manage to get a specific look from the artists they bring in, but Dave Stewart’s colors tie them all together and make them feel like one cohesive whole. My only issue with the art is that it sometimes feels like the “present-day” segments feel too photorealistic, and the “past” segments seem to skew a little bit towards the cartoony. It fits the tone, it just feels like the gap is a little too pronounced between occasional scenes.
Kesel’s script for this issue was a little heavy-handed, but opened up more about the world than we’ve seen to date. I don’t know how much of the second issue was authorial choice and how much was editorial interference, but it felt like an extremely awkward pacing move. All of a sudden, you had to have a little bit of background knowledge of an episode of the show that aired 20 years ago. It wasn’t fair to ask the audience, and it didn’t translate to a very good comic. This one deals with the things that are actually happening with the storyline that was introduced in the first issue, instead of tangential issues from that storyline, and it felt much more focused and propulsive.
I like that this series is trying to tie the entire meaning of the X-Files into the larger mythologies of man. At some level, the show devolved into monster-a-week formats, especially after Mulder “died.” Early days of the show tried to get in on a more existential level, pondering the fact that there may well be things in this universe that we don’t, maybe that we can’t understand. This issue of the series brings to the fore that there have been things that capital-M Man has never understood, and that their names have changed over the centuries—but what if they were all different names for the same thing?
This series has been slow picking up, and I think we can all agree that the second issue’s episode tie-in element was a misstep. But I’m excited to see what kinds of places Kesel & co. are going with the angle of Mr. Zero/Xero’s origins and what they mean to humanity.
Writer: Karl Kesel Artists: Greg Scott and Vic Malhotra Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/1/14 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital