The penultimate issue of X-Files: Year One’s first arc throws out some new surprises and quasi-answers some questions, but after a promising third issue, this fourth issue lets a lot of the air out of the story once again. We spend some time with Dorothy Sears, Agent Ellison and Special Employee Ohio as they solve a murder case and celebrate a very strange New Year’s Eve together, before we jump forward in time to Mulder, Scully, Dell Spoon and Mr. Zero. There’s not much to report in terms of plot, but there is a two-page sequence where you’re trying to figure out which of two ladies is the missing woman because they both fit aspects of her, and then, surprise! It’s this random third woman. It’s a pretty terrible joke, especially when you try to fit it into the tone of this series.
This is a series that’s being worked on by a handful of very talented creators—my issue with it is that it tends to be so unfocused. Essentially, this series has been an episode of The X-Files, broken down into a Shakespearean five-act structure, and then put into comic form. It’s like when people used to complain that Bendis was decompressing the hell out of stories, they were right, but it made the stories tense; with this story, it seems like Kesel is just airing it out for the purpose of filling out more issues. The story also seems to lack a lot of the cause-and-effect of traditional storytelling. In a properly laid out story, things don’t just happen for no reason—one thing happens, and then because of that thing, another thing happens. There are a lot of things in this story that are implied to be causes from 1945/46 that resonate into 2014, but instead they come off as just “convenient things that happen,” which isn’t fair to anyone.
Meanwhile, Malhotra and Scott continue to be great. My only issue with this series’ art has been that it’s tonally inconsistent in places. I don’t know which artist to credit with which time period, but whoever is drawing the 1940s sequences is consistently on point, nailing the feeling of a slick noir, but with an alien/murderer/wizard, maybe? Whoever is doing the modern-day sequences is equally capable and has a really interesting visual style, but he also gets to carry the weight of the joke sequences, especially the aforementioned two-and-a-half page gag. Picture an Alex Maleev-type drawing Mulder making his classic not-even-really-jokes jokes, and then doing a multi-page “Who’s on first?” routine. It’s not his fault, but god is it flat.
At this point, I’m on the last disc of the box set, I already know who killed Laura Palmer... I’m pretty much checked out on this series, but the end is so close that I can see it, and I just have to get there, or else I’ll be pissed at myself. But I don’t think I’m going to enjoy it.
Writer: Karl Kesel Artist: Greg Scott and Vic Malhotra Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/22/14 Format: Mini-Series (4 of 5); Print/Digital