In 2013, The X-Files looked as if it had truly disappeared, like many a guest character encountering a UFO within the show itself. Last seen in 2008 with the release of second feature film I Want To Believe, it looked as if Mulder and Scully had disappeared forever into the pop culture sphere, a relic of the past, the commercial and critical failure of the second movie being a sign that the once iron clad franchise was finished, relegated to our affections through our DVD collections, Netflix re-watches and You Tube tribute videos. Of course it wouldn’t be that way forever. This year saw the series return to mixed reviews but commercial success, but before David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson returned to our screens via live action, IDW Comics, in a wonderful decision, brought the series back in 2013, with the blessing of Chris Carter, through a superb comic book series, with writing from Joe Harris and art work by Michael Walsh, amongst others.
The series would be, until 2016, the haven from which new X-Files could be enjoyed, and whilst licenses such as this can yield mixed results, the comic book continuation of the series, where it would be titled The X-Files:Season 10 for twenty-five issues, and then Season 11 for the next eight, was a major success, creatively and commercially, and the franchise, in comic book form, has went from strength to strength under the watchful eye of IDW, releasing spin-off series such as The X-Files:Year Zero, The X-Files:Conspiracy, hardback re-issuing of the classic Topps Comics series from the 90s, which originally ran alongside the series during its first years on the air, under the banner of The X Files Classics, as well as a limited five issue mini-series that continued Chris Carter’s other cult favourite, Millennium, which was set up via a guest appearance from Frank Black himself within The X-Files:Season 10.
IDW, along with writer Joe Harris, have basically set up an ongoing X-Files universe via the pages of some wonderfully constructed comic books, and has wonderfully set itself up as the best media tie-in series doing the rounds today. Whilst it might look as if The X-Files:Season 10 is effectively fan fiction, one could also argue that much like the recent Star Wars movie The Force Awakens, Season 10 of The X-Files in comic book form is fan fiction of the highest order, continuing the series from where I Want to Believe left off, crafting stories that are both designed to be enjoyed by hard-core fans and yet telling some brilliant stories in a way that is truly respectful of this mighty series.
The first five issues of The X-Files:Season 10, entitled Believers, which are collected in a wonderfully published hardback edition, is as suspenseful, action packed, mysterious and emotional as one would want from a multi-parted X-Files story, as it reintroduces our heroes, as well as some familiar, long-lost faces, in mysterious fashion, and runs with its story, as Mulder and Scully, still living together in this continuity, with Scully still a doctor and Mulder trying to write a memoir entitled I Want To Believe, having to go on the defensive after an information hack at the FBI places not only them in danger, but Skinner, Doggett and Reyes as well, and possibly William, their long-lost son.
The shadow conspiracy at the heart of the show takes on a new and even deadlier threat here than before, feeling somewhat more paranormal, but no less alien, whilst the return of the Cigarette Smoking Man leads to another potential new threat and direction for the Syndicate arc to go for later instalments.
These first five issues are a wonderful set up for this iteration of The X-Files and is more than worthy of that famous X logo, although here they’re using the one from 1998’s Fight the Future, which gives this series and continuity a wonderful cinematic feel just by association. As the first five issues are dealing with the mythology, there is a lot to chew on, but it never feels convoluted or messy the way some of the live action mythology episodes of the show can do. Whilst Chris Carter is credited as executive producer, as well as with “story by”, this feels like Harris’ baby. You can feel the love and respect he has for this universe coming through, as well as the enthusiasm he no doubt has for getting to play in this particular pen. Whilst some decisions could come across as a shameless retcon of things from the show that maybe a fan did not like, it’s hard to argue with them, and some, like the resurrection of The Lone Gunmen, killed off in the dying episodes of season nine, feel like righting some of the wrongs from the later stages of the show’s time on the air.
The writing is tight and concise, whilst the artwork from Michael Walsh and colouring from Jordie Bellaire, gives the story of Believers a genuine X-Files feel, with some wonderful framing from Walsh and use of light and shadow from Bellaire that recalls the directing work of Kim Manners, Rob Bowman and David Nutter, as well as the photography of John S Bartley, Joel Ransom and Bill Roe. When artwork and colouring is immediately making you think of the key talent of the show’s visuals, then you know things have clicked into place. Fire up some Mark Snow on your iTunes to listen to whilst reading, and you’ve got yourself some genuine X-Files to enjoy within these pages.
Best of all, Harris’ writing immediately feels like a natural extension of the writing from the show and ‘gets’ the characters of Mulder and Scully, as well as the supporting cast of Skinner, The Lone Gunmen, Smoking Man as well as in the ‘cameo’ appearances from Doggett and Reyes. You can actually imagine the voices of Duchovny and Anderson, as well as supporting cast members such as Mitch Pileggi and William B Davis, in your mind whilst reading, a key component for success in a tie-in product such as this. If you can actually imagine the actor’s voice in your head and the lines are reading correctly with those voices, then half the job is done and you can really enjoy the story telling.
With some effective use of scares and visuals, Believers leaves one eager for the next story to come from Harris, and as it’s a stand alone featuring one of the greatest ever monsters from the show’s history, the two-part story that takes up issues six and seven are ones that you’re left eagerly awaiting after the brilliance on display here.