Tony Black reviews The X-Files #4…
Ishmael, Part 1 of 2: Agent Scully finds herself the target of a stalker, who also threatens to reveal a dark family secret that she’s even kept from her trusted partner Agent Mulder.
Now this was interesting. Joe Harris takes a big, brave risk as he explores the unseen history of the Scully family in ‘Ishmael’ pt 1, with a story it almost seems surprising, as a long term fan of The X-Files, that Chris Carter would sign off on. It deals with a long held secret by Dana Scully about a certain member of her family, someone extremely special to her, and how the past is now starting to haunt not only her dreams, but also her work in the FBI. To say anymore would be to give away perhaps too much, but in the context of Scully and the character it concerns, it’s a really quite shocking revelation and, admittedly, you have to suspend an element of disbelief that Scully would ever have been OK with a secret such as this.
It’s one of those rare stories too where the paranormality of the piece isn’t immediately obvious, and plays second fiddle to the character work with Scully and the central mystery of how it relates to the present; by the end we do get hints & suggestions, with the well constructed cliffhanger not just putting Scully in serious danger but also allowing a glimpse of our chief protagonist, but there’s a lot here that awaits revelation. Harris, as ever, portrays Mulder and Scully neatly, with Scully as focused as ever while Mulder gets plenty of sardonic lines within the narrative; it was also delightful to see flashbacks to the 70’s and the time Scully was living on an airbase, as we’ve never really seen her as a teenager before, and Harris keeps continuity present & correct as established primarily in season three episodes ‘Piper Maru’ & ‘Apocrypha’. It should raise a smile on the face of any X-Files fan.
Lastly, we need to talk about the artwork from Andrew Currie, because it’s truly a cut above anything we’ve seen on the series and indeed anything Joe Harris has written so far. The likenesses of David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson & Mitch Pileggi in particular are superb, and this issue has a brightness and colour that, while maintaining the same sense of mystery, gives the piece so much more atmosphere. If this artist is retained going forward, that would be great, as ‘Ishmael’ just is simply better inked than anything in this run yet.
While very scene-setting and hard to pin down in terms of the actual narrative, this issue of The X-Files is well written, looks beautiful, and takes some bold moves with character continuity I’m excited to see play out.
Tony Black is a freelance film/TV writer & podcaster & would love you to follow him on Twitter.