Tony Black reviews The X-Files Annual 2016…
Mulder uncovers rumors that the Jade Helm 15 exercises were a smokescreen for a shadow-government group to rendezvous with aliens. Mulder and Scully follow the trail to Mesa Verde in southern Colorado, where they meet skeptical natives and a man who believes he’s an alien, on their way to finding the truth.
Last year marked a change in how IDW presented their The X-Files Annual, which in the 2014 had more than one story, and last year instead chose to focus on a specific point in time in Fox Mulder & Dana Scully’s past, around midway in Season 7, so roughly 1999 to put a date on it. One suspects this was in advance of the brand new mini-series so as not to cloud the sense of continuity in the comic world which, since the mini-series debuted, has seen the now alternate continuity of Seasons 10 & 11 be rolled up, and Joe Harris’ thus far successful new monthly comic run set during the mini-series continuity take flight. Andrew Aydin’s story for this annual, ‘Illegal Aliens’, throws us back into the same timeframe as Harris’ new run, during the events of the mini-series, and it’s quite a bizarre little anthology tale which seems to want to both juggle conspiracy aspects with a strange penchant for black comedy that, honestly, doesn’t always work. Weirdly it seems to reflect the slightly jarring writing we saw in the latest run.
It starts nicely, with Mulder railing as he’s wont to do at Scully about small minded conspiracies on the web now (which serve as a neat comment on out of control US gun laws), with Aydin’s dialogue feeling very much like the characters; indeed throughout, our leads are well written and sound as they would on the TV show, while artist Greg Scott in close up really captures David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson’s middle aged, weathered Mulder & Scully well. It’s less the characterisation or artwork but rather the story where this one falls down, because it really doesn’t seem to know quite what it wants to be.
On the face of it, Mulder & Scully–in a nice tether back to the Navajo Indian mythology aspect of the alien conspiracy–head to New Mexico to help one of the Hosteen family, but the narrative then appears to take a small age to go, well… hardly anywhere. Rather than being curious, Aydin’s story choices are a little maddening, with his portly alien ‘informant’ for want of a better term almost feeling like a comic character ported in from a different story. The commentary is clear, even in the title – when people say aliens these days, they’re assumed to mean immigrants, and while Scully’s confusion about this is amusing, it almost feels like a one-joke concept, and if the ultimate point by the flashy alien ending was to re-affirm Mulder’s belief in the conspiracy and the paranormal alien aspect, then Aydin doesn’t do enough with it over the course of the story to make the final panel land with a punch.
It’s a shame because ‘Illegal Aliens’ does have some bright moments, some solid characterisation, and the artwork is on the whole pretty decent. It’s just the narrative and tonal approaches that jar, and Andrew Aydin’s work here lacks the clear throughline Joe Harris gives his comics or truthfully that same sense of real enigma. One could argue that it fits the new mini-series continuity, especially in relation to how Mulder approaches the conspiracy aspects, but it just doesn’t have the same wonder, drama or even comedy to make it a truly rewarding reading experience. Possibly one for The X-Files completists only.