Tony Black reviews The X-Files #5…
Ishmael, Part 2 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.
SEE ALSO: Check out a preview of The X-Files #5 here
Quite a radical issue in terms of challenging established series continuity, The X-Files continues its new run under writer Joe Harris with part two of ‘Ishmael’, a story which promised much but ultimately, sadly, delivers little. There’s a genuine sense throughout this issue that a major piece of storytelling or clarification is missing, certainly from a narrative perspective, which would have made this look into the secret history of William Scully more compelling. Harris, to his credit, intentionally tries to leave the story ambiguous, and that’s certainly in the tone and vein of Chris Carter’s show, but this feels like one of those maddening episode that teases a lot and then doesn’t stick the landing. You may come out the end of ‘Ishmael’ wishing for a more substantial, substantive X-Files story.
At the end of part one, Dana Scully was in dire straits; her car had rolled, she was in a perilous situation, as a crazed stalker with a major connection to what appeared to be an affair William Scully had with a woman he met during his time serving in Vietnam, was hunting here. The stalker, Marvin Kells, certainly seems to have shades of Duane Barry in how he’s drawn here by Andrew Currie, who again gives a brighter and more openly expressive approach to drawing the series, but there are no alien connections to this story. Indeed you may still by the end be left wondering precisely who Kells is and what supernatural element he retains. Harris’ writing is uncertain – is he channeling William Scully? Some kind of psychic connection?
It’s maddeningly open to interpretation and it feels as if Harris just leaves things too wide, without that emotional component the Scully family mystery deserved. We do get some nice moments as Mulder enlists Skinner to help him expose the stalker, through the Moby Dick connection which gives the issue its name, but the majority of the issue involves Scully reacting to Kells’ strange behaviour. The point is, whatever Harris intended the issue to read in terms of the villain here and his connection to Scully doesn’t track in the way it could have, or should have, and while full of atmospheric and strange panels, the story never quite lands as a satisfying, told two issue tale.
Props to Joe Harris for trying something different in this outing for The X-Files, and ‘Ishmael’ as a combined story definitely eschews the traditional investigation tale to try and connect to Scully in a brave way, but the escalation and build up of the mystery fails to pay off in a satisfying, emotional manner. It’s a shame because I’d like to see Harris continue experimenting with different kinds of cases. This one, though looking good with some strong artwork, just doesn’t click. Next up, it’s mytharc territory so hopefully the run can get back onto firing in all cylinders.