Tony Black reviews The X-Files #6…
“Came Back Haunted,” Part 1 of 4: A thwarted attack puts a community of refugees at risk, but when a connection to a recent mall shooting is found, Mulder and Scully must determine the cause of the violent outbreaks, why the government is covering it up, and just what the connection to old secrets they’d believed dead and buried really is.
In playing within the sandbox of the revival series, The X-Files comics from Joe Harris and artist Matthew Dow Smith (and the team at IDW) have to tread a fine line when it comes to playing in the mythology sandbox, and ‘Came Back Haunted’, part one of a promised five-part epic, the first this new series has tackled, doesn’t play its cards too heavily up front; indeed if you didn’t know the story was touching on the ‘mytharc’, so named amongst X-Philes as concerning the labyrinthian alien mythology Chris Carter has crafted over the last near half-century, you wouldn’t necessarily think Harris’ issue here was existing in that sphere. This introductory tale establishes a strange, if not necessarily overtly paranormal problem, and places a few key pieces on the board before building to more of a creepy, unnerving cliffhanger than one you would associate with mythology. In doing so, it’s perhaps immediately the most intriguing tale in this run to date.
Much like almost all of the stories thus far in this revival series, Harris chooses to try and ground the narrative in a real-world concern, in this case the refugee problem surging across Europe and beyond from the Middle East. The opening mysterious death may have shades of the deeply problematic S10 episode ‘Babylon’, but suffers none of that episode’s hackneyed approach to the Islamic extremist issue; we have a case Mulder & Scully are placed on by Skinner which not only has strange elements, but also has a political angle given the presence of Firus Ben-Brahim, the CEO of a humanitarian corporation who have a vested interest in the dead man at the outset—Qasim Fayed—and the refugee issue as a whole.
Skinner, like in the good old days, is caught in the middle of an X-File and FBI appeasement of a political situation, but Mulder is less captivated by Ben-Brahim than he is the Eastern European mystery central to the enigma of why Fayed did what he did, and what it means. Not to spoil too much, but there’s a tether to the first issue, ‘Active Shooter’, which suggests Harris has been playing a long-game in his storytelling and may have a Carter sanctioned corner of the mythology his series will be playing in. If that’s true, it’s incredibly exciting in terms of where this story may go.
Though it is firmly an exercise in establishing the main players, the central mystery and connecting up to the new mythology Harris is playing with in his comic, ‘Came Back Haunted’ is an effective opening issue which blends a return for Dow Smith lending his own brand of edgy, grainy panels which add a real sense of dripping atmosphere to The X-Files world (after the colour & brightness of ‘Ishmael’), mixed with a creepy mystery loaded with a real-life connective to global geopolitics and the humanitarian crisis which, like many good X-Files, keeps it with one foot in the real world. A solid beginning for a story that, certainly judging by the cliffhanger, is going to some exciting places.