Tony Black reviews The X-Files #10…
“Contrarians,” Part 1 (of 2): Mulder chances upon evidence that suggests the now-defunct Syndicate’s involvement in the Iran-Contra affair. Guest-starring the Cigarette Smoking Man and President Reagan!
Given the powder keg that is United States politics, ‘Contrarians’ is, in time-honoured X-Files fashion, very appropriate right now. You can feel the liberal anger rising off Joe Harris’ fingers as he types every line of this conspiratorial mystery, one which is as much flashback to the nefarious dealings of not just the Syndicate but also the US government as a whole during the 1980’s. Taking the murky Republican scandal of the Iran-Contra deal, very nearly Ronald Reagan’s demise as President, Harris uses this as a way of exploring the dark underbelly of US foreign policy through an X-Files prism, and one can’t help feel this is very much his creative reaction to the right wing turn American politics has taken last year. It feels like furious expression.
Greg Scott flanks Harris in delivering some enjoyable panels which both express colour and some washed out, murky jungle sepia for scenes where we see a younger Cigarette-Smoking Man alongside a younger Bill Mulder, at the tail end of the 1980’s, and it’s fascinating from a mytharc point of view that Mulder Sr was coaxed out of his retirement from the conspiracy to, presumably, help the CSM
hunt down an alien presence in Nicaragua (which it’s suggested is where this is going). Harris manages to use this not just as a chance to see some beloved older characters, and flesh out the mythos, but cut to the nub of the Syndicate’s pernicious involvement in the dark dealings of the Contras.
It’s the same in the opening panels, surely to be fondly remembered amongst this X-Files comic run, of the Smoking Man in conversation in the Oval Office with Reagan, both discussing the danger of a guilt-ridden Reagan telling the truth about Iran-Contra to the American people – it’s the kind of philosophical conversation the Smoking Man is great at on the show, and it’s neat to see it here. Besides all this, Mulder and Scully do feature by the way! Theirs is via a modern-day mysterious transient who ultimately starts connecting Mulder back to the events of the late-1980’s, and the promise of discovering yet another new angle to the Syndicate. The issue is light on paranormality at this stage, or extraterrestrials, but they may just be around the corner.
To be fair, the first part of ‘Contrarians’ doesn’t need little green men in order to tell a strong, interesting and timely political story, heavily in flashback, in which Joe Harris sets up a neat mystery that may well unfold into a bigger paranormal enigma in the second and final issue of this story. It’s great to see The X-Files unafraid to be political, especially in this day and age.