Tony Black reviews The X-Files #12…
“Skinner,” Part 1 (of 2): Assistant Director Walter Skinner finally gets the spotlight! When a face from the past resurfaces, Skinner must confront painful memories of the Vietnam War in his effort to keep a dark secret from being exposed.
SEE ALSO: Check out a preview of The X-Files #12 here
Skinner. The title says it all as a pronouncement this issue of The X-Files is all about Fox Mulder & Dana Scully’s FBI boss, the nebulous Assistant Director who is mostly friend but occasionally skirts into ever so slight foe territory. Joe Harris takes the brave move here of removing our two legendary agents entirely from proceedings and in this first of a two-parter not only squaring the focus centrally on Walter, but setting the majority of his story in the past. He takes a cue from a famous monologue Skinner delivers in the episode ‘One Breath’, talking about a paranormal experience he could never reconcile while he was a Marine serving in Vietnam, and runs with it into unexpected territory.
Specifically, as he later recounts to Mulder at the FBI, Skinner had an out of body experience after being ambushed in the jungle and couldn’t look beyond the experience when he later woke in hospital, the only survivor of his platoon. Harris here decides to add a surprising complication when it comes to the paranormality Skinner faces, as his story flashes back and then flashes back some more as in 1970, serviceman Skinner recounts to two shadowy government agents what happened two weeks earlier before his fellow Marines were ambushed, and it’s a quite spooky story involving ancient ruins, talisman’s, and a spectral being that seems to know Skinner, or know who he is.
Andrew Currie’s brighter, colourful art almost has a Raiders of the Lost Ark feel when it comes to drawing the unknown spectral menace, and it’s interesting how he lends the same bolder, luscious hue to his panels as we saw in ‘Ishmael’, which was also heavily a 70’s flashback story for Scully. It’s a nice, presumably intentional choice to change the artist for stories which take place in the past.
Even though it’s more of a prelude and preamble as an issue, ‘Skinner’ yet again continues Joe Harris’ mission to expand out and deepen the mythology of the show and characters, and like he did with William Scully explore hitherto unseen elements of their past histories. It works better as a choice with Skinner given he always had one foot in the enigmatic shadowy forces Mulder & Scully have chased, and his Vietnam experiences are coloured not just by fear of the paranormal but grief at what war made him do. It’s going to be fun to see just how Harris tells the second half of this story as he stitches these variables together.