Tony Black reviews The X-Files #13…
“Skinner,” Part 2 (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.
The second part of ‘Skinner’, this two-part exploration of The X-Files most reliable and assured supporting main character, sees Joe Harris skilfully blend the supernatural with the conspiratorial. Set across the last almost fifty years, we continue uncovering the secret truth about Assistant Director Walter Skinner’s experiences as a young man during the Vietnam War; not just the out of body awakening following the indiscriminate murder of a Vietnamese child, but now we become aware that Skinner is connected to a mystical talisman found in an ancient temple, one which seems keen on visiting demons upon the Marine squad who committed wrongs in the name of the US government.
Harris, as ever, is as much interested in the political skullduggery as the paranormality within the story, and through a series of flashbacks around present day Mulder & Scully steadily beginning to piece together a series of mysterious deaths surrounding their loveable A.D., Harris presents a tale where Skinner is effectively on trial. Not just by the Army forces who serve to question him about his experiences, post-Vietnam, but by his own psyche and the demons metaphorically–and literally–coming home to roost.
Most interestingly, the revelations don’t directly come from Skinner himself, not at first – they come from the unfurling of the story around him, as he comes to realise that to a degree he traded off the reputations of the men he served with to insulate himself, again was afraid to face the supernatural truths at the heart of his experience. The story really is a logical extension of the monologue he gives Mulder in the episode ‘One Breath’, and by the end Skinner fundamentally has been changed and affected by what he learns about himself and his past here.
Some may end up frustrated that Harris keeps the source of the paranormality here on the fringes–bar a few suggestions typically from Mulder–but that would be to ignore the character conflict which dominates the story. The talisman is but a catalyst for Skinner’s own realisations here, which Harris conveys well alongside the undercurrent of Army tribunals and military justice rippling away and affecting Skinner’s journey. With some great art from Andrew Currie, who captures our main characters very well, this is a very good conclusion from Harris to an illuminating and fascinating X-Files story.