Tony Black reviews The X-Files: Origins – Dog Days of Summer #1…
Before the FBI, before the X-Files, they were just two teenagers in search of the truth. On Martha’s Vineyard, a strange encounter with a deaf girl sends 13-year-old Fox Mulder on the hunt for a mysterious signal. While in San Diego, young Dana Scully looks into a plane crash somehow tied to the man she helped put in jail. Two kids, two mysteries, one conspiracy that threatens the future of humanity.
Amidst the regular main series tie-in comic to the TV show, IDW last year delivered numerous other comic properties inside The X-Files universe, with perhaps the most successful being Origins, a four-part mini-series from main series artist Matthew Dow Smith & Jody Houser. Focused on the teenage, spooky investigations of a young Fox Mulder & Dana Scully when both just 14 years old in the 1970’s, it was a comic of two halves – literally. Turn it upside down you get Mulder or Scully, depending on who you started with. A novel idea, appealing to the youth market and nicely alongside the recent young adult X-Files novelisations featuring a slightly older Mulder & Scully in a similar vein. The good news is, for the sequel, we get more of the same.
Subtitled for its second series as Dog Days of Summer, Origins is set just one week after the events of the first series; one where Mulder, growing up on Martha’s Vineyard with his distant parents, investigates with a ‘Scooby Gang’ of friends some mysterious UFO sightings in a local forest, while three years later in Maryland, a lonely Dana, at the whim of her Admiral father’s transfer, discovers her Sunday school teacher was murdered and turned young sleuth to investigate.
Cue two tales which neatly tapped into the proto-characters of Mulder & Scully at a young age, establishing templates in many ways for the logic leaping Fox and careful investigator Dana. Continuing these plot threads, Dog Days of Summer works to not alienate new readers by catching you up without spelling the first series out, a healthy dose of internal monologue from Dow Smith & Houser allowing our intrepid duo’s internal thoughts to help drive the character development at the heart of their stories.
For Mulder, penned by Houser, we have the first stirrings of teenage love as Fox aids a mysterious deaf girl as she’s about to be run over and, goaded a little by his boyish friends, balances thinking about the enigmatic young woman (and another he encountered in the previous series) with connecting tethers to the bigger mythology elements. In truth though, in this first issue, Scully’s story from Dow Smith dominates and is all the meatier.
Still haunted by the death of her teacher, and unlike Mulder struggling to find a circle of friends in her new environment, Scully’s growing uncertainty of the existence of God in a world where the innocent die in seemingly preventable acts not only strikes a contemporary chord given events of this past year (certainly as a Brit) but cuts to the core of Scully’s long running battle with the meaning of her faith. The fact we get tie-ins to the deeper mythology story itself (with a delightful wink to Chris Carter’s production company in the bargain) is almost immaterial given the strength of Scully’s characterisation.
Once again boasting colourful, expressive panels from Chris Fenoglio & Corin Howell which retain an X-Files flavour while equally feeling summery, bright and youthful, Dog Days of Summer is a great start to a sequel series completely in step with what came before; indeed once the run is through, no doubt both the first & second seasons of Origins will be enjoyed as part of a continuing tapestry. If the story mechanics can really kick in now and match the strong characterisation of young Mulder & Scully, this sequel could well eclipse its already charming predecessor.