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Following Joe Harris’ three volumes of in-continuity, then out-of-continuity, then in-continuity again X-Files comics (which I quite enjoyed) and a series of one-offs and alternate reality stories by various creative teams (which were rather hit-or-miss), IDW has brought Mulder and Scully back to comics with The X-Files: Case Files. These “micro-series” have so far left much of the complicated mythology of the series behind and focused on the franchise’s old reliable secret weapon: the monster-of-the-week episode. As a huge fan of The X-Files, I couldn’t be more thrilled by that prospect.
The show’s early seasons thrived on its carefully-constructed conspiracy arcs, but those became more muddled and confusing as the series went on. In the most recent television revival seasons, many fans (including myself) found themselves enjoying the standalone episodes more than the credulity-straining machinations of the Cigarette Smoking Man or whatever version of the “REALLY REAL TRUTH” was being revealed this season. Even in Joe Harris’ run, I found myself enjoying the storytelling more when the creative team wasn’t trying to untangle the hopelessly convoluted myth-arc and just focused on Mulder and Scully doing what they do best: going to Middle of Nowhere, U.S.A., busting out their flashlights, and investigating some creepy-crawlies.
The two stories presented here, “Florida Man…” and “Hoot Goes There?” have a firm grasp on the small-town eccentricities that made many of the original show’s one-off episodes such a pleasure: the sheriffs who want things to stay the way they are, the simple shopkeepers who don’t take kindly to well-dressed folks poking around in their town, the townsfolk with more secrets than one could normally keep in a holler of less than 100 residents. And through it all, there’s the banter between Mulder and Scully. After all she’s seen and experienced, Dana Scully has become a littler wiser in the ways of the paranormal, but the simple fact that she’s no longer green doesn’t mean she will start taking Mulder’s crap. She’s still there to pull him back to earth when he immediately begins suspecting sasquatches and changelings over the simplest of explanations. The affection between the two agents is portrayed so well in the two stories and their back-and-forth is the highlight of the book.
The tone of the collection brings to mind some of the quirkier standalone stories of the television series, like “Small Potatoes” or “Humbug,” diving into the oddity of the cases and having some fun with it, but occasionally shocking you with the brutality of this week’s monster. As a perpetually headshaking Florida resident, I got a real kick out of writer Delilah S. Dawson’s “Florida Man…,” in which Mulder and Scully investigate the phenomenon of crazy news constantly streaming out of Florida to see if there’s a common thread. The second story is Joe and Keith Lansdale’s “Hoot Goes There?” Naturally taking place in Lansdale’s beloved Texas, this story finds our two favorite agents looking into reports of giant animal attacks.
Both mysteries are pretty light, with the ultimate culprits being unmasked in the final pages in a kind of ho-hum fashion and, in the case of the first story, not too much in the way of full resolution. While the cases themselves may not blow readers’ minds, the real fun of these adventures comes from the interactions between the characters. One of the most endearing things about the television series was the genuine care Mulder and Scully showed toward the people whose lives had been disrupted by the unknown, usually finding some kind of comradery with these folks. This aspect of the characters dates all the way back to the second episode of the series, in which Mulder excitedly listens to a demo tape from a local grunge rocker (played by a babyfaced Seth Green).
In these issues, they joke with the residents of the towns they’re investigating and work to ingratiate themselves with the natives. This doesn’t always work in their favor, but the effort goes a long way toward making the two leads so loveable. There’s a really strong understanding in these two stories of what really makes Mulder and Scully such enduring icons, even after 25 years. Even if the mysteries weren’t completely satisfying, the obvious love for the TV show on display here has me anxiously awaiting the next round of Case Files!
This collection is a must-read for new, old, or even lapsed fans of the television series who are looking for a couple of kooky X-Files tales that absolutely nail the leads’ voices and aren’t saddled with the baggage of 11 seasons of mythology.
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