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In last month’s issue of The X-Files from Topps, we saw Mulder and Scully discover a mysterious old camera that appeared to be linked to a series of grisly deaths. We catch up with the daring duo just after they located a pair of mummified bodies in an old cellar. Read after the jump for our recap of "Family Portrait Part Two" by Kevin J. Anderson.

 

21 CoverAfter the comic equivalent of a “previously on The X-Files…” we jump right back into the action with Mulder and Scully investigating the two dried out bodies they recently discovered in the cellar of Henry Franklin’s photographic studio/secluded murder spot. Mulder quickly discovers their ID, pointing out that leaving the papers with the body is typical of the arrogant behaviour associated with a serial killer. “He believed he would never be caught.” The agents call in the identities of the two bodies to Headquarters in hopes of matching them to the missing person list.

With that real detective work out of the way, Mulder somehow persuades Scully to sit and let him take her photograph with the old camera. Despite being deeply unimpressed with this idea, Scully still manages to pose model-like atop a fallen roof beam. Within seconds, she develops a headache and announces to Mulder that she’s going for a lie-down. Rapidly losing consciousness as she staggers near drunkenly to the bedroom, Scully notices that all the trees surrounding the old shack are dead or dying. Before she can alert Mulder, who has rushed off to the darkroom to develop her picture, of either this discovery or how rapidly unwell she has become, she passes out.

Impressed with his own photography skills which he puts down to beginner’s luck, Mulder leaves the darkroom to show Scully his handiwork, only to find her in a deep sleep on Franklin’s bed. In a rather out of character move, he notes the way both Scully and Mister Dubay suddenly became exhausted after having their pictures taken but puts it down to the flu rather than anything more sinister. The identity of the victims is faxed (ahh the 90s) through to the shack and Mulder decides to hunt through Franklin’s records to see if he can find any connection to the victims. He immediately discovers a book that conveniently bears the same symbols found on the camera on its cover. A good place to start.

21 Panel 1The book so happens to be “The Testament of Henry Franklin” in which our serial killer has written down the entire story of the camera, the soul-feeding incubus, and his murderous photographic studio in helpful scrapbook format. There are even pictures. Mulder learns through the book that the incubus started out stealing only fragments of souls, feeding through the camera. Patrons of Franklin’s studio would unknowingly “sacrifice a piece of their soul to feed a demonic creature a little bit at a time”. But soon the incubus grew in power and demanded more. One day a young girl collapsed after her picture was taken and Franklin decided to close the studio in order to stop the creature from killing. Soon, Franklin, who had stayed young thanks to the incubus, began rapidly aging thanks to the creature attacking him in desperation. Eventually, it used its power to lure new victims to the studio and a weakened Franklin gave in and agreed to photograph them. Now ravenous, the incubus drained its new victims entirely, “leaving nothing more than dead, empty husks.” Lovely. Mulder, seemingly oblivious that he recently took Scully’s photo with the same murderous contraption, goes to wake her up from her nap. He finds her in exactly, *exactly*, the same position that he left her and notices that her skin has dried out making her look older. Suddenly scared, he begins shaking her in a vain effort to wake her up.

At that moment, a boom at the door announces the arrival of Welfft Gunthers, the original owner of the camera. “I have come for it,” he says by way of a Hammer Horror style introduction and looking for all the word like Boris Karloff’s ugly step-brother. On discovering Gunthers’ connection to the camera, Mulder literally drags the old man through the shack in the hope that he can help save Scully. Gunthers tells Mulder the only way to save her is to destroy everything but gives chase when Mulder sets off to do just that. “It’s the only thing keeping me alive! I am one hundred, twenty-four years old!” he shouts. “Yeah, and you look every day of it,” Mulder retorts before racing into the darkroom and hurling the jar containing the incubus to the ground.

21 Panel 2An enormous firestorm swirls up from the jar and Mulder realises he didn’t destroy the incubus, he merely unleashed it. He escapes the darkroom just in time before the room explodes into a swirling vortex of flame. Finally having the kind of crazy yet accurate brainwave we expect from him, Mulder grabs the final photographic plate and takes a picture of the firestorm with the camera, extinguishing the flames when they are sucked inside through the lens. Mulder darts back to the darkroom, which is inexplicably still usable, and develops the image which looks like a bad Van Gogh, all swirling coils of nothingness. He exits the room and kicks the camera to the ground, destroying it too.

Across the building, Scully has woken up back to normal and entirely oblivious to the devastation that has been occurring all around her. With an amused grin, Mulder offers to write up the report on this case, seeing as Scully “slept through all the excitement.”

 

Read this comic and more for yourself in X-Files Classics: Volume 3.

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