Have you been naughty or nice this year? Are you getting coal or a shiny gift with a big bow? Do you even care for the holiday? We're completely aware that amongst our readers there are just too many different beliefs to try and clump everyone into one big Santa gift bag.
And so, the folks at IDW delivered a Xmas Special that challenges believers and nonbelievers alike with two stories from The X-Files: Season 10 and The X-Files: Year Zero, both which present us with intrigue and mischief during this magical time of the year.
For our brief recaps and reviews of these two stories, click on "read more"
Part 1: The X-Files: Season 10
Review by Avi Quijada
An omniscient narrator takes us to snowy Chilmark, MA in December of 1972, back when a preteen Fox Mulder cavorted with his yet-to-be-abducted sister, Samantha Mulder. As the curious being he's always been, Mulder orchestrates a setup to unmask the nighttime holiday visitor. Curiously, Samantha has her own take on it; she's not a believer in the jolly old man - I have to admit this surprised me, I would have taken her for a Santa fan. As the clues of his arrival pile up, Mulder sets up to investigate; he sees "something" up the drafty chimney. But he passes out at the sight of the mysterious presence, and when he comes to his father scolds him for not listening or being respectful... of the season? Of traditions? Or perhaps waxing poetic about looming things about to happen?
As the narrator points out, Santa's list might not be a simplistic discrimination between naughty and nice, but it might also have special plans for those who question belief in a deeper way. Fox Mulder is one of them and he should be dealt with. The holiday season soon draws to an end, and with it, the last holiday before the Mulders faces what became the biggest mystery of his life.
Cut to December, 24th 2014 in Arlington, VA and the harried Xmas cheer of last minute shoppers at the City Mall. Kids line up for their picture with Santa while Fox Mulder hunts for something for his gift exchange. He's gonna get canned if he can't find something soon; he shouldn't have left it until the last minute. But even a "festive" set of diamonds seems incorrect when Scully calls, interrupting him; she's calling so he can pick up some last minute things for Skinner's holiday party. The call cuts up, though, and he misses half of what she's saying.
Scully arrives at their bosses apartment and he seems to be a bit uptight about reports and expense reports overdue, crushing the holiday cheer. The Lone Gunmen are also there; Frohike doesn't miss a chance to pull antics and try to get Scully under the mistletoe while Byers tries to get an antique camera box to work. They goof around with it even when he'd prefer to use his phone to take the Xmas picture they're set to take.
Meanwhile, Mulder tries to get a hold of Scully but his phone isn't working. Suddenly, an announcement via the mall's PA system says they must proceed to the emergency assembly zones of the mall at once. The building is being quarantined. Mulder thinks that the CDC is taking over, he could pull rank as an FBI agent to get out of this, but as CSM appears and assures him, it wouldn't help much as these folks taking over are not with the CDC.
Spender hates holiday shopping, he says, as he pulls a drag from an electronic cigarette, which is quite humorous considering how sad he looks doing so. Mulder is sure that neither the fake tobacco nor the man should be allowed in that building. While Mulder is trying to figure out how to escape whichever agency is seizing the mall, the mysterious man assures him that they're not there after him. Mulder makes fun of Spender; he must be targetting Santa and the secret location of his North Pole shop, but the man reminds him that his family has been watched for a long time and dares him not to lose respect for the truth... whatever that means. Mulder disregards CSM's intense commentary, and leaves him to try to hunt for his present.
Running into the mall Santa, who's packing up shop, Mulder helps him with the stray packets here and there while not missing the chance to wax poetic himself, joking about the busy schedule of Old Saint Nick. But Santa turns around, almost as if casting a spell on him; a blinding light that leaves him unconscious. He comes to later on, the PA system informing him that everyone is set to leave the mall.
Back at Skinner's, Scully is getting worried by Mulder's delay. Doggett and Reyes arrive bearing gifts as well, and she receives them, fending off a drunk Skinner. As Monica and Dana continue conversing, the boys try to make them kiss as they're also standing under the aforementioned mistletoe. The girls are set to punch the lights out of them.
Memories of Xmas '73 come back, of a young Fox Mulder early on in the fight to find his sister and with a set of parents that are obviously not sharing that truth with him, protecting him from dangers he's yet to know. As he's about to go into his house, we step into the present, as Mulder is arriving at Skinner's apartment, late for the celebrations and encountering a very drunk Walter Skinner who is about to authorize a "search party" for him. I wouldn't have taken Skinner for a heavy drinker, but I get it, the man has to deal with Mulder and Scully, and has no woman in his life that we know of... I'd be driven to the bottle myself.
Mulder didn't pick up the dip but finds a mystery "something" in his pocket. Somewhere downtown, CSM climbs to a building's roof where he taunts the skies, claiming he's also been a "good boy" for looking after Mulder for all these years. For his good behavior, the man finds a packet of his favorite Morley smokes waiting for him on the snow-covered ground.
Back at the Secret Santa gift exchange, Scully gets her gift from Mulder, one that he's not even sure how he got. She unwraps it and its a Hubristic - a little fox. In the tender moment, they realize they're also standing under the mistletoe. Third time's the charm, and they lock lips while the boys snap a picture with their antique camera.
The X-Files: Season 10 - "Greetings" is written by Joe Harris, with art by Matthew Dow Smith and Colors by Jordie Bellaire. Letters by Shawn Lee, edited by Denton J. Tipton and executive produced by Chris Carter.
I found the story fun, though I have to say that I found the more interesting aspects of the story at the intriguing end of the deal, meaning: The vintage story between Sam and Fox, the unseen fight between the Mulders, Fox's meeting with CSM, and the supernatural Santa.
The party setup, while cute, left me hanging with a few questions I'd like answered, like Skinner's booze and Doggett and Reyes' state of mind after their recent ordeal... I did like the bit when Scully receives them. It felt very much like the easy relationship they used to have at some point during season nine.
I liked that this story while it touched upon darkish matters, allowed for the levity of the holiday season, and even allowed me to question: was it Santa that gave Mulder the right gift for Scully? Or was it CSM? Either or makes for an adorable backstory for such a present. Also, for those familiar with the lore, Scully is wearing a green sweater. That's always a win in my book.
I'm quite pleased with the artwork both from inside the issue with Matthew Dow Smith's art and Bellaire's colors. They're really my favorites. In this edition I particularly feel that they've become so familiar with these characters that they're now able to create expressions that while we may have not seen them in the show, they feel natural and proper to the characters. My favorite sequences are the ones in the past, whimsical and enveloping, even when they had to present the much more somber reality of a life without Samantha Mulder.
The cover assigned for this story was by Carlos Valenzuela; I loved the vintage feel of the classic Xmas theme, and they're also great renditions of their likeness. I keep hoping for a full issue with art by him.
Part 2: The X-Files: Year Zero
By Ky Johnson
Commies and gremlins and fibbies. Oh my! As XFN's resident Year Zero fangirl, I received the pleasure of recapping and reviewing the second half of the special issue.
"Merry Christmas, Comrade!" starts out in the Grummett Aircraft Factory in Detroit, Michigan on Christmas Eve, 1946, where Bing is interviewing a man who's acting a little suspicious and a lot snarky. I like Clay Hardin already. We then delve right into a flashback, two days earlier, where we learn why Bing is interrogating him.
Things haven't been going well at the plant, 'accidents' keep happening and if they keep it up, they'll lose their defense contract. As we arrive on the scene, mid-accident, it appears that some cables have been cut. Somebody suspicious is in the shadows and the other workers rush up into the rafters to catch him. Unfortunately for Mr. Hardin, he is all they find; he's proclaiming his innocence and holding a set of magicians trick rings. Alas, his coworkers and boss aren't buying his story and it's revealed Clay has a checkered past. They think he's a communist.
Back to the present, and Bing questions that if it wasn't him, then who was it? It is also revealed that Bing is on the case because of a letter that was received two days before the incident occurred. If you've been reading along with Year Zero then you know that these letters are important and are usually addressed to Millie. Clay insults Bing, Bing goes in for a punch, and speaking of the world's most unfortunately named agent... where is she?
Just in the nick of time, Humility Ohio arrives on the scene, calling desperately for Bing to let Clay go. "I got dibs!" she yells, and I laugh out loud as she goes in for the kill, clocking Clay square in the jaw. Clearly, these two have a past.
I interrupt this recap to beg of whoever is listening: Can we please just give these two their own TV show?
Recovering, Clay goes on to tell Millie where he's been since they last saw each other. We learn that he and Millie worked together during the war and also had something of a relationship going on before Clay was called out on an urgent mission. As is always the case in Year Zero, Kesel stays true to the era and injects some misogyny into the story, as Clay laughingly declines Millie's offer to come along on his mission, and Millie, as expected, is having none of it. In the end she doesn't get to go, but the two part amicably, with a kiss, and an angst-ridden goodbye.
Bing questions their knowing each other and it's here that I think I might detect a little jealousy from the Special Agent. It's also here that you might detect a little glee from me. My 'ship still sails.
Back to Clay's story. It turns out he was flying a mission over eastern Prussia when his payload doors refused to open. He goes into the belly of the plane to check out the problem but something isn't right, he feels like he's being watched; he's heard whispered stories about perfectly good machines failing and men dying on the account of a 'gremlin'. He's grabbed then, and a fight ensues. Sure enough, a gremlin is attacking our boy. Knowing that the plane is going to go down, Clay pops his chute. If he's going down, so is the creature. They fight hard on the way down, until the gremlin gets caught on Clay's lucky rabbit's foot. It then lets out a screech when coming into contact with Clay's dog tags, and out of nowhere, lets go. But all is not well for Clay just yet; his chute is ruined and he's falling fast.
Coincidentally, and, perhaps conveniently for Clay, a fleet of Soviet lady-pilots are in the neighborhood and Clay's chute catches on one of their planes, bringing him to a safe landing. He ends up forming something of a relationship with the pilot who saved him and they begin working together. Clay is now helping the communists. You can see how this might be a problem for him today, in 1940s America.
Millie interrupts him then, seeming a little jealous and a lot skeptical of Clay. He is a suspected spy, after all, but Clay assures her it was simply a matter of the war not allowing for travel and that he was desperate to get home to her. If anything, he seems to think he saved Millie from trouble with her powerful senator father. Millie is still not amused and I kind of wish she would punch him again.
Bing interrupts their moment and brings the conversation back to the task at hand. If there's really a gremlin, then now is Clay's chance to clear his name. Clay believes that iron, like in his dog tags, is the key to stopping the creature, and the man has a plan. It's why he carries the trick rings. He believes that Krampus, the Lord of the Dark Elves, is the only one the gremlin will be willingly shackled by, and that Bing is the only one who is able to conjure him up.
Bing raises a skeptibrow™ worthy of Scully and Millie put together.
We move on to the aircraft factory and Millie and Clay are checking the place out. Millie takes the moment to question Clay about his relationship with his Prussian savior and he changes the subject/is saved in the nick of time by the entrance of the gremlin. The gremlin goes after Clay, and Millie shoots... but it doesn't look good for either of them until another beast appears, a beast claiming to be Krampus, King of the Dark Elves. The art here is very well done; Matthew Southworth did a great job.
Krampus and the gremlin go back and forth for a bit until the gremlin submits, allowing itself to be shackled by Clays' trick rings, and right as I'm questioning what Millie and Clay will now do with Krampus... it's revealed that it's none other than Bing, dressed up in a Lord of the Dark Elves suit.
Awesome. Cheesy. Goodness. This is why I love this series. Nothing is ever taken too seriously.
Bing and Clay do a little male bonding, Mille and Clay have yet another moment, and I fear my 'ship is sinking. But yet again, Clay steers the conversation back to the case and questions where the gremlin will go. Bing replies that he's sure Mr. Hoover will think of something to do with it.
Indeed, J. Edgar does. In the very next panel, three days later, we are treated to the gremlin getting airdropped over soviet airspace, complete with a special Christmas message.
Later, Bing and Millie sit at a booth in a diner, discussing the case. Millie is still angsting over Clay who has up and left his job and the town. I let out a little sigh of relief for my girl; that man is nothing but trouble. She speculates that maybe he was behind the whole thing, bringing the gremlin from his plane with him to America and manufacturing the whole thing. Bing reassures her that the case is over, oh, and he's brought her a Christmas gift.
It's a four-leaf clover charm bracelet. Because Bing Ellinson doesn't trust rabbit's feet.
Awww! My 'ship is saved. I happy-sigh, and the issue ends.
Written as always by Karl Kesel, the release lives up to what I've come to expect from my second-favorite set of FBI agents: action, intrigue and witty banter are aplenty. I will read any and all instances of Millie Ohio and Bing Ellinson. Please keep them coming, IDW.
Matthew Southworth is a new addition to Year Zero, and his art was lovely; he did a great job capturing the character's expressions and highlighting the action. I especially liked his representations of the male half of the cast, but found his depiction of Millie to be perhaps a little flat. On occasion I found myself missing the specific style of Vic Malhotra and Greg Scott, but that's more of a personal preference than any affront to Southworth's work. Overall, it was a very solid outing.
The colors are by Mat Lopes and as always, I love them. There's a great 'retro' feel to his color palette that really brings home the fact that we are in the past.
There is also a variant Artist's Edition cover by Vic Malhotra. Bing and Millie are in the snow, surrounded by many little green gremlins. It should be no surprise that this is my favorite cover considering how much I love Malhotra's work in the regular editions of Year Zero. If you can find it, I'd definitely recommend picking up a copy.
The X-Files Xmas Special is on stands now. If you're a procrastinator like me, maybe make a trip to your comic book retailer for a last minute stocking stuffer, or give the gift that keeps on giving by heading on over to Comixology for a subscription to all things IDW and X-Files.
Our biggest thanks go to the team at IDW Publishing who have been great at taking us up and down this wild ride; to all the writers, artists, and Denton Tipton. See you in 2015!
All Images courtesy of IDW Publishing.