Everyone get pumped! Another issue of the "Elders" multiparter is out and we're enjoying it so!
For our review, click after the jump.
The year is 2001, the place, Klovis, New Mexico. A boy wearing a pair of high tops walks, carrying a bag of groceries when a Sheriff’s department patrol car stops him. Reveal Gibson Praise. Even though the boy seems harmless, the chief is on edge, pointing the gun at him. Gibson is obedient to his orders and remains calm even when the chief is violently asking about his destination. Toby Carter, the deputy accompanying, is surprised at this situation; Gibson is not the man they’re looking for and after the chief points the gun at him, he calls in for assistance. It really seems like the response is over the top.
The chief continues to scream at Gibson; he doesn’t want him to even look at the deputy, and that’s when we see that the boy is reading their thoughts… and manipulating some. The chief is a shapeshifter and Gibson has manipulated the deputy to grab onto a screwdriver and stab the man in the neck. The shapeshifter shoots the deputy as it falls and they lay on the ground as the chief morphs into a pool of green acid and Gibson takes off into the desert.
He arrives at a hatch entrance where he announces to a man that they don’t have much time left. He’s been hiding this man, and he’s going to have to trust Gibson if he wants to stay in hiding. The man is Fox Mulder… and he seems dubious about the boy.
Back to the present, Scully barges in into the office of the Assistant Director Morales. She’s worried because Mulder never checked in after the media frenzy we saw at the end of issue #21. And then there’s Walter Skinner, who’s been wondering about Mulder’s whereabouts with the woman too. Scully informs them that she’s ordered a DNA test on the woman that confronted Mulder at the fairgrounds, and this doesn’t make Morales happy at all. She doesn’t want her meddling in matters for local authorities. She’s settled into the possibility that Mulder has been stealing secrets from the FBI and on top of that, now he’s a rogue agent. Skinner stands mute during these accusations. The boss wants Scully to give up Mulder’s location, but she really doesn’t know it, and doubts that if AD Morales had that information herself, she’d share it with her in turn.
Skinner catches up with her out in the hall. He wants her to be careful, the forces as always are unrelenting. The more resistance they have against these forces, the more that they’ll fight back, making them all a target, striving to tear her and Mulder apart. The truth is that Scully is worried about the results of the DNA test. They don’t match as the identity of the woman fully, only a 92%, leaving room for the question: who really was the person that shot herself at the fair? Scully and Skinner know that the accusations against Mulder are ludicrous. The problem is that they’re probably being handled.
Meanwhile, in a nondescript facility, Mulder wakes up in a cell where he hears a sentient voice that guides him through the place. The apologetic voice claims that he made an effort to separate Mulder from the “general population” - to not be afraid - he’s got his best interests at heart. All the while, Mulder continues to follow the voice throughout, as it leads him into a pod storage where dozens of bodies float dormant. Mulder wipes the fog from one of the windows, revealing CSM’s lifeless looking body.
Mulder is shocked while the voice admits he was expecting a more sober reaction to their work. He has been exposed to a lot of weird things in his life to find this so shocking. Mulder discovers that Mr. X and the Well-Manicured man are also inside of these pods.
Mulder has had it and wants the voice to reveal itself to him, to confess what the objective of this meeting is. Enter… Bill Mulder. The man approaches Mulder, who’s disbelieving of the image of his father before him. The man praises his ability to put up with all that Mulder has experienced, but flattery will get him nowhere.
Then, Bill comes clean. He’s also 92% of the man that raised Mulder. He’s part of a project that has been around for many years. This man, while he may not be the “real” Bill Mulder, shares his memories and experiences. Mulder is not having any of this; he can put up with the attacks to his career but this mirage is just a joke to him. Bill argues that everything he did was to protect their family, but Mulder is swift to remind him that sacrificing Samantha was not acceptable in his eyes. Not when her abduction haunts him. Bill Mulder pleads, collapsing on the floor as Mulder tries to get away from his reach. The man tries to convey a message, someone or something is using them. They only have self control for a limited time. This is the consequence of actions taken when Mulder was just a boy.
Bill Mulder melts into a green pool on the floor, and then Fox hears a voice behind him: “I promised to show you everything, Mulder… so turn around and see.”
Back in Washington, it’s already 4:37 PM. Scully waits by the river bank when she receives a call about her ongoing investigation and the incongruence of the DNA matches. She wants to identify the identity of the rogue genetic material. When have we heard this before? That’s when the familiar shape of the Cigarette Smoking Man arrives, informing her that Mulder has really screwed it up this time. He’s probably caught up in plans that were lined up before their recent return to the FBI. Scully’s fears might have been leading her to the right place and CSM confirms it, but the actual conundrum is how do they stop the man that’s behind all the menace of the last year? The man that grew “from boyhood to realize his full alien-addled psychic potential?” - Really, how can you stop a grown up Gibson Praise?
Here’s where I get off my chair and scream “I KNEW THIS!” - Okay, fine, half the readership had been speculating about it. I have to say that reading the series lately, I find myself so confused, not because the facts aren’t clear but because I’ve been swaying between siding with the syndicate, to understanding what this figure is about, and on a completely different plate, Mulder and Scully and their quest. This is not a black and white situation.
Then again, it never is with The X-Files.
As much as I have enjoyed the MOTWs, I’m a bigger fan of the Mythology and I like what Joe Harris has developed for this comic series. Stepping aside from the conversation of if these storylines are canon or not, if this is what’s true for this universe of Mulder and Scully, the truth for me in particular is that I take them for the enjoyment they give me, and for the craft behind them, without a need to compare them to other properties. For me the only comparison I should give to it, is the ability to improve itself with each issue and the hope the care is given in keeping the voices of these characters true to what we know is the fiber of The X-Files.
This twenty-second issue feels very mature, and is to be expected given that we’re approaching the end of Season 10. My favorite sequence was the meet between Mulder and his “father”. His murder and following feud at the discovery that CSM is actually his biological father is an element that’s haunted Mulder throughout the series. He was always loyal to the memory of Bill, even when he harbored so many gripes because he sacrificed Samantha for a project and over him. This scene played masterfully with that back and forth, with the shock of facing him again, the regrets and hate, and at the end the vulnerable nature of a son losing his father, again. It was very thought provoking for me. As a character, it makes you wonder, having had this experience with fatherly figures in his life, how would Mulder react having to face being a father himself. Especially since he hasn’t had the opportunity with his own son. Are these traumas part of the reason why Mulder is okay with keeping William away from his influence?
I’m very excited to ride the last issues of this run and very curious about the development of Gibson’s objectives.
My least favorite moment of this issue? Scully’s hesitation to just blurt that Mulder didn’t come back to their home that night. Isn’t it public knowledge that they’re together? Did I miss something?
The covers: Francesco Francavilla delivers a very ominous composition but just like in the previous issue, my favorite is the retailer incentive cover done by Matthew Dow Smith. I really enjoy his work not only for the cover but also for the issue. Bellaire and he are a great team, and I found myself caught up again throughout the panels with just how cinematic this multi-chapter is.
Remember to support your local comics retailer, but if you’re living outside the states or in a very uncool place where you can’t get comics, your best bet at getting your hands on these is through Comixology.