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Our bi-weekly look back at the classic X-Files comics published by Topps in the mid-1990s continues with issue #3: "The Return". Read after the jump for our recap.

Title: The Return/A Little Dream of Me
Writer: Stefan Petrucha
Illustrator: Charles Adlard
Published: March 1995
Currently Available:X-Files Classics Volume 1


3 Cover

Continuing on from last month's story, the third issue of The X-Files gives us a little change before we've even opened the first page. This month's cover, as well as giving us the usual details about the team responsible for bringing the issue to us, asks, "Will Mulder betray his country to save his sister?" It's a challenging question without an immediately obvious answer. It's also worth considering that this issue was released just weeks after the "Colony"/"End Game" two-parter originally aired, meaning that speculation about Samantha was high among fans.

The issue opens in the Pentagon, specifically in the room where we've seen the Cigarette Smoking Man stowing evidence since the pilot. Today however it's Mulder who's in there, running frantically down the aisles and pulling down boxes while he gives us a narrated monologue about truth. He finds evidence but throws it aside until he comes to a drawer marked "Samantha Mulder", her name covered by a large red cross. Opening the drawer Mulder is devastated to discover his sister's corpse lying as if stored in a morgue. We cut to some beautifully rendered flashback of November 23rd 1973 as Mulder recalls the night she was abducted. Mulder explains how his mind "craves variation" and so every time he remembers that night, the details change. In the "worst version" he tells us, he is able to move yet still doesn't save his sister. Instead he watches from the sides, pinned to the spot "not by an alien but by an animal inside me, suddenly forced to contemplate its own death."

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We jump to the Watergate Hotel in the present day (well, 1995 anyway) with two men standing over the bodies of two others discussing the end of a project. One we soon learn is General Palmer whom we met last issue. The General is asking to be understood. He didn't enjoy killing and lying but did it anyway because, "I believed what we were doing was the right thing" - a line very reminiscent of the Cigarette Smoking Man in "Two Fathers" many years later. The other man, who remains faceless, hands Palmer a vial of poison which he willingly drinks while the faceless man promises to remember him to his grandchildren if Palmer remembers him to God. Over in Bethesda, Scully is still in hospital recovering from the orange gas attack. She types up her report, explaining that she is suffering memory gaps while Mulder is having horrific nightmares. General Palmer's death by "heart attack" has killed a Senate investigation into Neola and she writes that Mulder believes the General was part of a "dark 'inner government'". Scully's typing is interrupted by a call from her mother. She explains that they are due to be released the next day then devastatingly asks, "how's daddy?" leaving her mother to have to break the news of his death to her once again.

3 Panel 2A few days later Mulder and Scully visit the Lone Gunmen. Frohike is immediately letching over Scully while Byers gently ribs Mulder's memory loss by acting pleased that he remembers their names. It's a nice moment for Byers who can often go overlooked thanks to Frohike & Langly's larger personalities. Mulder tells him that there's "still some gaps" and he keeps remembering the name "rosebud" but cannot recall why. Scully is shocked that the Gunmen know about the "classified" orange gas which amuses the guys while Byers admits that they briefly thought Mulder had "gone over to the other side" when they learned he had debunked Neola. The Gunmen admit that they had staked out the hotel where Palmer died and show the agents their photos of a man leaving the hotel. Mulder spots a female figure in the back of a car and turns white, he knows her face but isn't sure where from.

In a series of panels that span nearly a week, we see Mulder and Scully visit the Pentagon to request information on Lieutenant Colonel Richard Dunne (the man from the Gunmen's photos who gave Palmer the poison), and speak on the phone about how they've been under surveillance for three days - while the military listens in. The power cuts out and Mulder's fax whirs to life receiving instructions to meet an unknown source at 3am which he naturally attends because he's Mulder. The meeting turns out to be with Dunne who calls him a "tool" and boasts that Mulder has been "used.. countless times" without ever knowing. It's a scene reminiscent of Mulder's meeting with Ostlehoff in "Gethsemane" but this much earlier in his quest, Mulder is less jaded and his reaction is very different. Dunne tells Mulder he can have his 'Truth' - the Fatima prophecy, an EBE corpse... even bringing Samantha back - if Mulder is prepared to do as he says. Mulder responds by punching him in the face. Dunne's men appear and a fight breaks out allowing him to run for it. Mulder takes the men out and catches Dunne in a stairwell, pinning him to the wall and demanding to know everything Dunne knows about his sister, until one of the men reappears holding Scully at gunpoint.

3 Panel 3Rather disappointingly that situation is resolved off-page as it were, because we immediately cut to FBI headquarters the next day. I'm a sucker for Scully-in-peril so I'd have liked to see the ending of that scene. Mulder is berating himself for losing control while Scully tries to reassure him that his reaction was "very human". Worried that his actions might have inadvertently killed his sister, Mulder reveals that Dunne needs him to break into the Pentagon and steal access codes so his government files can be purged. Dunne has sent Mulder multiple photos of Samantha aged "eight to eighty" and the computer analysis has suggested they might "all be her". That night Mulder, under the alias Anton Wilson (a famous novelist, psychologist, & futurist), goes to the Pentagon. As he walks through the corridors we see a flashback of him as a child fighting with Samantha and being told off by their father who lectures him about always protecting his sister. Mulder obtains the data on a floppy disc but triggers an alarm. Chased away he makes it outside where CSM is waiting with a group of armed guards. CSM demands the stolen disc but Mulder secretly switches them, handing over the other while cordially asking if the incident will prevent him getting his "performance bonus" this year with his trademark dry wit. It's a great scene even if CSM does look more like a muscly Clark Kent than William B Davis.

The next afternoon Skinner rips into Mulder for his actions while CSM listen in across the room - remember that this is set pre-"Paper Clip" when CSM used to hang around in Skinner's office. Skinner explains that only Mulder's ability to lead the FBI to Dunne is keeping him out of jail. Mulder is unwilling to give them Dunne - a killer, thief and traitor - believing that he is part of the secret conspiracy who "want him dead rather than risk exposure". CSM laughs at the story, claiming Dunne is a liar. In the basement Scully (wearing an eye-watering pink pantsuit) discovers the disc taped under Mulder's desk and questions him as to whether it contains the Pentagon codes. Mulder jokes that it's actually a copy of Doom II (released the previous year), "you know how the Bureau frowns on computer games" he quips. Scully tells him that most of the photos Dunne sent them of "Samantha" were of actresses from the same agency. This of course begs the question of how this agency was recruiting so many women who could make an FBI computer system think they might all be the same person? Scully tells Mulder that even though recently she hasn't been able to trust her own mind, she does trust one thing: him. Awww.

Mulder meets Dunne again and gives him the disc while Dunne claims that Samantha is "nearby". Mulder's patience wears thin as Dunne checks the disc in order to erase his existence. Suddenly Dunne he receives a warning that he's in a trap. He throws Mulder to the floor refusing to again be victim to his "sentimental angst" as FBI agents run in. Dunne starts shooting and runs for it, only to run into Scully who holds him at gunpoint demanding he tell her where Samantha is. Dunne comments on her loyalty, telling her and Mulder that "he could have done it... could have brought her back" before shooting himself in the head. The issue ends with an except from Scully's typed report over images of Mulder sleeping and a faxed photo arriving for him of what could be a younger Dunne with Samantha as a child. Scully explains that their investigation has been curtailed but that she has proved many of Dunne's claims to be lies. She says that just one of the "Samantha" photos Dunne provided has proved unidentifiable. "In hard science," she concludes "a single aberration in a body of data is generally disregarded as a statistical anomaly... But in the human heart.. one aberration, one straw of hope.. is all it takes."

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3 Panel 5This month's letter section begins with an "informal tally" of the comments received on the series so far. It's an odd little feature to say the least and not in any way logical, however it does offer some insight into the readers of this series in its earliest days. I quite like that 4% of the letters received felt the need to point out that Scully would never leave a body alone - that scene struck me as wildly out-of-character too and I'm pleased to see that I'm not alone.

This month's letter's section has a lot more writers included, probably because the decision has been made to excerpt them in order to include more. Twenty different writers are included this month with feedback now arriving from Ireland, Australia, and The Philippines as well as across the US. Highlights include praise from a reader who was "the youngest paid paranormal consultant on the planet" (where do I sign up for that job?), a reader who wishes that #1 was a new story rather than an adaptation of a TV episode (I'm launching an expedition to uncover this lost episode that only one person has ever seen, who's with me?), and a complaint that there wasn't enough blood in #1. The page ends with a list of some names that have been suggested for the column including "Sayings from the Sunflower", "Unidentified Filed Objects", and "X Post Facto". My suggestion? How about "Notes Under the Door?" Shame I'm 20 years too late to mail it in.