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Issue four begins the first three-part story from the original Topps series of The X-Files. Read after the jump for our review of "Firebird" part one.

Title: Firebird Part One of Three/"Khobka's Revenge"
Writer: Stefan Petrucha
Illustrator: Charles Adlard
Published: April 1995
Currently Available: X-Files Classics Vol. 1


4 Cover

The story opens in the skies of Tunguska on June 6, 1908 (this issue was published 18 months prior to the "Tunguska"/"Terma" two-parter - I wonder if the show writers were aware of this arc?). We watch as something streaks through the night sky and explodes on the horizon, while a narration in Chris Carter's typical flowery style talks about shamen and the "firebird" which came "so angry from the sky". We reach the title page (part one of this story is titled "Khobka's Revenge") and jump forward in time to November 1994. A local clan has returned to the place where the firebird once landed at the behest of their dying shaman. The shaman and a younger man watch from a ridge as men in hazmat suits linger around the old crash site. As the shaman reflects on the incident of his youth, clutching a glowing orb, we see that his face is terribly disfigured. We cut to the team of scientists below who are using a drill to reach the remains which are now buried deep below the surface. One of the men discusses his father's beliefs about the incident which he believed was the Devil coming to Earth. As the drill descends the team's equipment begins to malfunction and the fresh coffee in one man's mug freezes over. Up on the ridge the shaman watches, vindicated. Four months later in New Mexico, a fox runs out into the road causing a truck to swerve and plunge over the edge of a bridge into the water below.

4 Panel 1

Two weeks after the truck crashes Scully is doing her best Hamlet impression in the basement office as she examines a skull which has been carbon dated as 35,000 years old. Mulder, in what she calls a "giggly" mood (I love it when he's hiding something from her and she knows it), informs her that the skull is in fact that of a scientist born in 1965 - the father of one of the team we just saw in Tunguska. His remains were found in the overturned truck and Mulder postulates that this case might be "the one". It's "too big to hide" and Mulder hopes they might actually "get somewhere for a change" with it. The agents travel to the crash site, Scully in a truly excellent plaid shirt, where Mulder discovers a garishly neon pink tape labelled "Monster" has been dropped into their trunk. The tape appears to show the military attacking something huge out in the desert. That night Mulder hides outside the aptly named Desert Fox Motel while Scully unpacks. He ambushes a young Native American man whom we soon discover goes by the name Walks With Fox (maybe tone down the fox symbolism in this one huh guys?) The next morning, their new friend leads Mulder and Scully out to the spot where he claims to have made the recording. Mulder discovers some debris and the three of them spy on the nearby White Sands military complex from a distance before it begins to rain black liquid on them. Mulder discovers the liquid is mildly radioactive and Scully (worryingly calmly) suggests that perhaps they should seek shelter. That night while she types up her lab reports at the motel (after apparently dying her hair blonde), Mulder receives a phone call from an unknown source telling him that he now has "the pieces" and just needs "two words". One hour later over at White Sands, one of the scientists discovers an intruder, the disfigured shaman from Tunguska.

4 Panel 3

Over breakfast the next morning Scully suggest that perhaps cold-fusion forms part of the "natural biology" of whatever is being kept at White Sands. Mulder incredulously asks if the person sitting across from him is really Scully, prompting her to respond with her second theory which is that the "Monster" is really "Santa's cold-fusion powered sled" and that the military is now attempting to capture Rudolph. As she speaks, the sky behind her erupts in an awesome explosion, obliterating the diner. Presumably the entire page is a dream sequence on Mulder's part but it is never made clear.

4 Panel 4Mulder & Scully drive towards White Sands along with two radiation suits Mulder has "loaned" from Walks With Fox. They reach a roadblock and while Scully steps out to show her ID, Mulder floors the engine and ploughs through the block, leaving her behind. The men fire at Mulder, sending his car plummeting off the same bridge the truck fell off several weeks before. Scully fights her way loose from the soldiers and jumps down into the water below after him. The two of them surface further down the bank thanks only to Scully's strong swimming ability. Taking a look around they quickly discover (in a spectacular two-page image) that the White Sands complex they looked at the night before now appears ancient and decayed. The pair of them break into the building and look around, discovering that the radiation counters are all below normal as they step over multiple skeletons. They stumble upon the disfigured shaman who sits on the floor crying. As Mulder tries to speak to him and discover what happened, the man points over Mulder's shoulder to a giant glowing eye surrounded by tentacles that is looming up out of the darkness behind him like some Lovecraftian God. To be continued...

This month's letters page begins with some notes from the author. Stefan Petrucha explains that the page will now be titled "Grey Matters" and explains that Topps are still working on getting the print runs to the right number because many letters are still commenting on how difficult is has been to find the previous issues.

All this month's letters come from within the US and many focus on the usual things - the artwork is great, the artwork is bad, the characters don't look like their on-screen counterparts etc. - along with much praise for issue #2. One of the most interesting letters comes from an M.F. Luder (I see what you did there) from Cockeysville who suggests that parts of the story in issue #1 might be "disturbing, if not blasphemous" to Catholics and suggests that "it would not be wise for the comic's popularity to go questioning [faith] when it needn't have to." Petrucha replies suggesting himself that "it would be a shame to proceed with blinders, avoiding certain topics" in a series "that explores 'truth'". Another letter asks for the comics to "show a little romance" in Mulder and Scully's relationship. Petrucha answers that this is not the only letter making such a request and that the Topps team called up Fox to get a clearer picture of that subject. "What we found out is that they have no plans for a Scully and Mulder romance." The best laid plans of television writers eh? The section ends with a look forward to next month's issue in which "we'll see Scully run like the dickens from something she doesn't believe exists". I can't wait!