Pulp and Dagger

Graphic Novel Review


for June 4, 2006


The X-Files, vol. 1:
(Checker Publishing Edition)

cover2005 - available in soft cover

Writer: Stefan Petruca, John Rozum, Roy Thomas. Art: Charles Adlard, John Van Fleet, Val Mayerik, Gordon Purcell.
Colours: various. Letters: John Workman. Editor: Jim Salicrup, Dwight Jon Zimmerman.

Reprinting: issues #0, 13-19, plus one-shot "Squeeze", 1996.

200 pages

Published by Checker Publishing

Cover price: $19.95 USA

In the 1990s, the trading card company, Topps, briefly attempted to become a comic book publisher, and its biggest success was based on the cult TV series, The X-Files, about Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, two FBI agents investigating the paranormal. The first twelve issues of the comic formed a kind of story arc which Topps itself collected in two TPB collections. Now, Checker Publishing has acquired the rights to Topps' X-Files, reprinting the comics in a new series of TPB collections beginning the numbering, inexplicably, with volume 1 (logically, the numbering should take into account Topps' volumes and begin with vol. 3). This first Checker collection collects issues #13-19, plus #0 that adapted the pilot episode, and another adaptation of the popular episode "Squeeze".

The pilot adaptation is by Roy Thomas and artist John Van Fleet. Veteran comics scribe Thomas sticks a little too literally to the original script (no added text or thought balloons) while dropping bits to squeeze it in, creating some spots that seem disjointed. Van Fleet's style is photoreferenced, even as it's also impressionistic. The result is that lead characters Mulder and Scully look like actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (be still my heart!), and Van Fleet creates an eerie, brooding mood through heavy, weird shadows -- but the art can be so impressionistic there are spots where, if you don't remember the episode, you can't tell what's being depicted! The result has nostalgic appeal, but is less successful as a stand-on-its-own read. However, it establishes the premise of the series -- by re-telling the "origin" -- for this collection. Val Mayerik draws the "Squeeze" adaptation -- what many fans regard as the episode that proved the series could successfully be more than just UFO conspiracies -- and provides clearer visuals.

The original, non-adapted stories are written by Stefan Petrucha and John Rozum.

Petrucha did great work with the initial 12 issue run, often bettering the TV series itself. And if he's not as consistently strong in the issues collected here, there's still some nice work, particularly "Falling", a nicely creepy tale with Lord of the Flies undertones. I had previously read a couple of Rozum's stories from a bit later in the run and felt them overly grisly (like some episodes of the TV series), so it surprised me to find his stories here admirably more restrained -- in one, no one even gets killed! I particularly liked his two-parter wherein the agents investigate the ball lightning phenomenon and Mulder posits an intelligence of sorts behind it. Still, Petrucha shows a better knack for retaining the flavour of the show while making it read well in panels. Rozum can be a little top heavy with verbiage, as the characters stand around having very long discussions.

The stories cover a range of topics, from rogue AIs, to a survivalist camp, to alien abductees and more. Along the way, familiar X-Files supporting characters like The Lone Gunmen and the sinister Smoking Man crop up.

Charles Adlard provides most of the art, and has a craggy, cartoony style...that actually works quite well, sort of evoking the actors and creating a lot of understated mood, abetted by the colourists. Though original characters can be hard to recognize from panel to panel. Gordon Purcell, no stranger to media-based comics (Star Trek), has a more realist style in his one issue, but fails to generate the same uneasy mood that Adlard does.

I still retain a particular affection for the first dozen issues of the Topp's series, and regard them as just a little stronger, a little surer. But these stories are intriguing and generally effective -- though, like with the show itself, there can be a few unsatisfying, inconclusive endings. If you're an X-Files fan, these comics stay exceptionally true to the flavour of the show and are replete with attention to research (referencing real -- or at least documented -- paranormal incidents, and tossing in homages to sci-fi names like Capek and Forbin).

And since the TV series is long cancelled, this unearthing of "lost" stories proves the Truth (as the show proclaimed) is Out There still.

Reviewed by D.K. Latta

Got a response?  Email us at lattabros@yahoo.com

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