Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Longbox Junk - The X-Files Part 5: Issues 31 -41 THE END!

And so we FINALLY come to the last batch of Topps' X-Files run.
Fair warning, folks. . .it ain't pretty.

This series was never that good to begin with.  Sure, it has its moments here and there, but generally speaking it's been mediocre at best up until this point. . .but from here to the end of things it's just pretty bad.

These final issues coincided with the general collapse of the 90's speculator comic collecting market, and specifically the collapse of Topps Comics in 1998.  They also came out when the X-Files T.V. show's popularity began to wane.  The show was still high in the ratings, but nowhere near to what it had been a few years before.

This has been a comic series with some unique problems from the very first issue.  I've touched on some of the behind the scenes issues plaguing this title in previous entries, but this quote from comic veteran Tony Isabella (who was a consultant with Topps on several titles) sums up the whole problem with the X-Files comics quite nicely. . .

"Whoever was approving the comics over in Chris Carter Land were the poster kids for anal retentiveness. Although it's possible that they were so picky because they never wanted the comics out there in the first place. The main reason the comics fell behind schedule was because it took so long to satisfy the X-Files people.  
They went over everything with a fine-tooth comb, including the letters columns. . . . I rarely ran negative letters in these columns because the Topps editors were afraid that the X-Files people would want even more changes in the material. Almost from the start, there were never enough usable letters for our needs.  
That's why I started including the 'Deep Postage' news items — and making up letters completely. I also wrote the Xena letters columns, but those were a lot easier to produce."
That's from 2000, shortly after the collapse of Topps and Isabella laid it right out there.  The T.V. production didn't want the comics out in the first place, and they interfered so much that he eventually resorted TO WRITING THE GLOWING LETTERS OF PRAISE SUPPOSEDLY FROM READERS BY HIMSELF.  A hell of an admission to make.

If that's not some interesting commentary on why X-Files was doomed to fail from the start, I don't know what is.  But enough of that.  We have the last 10 issues of X-Files here.  Let's do it!

ISSUES 31 - 41

TOPPS (1997 - 1998)
SCRIPTS: John Rozum and Dwight Zimmerman
ART: Alex Saviuk and John Maygar
COVERS: Miran Kim, George Pratt, and John Cruz


Mulder and Scully are being held captive on an anti-government militia's heavily-armed compound which is in the middle of a standoff with the FBI. As they investigate mysterious deaths where the skin is stripped from the victims they discover. . .weaponized mutated dust mites created by a mad scientist the militia has in their basement.


Weaponized mutated dust mites?



This HAS to be a F&*king joke.

But. . .How come I'm not laughing?


A Kentucky town is plagued by sightings of tiny hostile green men. Are they real or is the entire town suffering from the effects of a secret government experiment that took place decades before?

This one shot "what's real?" story isn't great and actually is derivative of the "Afterflight" X-files graphic novel AND issue #2 of the regular series.


Compared to the pile of dog $h!t that was the previous 2 issues. . .it's a big improvement. That's not to say it's good, but it comes close to the extremely low X-Files comic quality bar of "pretty good".

8 more issues to go.


A confused ghost goes on a spontaneous combustion killing spree of elderly Indian widows with the help of hallucinogenic mushroom dust.

Smoke ghost gets people high on mushrooms and then burns them from inside. Big fiery confrontation when the ghost finally finds his actual widow after accidentally killing 6 others that kind of looked like her.

If I may paraphrase the classic line from 2001: A Space Odyssey to describe this unintentionally hilarious story in a simple way. . .

My God. . .It's full of crap.


A secret government weather control experiment in Alaska causes flocks of killer birds to attack humans.

You can probably already tell by the short description above that this story is another stinker. . .and it is.

BUT. . .

This time out, there's an extra stench of environmental preaching, with big blocks of exposition on the actual HAARP program (weather and ionosphere manipulation) and the "Gaia" theory of Earth as a living being that goes way beyond exposition dump and hurtles straight off a "What the Fu*k kind of treehuggin' $#it is THIS?" cliff.

The preaching becomes particularly obvious during a scene where a wise old Native Shaman tells Scully and Mulder about the history of the area, and the end of the story, where Rozum shoves an environmental protection rant in our face and smushes it around like a piece of vegan wedding cake.

I'm all for some environmental protection, but this is extremely heavy-handed.  You can tell this is something Rozum was REALLY into and wanted to tell people about.

On the GOOD side. . .well. . .the OKAY side. . .of things. There is a definite improvement in Saviuk's art. It still looks much better suited for superhero comics, but ANYTHING I can find to say something good about in this series is a win.


A mob informant set to testify against the murderer of one of Scully's friends has a heart attack and near death experience where he has a vision of the hell that awaits him. . .but as people mysteriously die around him, Mulder and Scully wonder if demons followed him back to Earth.

Another action-heavy stinker of a story with no ambiguity at all. Scully and Mulder debate about Near Death Experience and whether or not demons exist, but we are plainly shown that. . .yes. . .the guy brought some demons from Hell to Earth.

What WAS interesting about this story was something we haven't seen in this ENTIRE run of comics. . .main character development!

We get a series of black and white flashbacks to Scully and some of her FBI academy friends (including the one who was killed undercover infiltrating the mob) before their first assignments.

At this point. . .5 issues from the end of the series. . .I had pretty much assumed that no character development would ever happen, so it was a a strange surprise to find some this late in the game.

The surprising little bit of character development and Saviuk's art getting stronger balance out the weak story so that it hits the low X-Files quality bar of "Pretty Good"


Scully becomes obsessed with making an informant testify at the trial of the mob boss who killed her friend, but he's terrified of demons he believes he brought back from hell during a near death experience.

This story generally stinks. It's full of car chases and gunfights (that the superhero-style art is actually well-suited for) and the ending is a load of confusing crap.

BUT. . .

Like the first issue in this two-parter, there are a few surprises that elevate it up to "Pretty Good".

There's more flashback scenes of Scully and friends, as well as Scully becoming obsessed and careless as she thinks the informant they are protecting isn't going to testify against her friend's killer. It's more character development in two issues than has been seen in the previous 34 combined!

That and a surprise guest appearance by Director Skinner! The first X-Files T.V. supporting character to appear since issue 17!

I wonder why the sudden changes. Were the editorial team and T.V. show overseers trying to swerve the comic back toward what it was in the beginning?

If so, doing it on issues 35 and 36 out of 41 seems to have been too little, too late.

(No Story Title)

The last surviving member of an ancient intelligent human/goat hybrid species becomes a killer when his mate is killed by hunters.

The ONLY good thing in this stinking garbage fire of a story is that Saviuk's art is particularly strong. . .probably the best issue he's drawn yet.


Scully and Mulder investigate a series of mysterious deaths of dolphin trainers and uncover links to a secret Vietnam-era CIA project.

Yep. Dolphins trained to kill.


This one is bad. So bad. Not the worst. . .not by a long shot. . .but still pretty f*cking bad.

BUT. . .

In another surprising "Why NOW?" moment, this issue features an appearance by The Lone Gunmen giving Scully and Mulder an exposition dump on CIA killer dolphin programs during the Vietnam war.

Another T.V. show supporting character appearance is surprising and welcome, but in no way does it save this story from smelling like dead fish.


A small town is menaced by a living, acidic slime created by an anti-government zealot mad scientist.


Okay. . .the story is a weak piece of $h!t but the creeping tendrils of slime are right in Saviuk's Web of Spiderman art wheelhouse, so the art is pretty good on this one, at least.

That and the fact that the mad scientist villain *facepalm* is the same mad scientist that escaped the destruction of the anti-government militia compound back in issues 30 and 31. . .yeah, the one who created weaponized mutant dust mites *facepalm*

It's another strange bit of "Too Little Too Late" that's been popping up in these late issues with a connection to previous continuity that hasn't existed since issue 16 of this run. The continuity nod was surprising,  but it doesn't even come close to saving this floating turd of a story.


As Scully and Mulder investigate a mysterious death and disappearance in the same small town, they stumble across a government conspiracy and hidden nuclear warheads.

Along with long-absent continuity nods, guest appearances, and character development seen in previous issues, we get another missing X-Files element in this issue we haven't seen in quite a while. . .the good old "Massive Government Conspiracy And Cover Up"

But seeing as this is issue 40 of 41. . .once again, too little too late. Besides, overall this story just isn't good at all. It hardly justifies trying to set up a big conspiracy theme, especially in the next to last issue of the series.

Speaking of this being the next to last issue of the run, there is no indication in the letters column that this is the case. That and the seeming setup for a larger conspiracy storyline lead me to wonder if even the creative team knew the end was upon them.


Scully and Mulder find themselves on the trail of a serial killer who is actually a werewolf hunting other werewolves.

And here we finally are at the last issue of the Topps X-Files run. . .and it's a surprisingly decent issue. I'm not going to go so far as to say it's anything great, but it's pretty good, compared to the previous dozen issues.

Savuik's art is the strongest here that it's been since he came on board the series. The scenes of werewolf transformation are very nice standouts. It's a damn shame that he took 11 issues to find his footing in the final issue. To tell the truth, it's some of the better art in the entire run.

The story is. . .pretty good. And by being pretty good, it's better than most of Rozum's work on this title. It's pretty bad when the bar for quality is set so low that something that's "pretty good" stands out.

Overall, the final issue is probably the strongest one for the Rozum/Savuik team.

On a final note, like the previous issue, there is absolutely no indication that this is the final issue of the series beyond the absence of a "Coming Next" blurb on the letters page.

Looks like X-Files just sort of sneaked over the finish line without any sort of "FINAL COLLECTORS ISSUE!" fanfare that one would normally expect at the end of a 4 year run for a tie in to a hugely popular T.V. series.  It seems like a pretty weak way to go out.


And there you have it.  The final 10 issues of Topps' X-Files.

If I had to describe the 47 issues of X-Files in my collection that I've reviewed here, that word would be "Disappointing".  None of the issues ever really went beyond being "Pretty Good", and that's a pretty low bar to hurdle.  It's just disappointing and sad to realize after reading the whole run that there are maybe 10 or 12 issues that aren't just plain bad. 

As a big fan of The X-Files T.V. show, this series was a little hard to get through. . .especially the last 12 issues.  From the beginning, the series was never that great, but starting with issue #17, there was a pretty steep decline in quality that just made me feel like the only purpose for this series to exist was to have that big, sweet X-Files logo on the cover of the book (And to tell the truth, Miran Kim's covers were really the only truly great thing about this series) to lure fans of the show in. 

After the first 12 issues, it seemed like what was actually inside the shelf-bait covers was almost an afterthought.  The main characters were unchanging sketches of themselves.  There was no continuity with either the show or previous issues, so each issue existed in a vacuum.  The art veered wildly from "pretty good" to "crap-tastic".  And there is just a general feeling that nobody gave a flying F*ck WHAT was IN the comic as long as it had that big X-Files logo on the cover.

47 issues. . .one word.  Disappointing.

Up Next. . .

She's the Boba Fett of the new Star Wars movies!
Star Wars: Captain Phasma 4 issue mini.
Be there or be square!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Longbox Junk - The X-Files Part 4: Issues 20 - 30 & Annual 2

As I read this next batch of Topp's X-Files comics (moving through the second year of the run and into the third), I begin to wonder if perhaps I might actually be bearing witness to a forgotten conspiracy over twenty years old! Please allow me to explain.

I've already touched a bit on the conflict going on in the background of this series that eventually led to the departure of the original writer in favor of one more accepting of the fate of writing a tie-in comic to a hugely popular T.V. sensation, but not being able to use any of the ideas, storylines, or characters of the source material beyond bare-bones unchanging sketches of the main characters and a basic outline of the show's overall theme.

BUT. . .

As I continue reading, it seems to me that there MIGHT have been more going on than even the hints scattered here and there on the internet have revealed.  "Really now, Atom." You scoff. "Conspiracy?"


There's no other explanation, my doubting friend. You'll come to understand, just as I have!  It is MY contention that, at some point, Topps and their T.V. production overseers began to TOY with the readers of the X-Files comic.  They saw it as a game. . .a challenge of sorts!

Just HOW badly could they make X-Files comic books and STILL profit from rabid fans of the show desperate for a taste of their favorite characters between seasons? What?  You don't believe me? The truth is out there!


ISSUES 20 - 30

Topps (1995 - 1997)
SCRIPTS: John Rozum and Kevin J. Anderson
ART: Gordon Purcell, Charles Adlard, and Alex Saviuk
COVERS: Miran Kim


Mulder and Scully become involved with an obstetrician who believes that he's receiving alien signals telling him to do terrible things.

I'm still not sure if Topps understood the concept of an "Annual", since this double-sized issue came out in December of the SAME year that X-Files Annual #1 came out in August. Annuals don't normally come 4 months apart in the same year. I have the feeling Topps was just trying to milk out that extra dollar while X-Files was smoking hot.. . .BUT I DIGRESS!

The story at hand is actually pretty good. Which is a bit of a surprise, considering the generally mediocre quality of this series. I'm not saying it's great. . .but any time an issue of this series hits the level of "Pretty Good", it's sadly noteworthy.

I like that the doctor being slowly driven mad by "alien signals" was actually just slowly going insane. No aliens. Also, no real resolution or happy ending. . .just insanity and blood.

I haven't been a fan of Purcell's art on this series at all, but I have to say that this issue is probably his best effort yet. He manages to somehow reach the lofty heights of. . .okay.

All in all, this issue was pretty good, compared to the other Rozum/Purcell issues I've read in this series so far. But when the bar for quality is set at a low "Pretty Good", there's plenty of room for improvement.


Scully and Mulder investigate a backwoods serial killer and end up discovering a camera that steals souls. . .SURPRISE!

Any sense of ambiguity that the X-Files comic once had is pretty much gone at this point, with big chunks of exposition leaving no doubt that yes. . .this IS indeed a demonic soul-stealing camera.

The art looks like the camera in question stole its soul as well. It's all very flat and unambitious.


Mulder discovers the history of the demonic camera in a hidden diary and realizes too late that the cool picture he took of Scully sucked out part of her life to feed the demon. . .OOPS!

Mayhem ensues when the original Nazi owner of the camera returns to take it back, the demon is released, and the camera is destroyed.

F@ck this story.

Fiery demon fights and evil immortal Nazis aren't the X-Files I loved. And the art on this issue might be the worst of the run so far.  Not good.


Mulder and Scully head to Hawaii to investigate the strange deaths of college students and discover a ghostly being out for revenge on those who killed him.

Once again, any ambiguity over whether or not supernatural causes are involved in the case are thrown out the window, which is a damn shame because that ambiguity is exactly what made the X-Files great. Without it, this issue is nothing but a vaguely interesting ghost revenge story.

On the good side, Adlard is back on art for this one and I can definitely see his work evolving and improving.


A dead man rises from the grave to retrieve organs donated against his wishes.


Adlard's art is pretty good, but the story is bad. . .so F*cking bad. Moving along. . .


A sentient overcoat drives a disfigured man to murder by draining their life to feed the coat and heal his scars.

Holy. Fu@king. $hit.

I THOUGHT the previous issue was the worst of the run so far. It's a friggin' MASTERPIECE compared to this one. This piece of crap doesn't even have Adlard's improving art to soothe the pain.

I look at the remaining stack of issues I have left to review. . .and I despair.


Scully and Mulder trek into the Montana wilderness during a snowstorm in order to find a troop of Boy Scouts who are in danger of being attacked by a man possibly possessed by the cannibalistic spirit of the legendary Windingo.

Well. . .

THIS series went downhill fast.

Ridiculous story, awful art, and $hitty dialogue hit the creative trifecta of "No F@cks left to give."


In the Montana Wilderness, Scully and Mulder track down and confront a homicidal Boy Scout leader and discover that things weren't what they thought. . .

This issue is probably the low point of this series so far. The story is ridiculous and full of holes. The art is awful. It's plain to see that this was rushed (both issues of "Be Prepared" shipped in the same month) and minimum effort was expended all around.

This issue is so bad that to tell the truth, I don't even want to read more X-Files. This series is slowly, but surely, eroding away at my good memories of the franchise as a whole.


Mulder and Scully investigate the deaths of psychics who were formerly part of a secret government remote viewing experiment and discover links to Libyan terrorists and possibly more. . .

After the utter crap that's been in the past 6 issues, I'm pleased to report that I actually liked this story enough to not cringe at the thought of reading the next issue! To tell the truth, it even reaches the high bar set by this series of "Pretty Good".

The art is a strange thing here. It looks like after double-shipping the last 2 issues, this 3 parter was delayed, so they had Adlard AND Purcell working on it in a strange amalgam where Adlard does most of the backgrounds and supporting characters, while Purcell draws only Scully and Mulder.

It's sort of strange where the agents are talking to someone and the characters are clearly drawn by two separate people, but in the same panel. Normally, when two artists are on a comic, they do whole separate pages and you can see the transition. The shared panel thing is just odd to look at.

Still. . .strange art aside, this has been the first decent issue in quite a while.


Mulder and Scully use the talents of a former CIA remote viewer to discover the location of the Libyan terrorists, a rogue former CIA psychic, and a stolen shipment of nerve gas. But before they can get information about the Libyan's REAL agenda, they are attacked by a squad of government assassins.

Once again, I was pleasantly surprised to actually be reading a pretty good issue of The X-Files. The story was interesting and I can easily see it as being an episode of the T.V. show.

The "Shared Panel" style of art by Adlard and Purcell is still pretty strange, but they managed to meld together a bit better than in the first issue. . .probably with the help of some more consistent inking.


It's just my luck that the concluding issue of what has really been the only decent story in this handful of X-Files comics just happens to be the only one that I'm missing.  Couldn't find it scanned anywhere online to read either. . .a damn shame.  This story was giving me a glimmer of hope.

But then that small hope was utterly destroyed by. . .


Anti-Government domestic terrorists under siege by the FBI ask for agents Scully and Mulder to come to their compound to investigate a gruesome murder that nobody can explain.


After a few pretty good issues, this series goes right back to being a $hitty excuse to suck money out of X-Files fans with an utterly ridiculous story so full of holes and bad dialogue that it's practically unreadable.

The new art team coming in on this story are also pretty wretched. I didn't think X-Files could so much worse than Purcell, but guess what. . .wrong again.  The art is darker and moodier. . .the new inker does a decent job. . .but the pencils are by the book, take no chances, basic comic art that would be better suited for a superhero title.


As a BIG fan of the X-Files, this batch of comics was a little rough to get through.  In the first year and a half of this series, I saw a creative team struggling against the heavy-handed restrictions placed on them and trying to make the best of it.  They didn't QUITE hit the mark, but at least earlier issues in the run attempted to establish their own personality and mythos that could exist alongside that of the T.V. show the comic was based on.  The art was uneven, but improved as things went along.  Supporting characters from the show were present, if used sparingly.  There was actual EFFORT to be seen.

Unfortunately, after the exit of the original writer, the comics took a sharp swerve off the rails in quality.  This series was never GREAT to begin with, but there comes a point where one can easily see what effort was being put into trying to actually make a good comic series disappear.

No more overarching stories or themes.  Not even a mention or reference to any other characters or past events from either the show OR previous issues of the comics.  A total lack of ambiguity in the stories that completely missed the target of just WHY the show was so popular. . .those grey areas between truth and belief. 

In short, The X-Files comics have become nothing more than a series of disconnected vignettes existing in a storytelling vacuum where the only hintd of connection with the source material are the barely-sketched and unable to change main characters and the basic premise.

I really am NOT looking forward to the final 10 issues in this series.
To tell the honest truth, just thinking about reading them makes me a bit sad.

Up Next. . .

Feel my nerdly pain and possibly a bit of rage as The X-Files limps to a conclusion.
Issue 31 - 41. They didn't even make the effort to put out a third annual.

Be there or be square!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Longbox Junk - The X-Files Part 3: Issues 10 - 19 & Annual 1

As we move in to the conclusion of the first year of Topps' X-Files comic series, I can clearly see the behind the scenes conflict that seemingly plagued this book coming into play in the form of a sudden shift and swift retcon of the overarching story being that of a government conspiracy to one of a single person being behind EVERYTHING that has happened in the first 9 issues.

From interviews I've read, the writer claims that the T.V. production company kept such an iron grip on the comics that it led not only to a disruptive shipping schedule due to their approval process (where the book would skip months, then ship THREE issues in a single month) but also to the somewhat acrimonious departure of the original writer in favor of someone the T.V. producers could more easily work with (Read: Tell what to do and how to do it).

But enough of the background drama.  We've got 11more issues of X-Files to look at.

Let's do this!

ISSUES 10 - 19

TOPPS (1995 - 1996)
WRITERS: Stefan Petrucha & John Rozum
ART: Charles Adlard & Gordon Purcell
COVERS: Miran Kim


Agents Mulder And Scully investigate a mysterious string of deaths that surround a bone fragment that may possibly be from "Eve", the earliest known human ancestor.

I'm not sure if Topps understood the concept of an "Annual" or not. This double size issue came out in August alongside issue 8 of the regular series.


The story starts out pretty interesting, but the resolution is a practically unreadable mess, with a crappy combo platter of deus ex machina and coincidence.

On the other hand, artwise this is one of Adlard's better issues so far. He still doesn't really capture the look of Scully and Mulder, but there are some really nice panels in this one.

Overall this annual swings wildly from pretty good to "What the F%CK?"


The threads of conspiracy from the previous 9 issues begin to come together in this 3 part story as Scully and Mulder follow separate trails of clues that seem to be heading in different directions toward the same destination. 

So here we are at the wrap up of the first year of X-Files and it's actually pretty good, compared to some of the crap-tastic issues that came before. It really feels more like an episode of the T.V. show.

Even better, it seems Adlard FINALLY got a bit of a handle on the main characters. The art shows a big improvement even over the previous issue. 

Is it too much to hope that X-Files is beginning to shape up into a series that can actually be good?


Mulder and Scully undertake separate explorations of the mind. . .Scully via science, Mulder via an ancient crystal helmet. . .and discover that there's more to the Aquarius Conspiracy than either of them thought.

This middle issue of the 3 part Aquarius Conspiracy wrap up returns to form as a bit of a muddled mess. To tell the truth, it doesn't really make much sense and just seems to be groping for a way to make all the previous issues tie in to each other.

Worse, Adlard's art swings back toward okay/ borderline bad. All in all, not a good issue.


Scully and Mulder discover that the Aqarius Conspiracy is actually the work of a single person. . .a survivor of secret government mind control experiments (from issue #2) who gained unexpected mental powers and the the ability to control minds and memories. 

And here we are at the end of the first year of X-Files, where we discover that the Aquarius Conspiracy never existed and everything that has happened has been because of an old woman who was overwhelmed by the mental powers she gained as a result of the secret government experiments from 1948 from issue #2 and her efforts to be rid of them.

Oooooookay. Well. . .that was. . .sort of interesting, in a "What the Fu#k?" kind of way.

I'll give it this. It's pretty obvious on a second reading of the previous issues that the Aquarius Conspiracy was supposed to be a bit more of a traditional "Deep Government" thing than the mental mindfu#k it ended up as. . .so credit to the writer for the 3 issue swerve from the original direction. 

I'm guessing that the creative interference from the X-Files T.V. producers I've read about had something to do with the swerve. . .unfortunately, in attempting to un-attach the comics from a similar deep government conspiracy arc to what was happening on the show, the writer REALLY had to stretch and jump through hoops.

The jumping and stretching needed to fit EVERYTHING from the first 9 issues AND change direction made the ending of the Aquarius Conspiracy storyline a muddled, almost unreadable mess.


Scully and Mulder investigate a murder committed by a computer programmer and have to decide if it's possible for artificial intelligence to force a man to kill.

A one-shot story that looks into the state of A.I. at the dawn of the internet age. It's interesting to take a look back 20 years with a story that hinges on the strange sounds the killer makes in custody being modem noises and realize that things have actually gotten quite a bit more terrifying since then.

The art in this one is a bit unusual as cover artist Miran Kim shares the interior with Adlard. . .illustrating things from the computer's point of view. Unfortunately, her fantastic cover work doesn't translate well to interior story pages.


As Mulder lays dying in the woods from radiation poisoning, Scully tries to discover the truth about a UFO crash.

Another one shot story where Mulder almost dies trying to find truth that may or may not be real. Is the crashed object an experimental plane or a UFO? It's never revealed which. I liked the ending, but getting there was a bit of a drudge. 

As of this issue, X-Files switches to a less glossy paper and computer coloring by Digital Chameleon.  Both seem to greatly improve Adlard's art, even though he still has trouble capturing the likeness of the main characters.

Overall, not a bad issue. Not great, but not bad.


Scully and Mulder are captured by a Neo-Nazi apocalypse survival cult in the Georgia swamps while trying to track down a reported UFO sighting. But what's more dangerous. . .the cult or whatever is out there in the woods? 

Told mostly from the perspective of Aida, the mail order bride of one of the cultists, this story focuses less on the unexplained and more on the paranoia and cruelty of the group that's holding Scully and Mulder prisoner. I found it to be pretty good and could easily see this one being an episode of the T.V. show.

Adlard's art continues to evolve as well, with this issue probably being his best. . .which is a damn shame because after the next issue, he's no longer the regular artist and only occasionally returns to the title.


Agents Scully and Mulder escape their captors with the help of an abused wife who also wants to leave the cult, but as they are pursued through the woods, they encounter the unexplainable. . . 

The final issue by the original creative team is a bit of a mess. . .there are several gaping plot holes, including Mulder shrugging off an alien abduction that occurs RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM!

Adlard's art continues to improve and I can definitely see some of his Walking Dead style in this issue. . .too bad it had to come 16 issues in and on his last issue as regular artist.


A pilot who disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle returns 50 years later, but his story doesn't sound quite right to agents Mulder and Scully. 

This first issue by a new creative team, focusing on the Bermuda Triangle mystery of vanished Flight 19 falls somewhat flat, but it's not bad.

I like that there is quite a bit of attention paid to Scully and Mulder actually investigating and following clues as they discover that the pilot is actually an imposter. . .but that there's a REASON for the deception, that being to cover up the REAL re-appearance of Flight 19 pilots, if they should happen to escape the prison where the government is holding them.

The art, on the other hand. Not good.

I have to admit that the new art team captures the likeness of Scully better, but other than that, it's utterly average 90's comic art with absolutely no ambition. I can see now that Adlard's art REALLY wasn't that bad when compared. Adlard was uneven, but at least he had a unique style. The new art has no personality at all.


Scully and Mulder investigate the mysterious disappearance of a team of scientists who may have possibly discovered a new life form. 

Adlard returns to illustrate this 2 parter and he does a fine job, compared to the crap-tastic art on the previous issue.

The story, which delves into the mystery behind ball lightning and the theory that it may actually be alive, isn't really that interesting and seems to be a bit of a stretch.


As Mulder and Scully try to find the truth behind the strange disappearance of a team of scientists, they have to contend with a hostile Sheriff.

The ending to this story is a bit of a mess as the local Sheriff suddenly turns into a laughable villain. This issue also features the Lone Gunmen in a pretty lengthy exposition dump on the theory of unknown atmospheric life forms that bogs things down.

Overall, this 2 parter was pretty weak.


It's pretty clear to see that The X-Files was a comic series with conflict going on behind the scenes.  In the shadow of a hugely-popular T.V. show, there were some pretty high expectations.  

Unfortunately, at the same time, the restrictions placed on the creative team by the T.V. show's production company made it almost impossible for The X-Files to succeed beyond the built in audience of fans of the show.  

For new readers there was nothing to introduce them to the characters. . .for existing fans there was no expansion on the show's mythology.

Looking back from 20 years down the road, it's clear that the X-Files comics were doomed to fail.

Up Next. . .

More X-Files.  Issues 20-30 and Annual #2.  This series was never really on solid footing to begin with, but with these issues things start to slide downhill fast.

Be there or be square!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Longbox Junk - The X-Files Part 2: Issues 1 - 9

I think the reason I loved the X-Files so much is that there really wasn't anything else like it on T.V. at the time.  It combined conspiracy theories and unsolved mysteries mixed in with an interesting take on the tried and true buddy cop show formula featuring two great lead actors that made me want to tune in week after week.

The Topps comic series at hand came out during the second season of the show and followed a somewhat unusual path for a licensed product tie-in. . .especially a tie-in to something that was still going extremely strong.  The comic series was supposedly happening AT THE SAME TIME as the series.

But there was a bit of a problem with that unusual approach. . .

Although the comics and T.V. series were supposed to be right alongside each other, the writers of the comic were SEVERELY restricted in what characters from the T.V. show could appear.  Therefore, appearances by series regulars (such as Skinner, The Cigarette Smoking Man, and The Lone Gunmen) were little more than cameos.

That basically meant that the comic creators had a hell of a time trying to fit the established mythology of the show into the comic series and pretty much gave up on even trying to.  Instead, they tried to create their own conspiracy mythology (The "Aquarius" conspiracy) tying together the stories in the first year or so of the comic series.  But even that became difficult because of the iron grip the T.V. production company had on the comics. . .it eventually led to the departure of the original creative team and an erratic shipping schedule, but more on THAT later.


Enough background for now.  I just find the behind the scenes drama of this comic series to be interesting.  Let's go ahead and jump into the first 9 issues of The X-Files. . .


TOPPS (1995)
SCRIPTS: Stefan Pretucha
PENCILS: Charles Adlard
COVERS: Miran Kim


F.B.I. Agents Scully and Mulder get caught up in a government conspiracy as they investigate the mysterious death of a man who claims to have been part of a team that has stolen the Fatima Prophecy from The Vatican. 

Overall, not a bad first issue. The story is engaging and hints at ties to a larger conspiracy to come. 

Unfortunately, the art is a bit dodgy and doesn't capture the likeness of the show's stars well at all. Also, this is NOT a good introduction to The X-Files as it is assumed the reader already is a fan of the T.V. Show and knows about the past history of the characters (the comic series takes place during season 2 of the show).


Agents Scully and Mulder investigate the deaths of witnesses to a 1948 U.F.O. crash and uncover a secret government experiment in memory and mind control. 

The story in this issue was pretty good, with plenty of twists to match the theme that what seems real might not be the truth as government ties to events are slowly revealed.

The art shows a bit of improvement from the first issue, but Adlard still fails to capture the likeness of the show's stars.


In the aftermath of the secret government experiment uncovered in last issue, Agent Mulder is contacted by one of the men behind the experiment and is offered a chance to know the truth about his missing sister in exchange for Mulder's help in escaping the conspiracy. 

The story in this issue was really quite interesting as the hints of conspiracy in previous issues begin to open wider.

Unfortunately, there's two main problems with this issue: The first is that it heavily relies on characters and continuity from the T.V. show (The Lone Gunmen appear without introduction or explanation, for example) and the second is that the art takes a downward turn. . .especially with Scully. At one point the conspirator blackmailing Mulder takes her hostage and she looks like a teenage blonde boy. I couldn't even tell it was Scully until the script verbalized it.

Firebird Part 1: Khobka's Lament

During an investigation of a Russian scientists' bones found in New Mexico and somehow aged to appear over 15,000 years old, Scully and Mulder uncover a secret laboratory where an ancient alien being has been captured by the government. 

I'm a bit cold on the first part of this three issue story so far. It has to do with a giant alien that apparently was the cause of the mysterious Tunguska explosion of 1908, but the writer has to jump through some hoops to bring a giant squid-like alien from Siberia to New Mexico that strains the suspension of comic book belief a bit. It's just not nearly as well-written as the previous 3 issues.

Another problem is that the art in this issue is probably the worst yet. Once again, Adlard completely fails to capture the slightest resemblance to Gillian Anderson's Scully. . .although in a very nice double page spread of the secret laboratory, I can see the artist he will eventually become on The Walking Dead.

Firebird Part 2: Crescit Eundo

Scully and Mulder's discovery of a hidden laboratory in the New Mexico desert containing a giant alien being leads to catastrophe as the alien escapes and threatens a nearby city with nuclear annihilation while Mulder and Scully are hounded by secret government operatives. 

I can appreciate that the writer was trying to expand the X-Files mythos, but the T.V. show was more about the strange things hidden just beyond the knowledge of normal people. . .NOT about a giant radiation-emitting space squid threatening millions of lives. This story has none of the creepy subtlety of the best X-Files episodes. It's basically a comic book-style giant monster attack with barely-acceptable art. 

Not good.

Firebird Part 3: A Brief Authority

As Mulder meets the figures behind the "Aquarius" conspiracy, Scully tries to reunite an elderly Russian tribesman and a mysterious crystal egg with the giant alien being threatening millions of lives over New Mexico. 

All I can say about the conclusion to this three issue story is. . .Thank God it's over.

There are just so many holes and leaps of logic and ex machinas in this issue that I don't even know where to start. The story comes to an end, but in an extremely clunky and confused fashion.

I've got 36 more issues to read and review. I damn sure hope they aren't as bad or worse than this. I can't believe the steep decline in quality in just SIX issues!


As Mulder and Scully investigate a serial killer that somehow knows the future, they discover that they are both targets. 

After the crapfest that was "Firebird", this extremely average issue seems more welcome than it should be. It's basically a pretty good copy of the T.V. show's "one and done" throwaway episodes. So not bad, but not great, either.


In the first part of a story that combines cannibalism, Atlantis, an ancient Aztec city in Alaska, and one of the lost tribes of Israel, Scully and Mulder are trapped in the Alaskan wilderness after a plane crash, with Mulder at the mercy of a mad cannibalistic scientist. 

Wait. . .what? 

This issue throws a LOT of stuff at the wall. Unfortunately, none of it really sticks. As a result, it's a bit of an unfocused mess.

At least the art is showing some improvement. I guess earlier in his career Adlard was a bit uneven. . .

Deep inside an Aztec city hidden in Alaska, a mad scientist consumes the brains of a mummy and gains forgotten knowledge of the extraterrestrial origins of the Aztecs while operatives of the "Aquarius" conspiracy close in, hunting a crystal helmet hidden in the city.

What. The. FU@K?

This series has gone from a decent approximation of the same conspiracy-tinged exploration of unsolved mysteries on the X-Files T.V. show to a Bat$#it insane fever dream. . .and not in a good way. I mean in a cluttered, almost nonsense way.

32 more regular issues plus 2 annuals to go. . .God help me.


First off I definitely need to point out that, no matter what else might be said about this X-Files run, the covers on each and every issue from first to last are remarkable!  To me, there's not a bad one in the bunch.  They are twisted, dark, and eerie. . .perfectly fitting what the X-Files is SUPPOSED to be.
Unfortunately. . .the comics themselves, not so much.  And as a huge X-Files fan, that's a damn shame.  

The stories seem half-baked and the art is extremely shaky.  When I saw that The Walking Dead's Charlie Adlard (sorry. . .CHARLES Adlard in 1995) was on art here, I had high hopes, but Adlard seems to be incapable of capturing the likeness of either or the show's stars. . .and in a licensed property, that would seem to be about the MINIMUM requirement for the art department.

But at least with the art, I can see moments that shine through and show the artist Adlard WILL become.  The writing, on the other hand, wavers from "pretty good" to "What the F#CK is THIS $#it?"  It's almost like the bare minimum effort was put into the writing.  

I realize that the writer of this comic had his hands tied in many ways, but even given that, these first few issues were extremely uneven in quality and never really rose to the level of the original source material.

Up Next. . .

More X-Files.  32 more issues (plus 2 annuals) to go. 
Please, God. . .let it become better. At least don't make it worse.

Be there or be square!