I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!
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. It has its moments here and there, but generally speaking it's been mediocre at best up until this point. From here to the end of things it gets pretty bad.
These issues coincided with the general collapse of the 90's speculator comic 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 what it had been.
This has been a comic series with some problems from the very first issues. I've touched on some of the issues plaguing this title behind the scenes in previous entries, but this quote from comic veteran Tony Isabella (who was a consultant with Topps) sums up the whole problem with The X-Files comics. . .
"Whoever was approving the comics over in Chris Carter Land were the poster kids for 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 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
SURROUNDED PART 2
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.
THAT SAID. . .
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.
MUST. . .POWER. . .THROUGH!
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 . . .It's full of .
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.
N.D.E. PART 1
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 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 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"
N.D.E. PART 2
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 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 .
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.
CAM RANH BAY
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.
SCUM OF THE EARTH
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 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 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 "-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!