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Location: Lancashire
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Subj: The X-Files Season 10 #9 - The Chittering God.
Posted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 03:15:17 pm EST (Viewed 133 times)

“Everything you can imagine is real.” ― Pablo Picasso

Passing its inaugural story-arc Chris Carter and Joe Harris' continuation of The X-Files reached something of a crossroads with itself. After the television and films saw Fox Mulder and Dana Scully quit the ambiguity and control of the FBI the immediate task for this revival from IDW publishing was to decide which direction the pair, and indeed the concept, should now head in. Having run for nine consecutive and intensive years the success and appeal of the format had begun to naturally fatigue, and the danger of following rigid formula had long since taken a toll on the series' ingenuity, rendering it a gradual weary air of predictability and familiarity. Come the end of the series and a brief dalliance in films creator Chris Carter acknowledged the weight that this now old show had acquired and removed the duo from under the control of their employers, the FBI. The X-Files had to either end or evolve.
Despite it being a background element and not necessarily vital for the series to continue, the FBI and its authority, access, and resources still gave the series a regime by which Scully & Mulder had to adhere to, and therefore instilled discipline and professionalism into their conduct and actions. These were legally enforced agents, and as such their authority was backed at least partly by the state, which in itself presented problems of its own, as Fox Mulder would endure for too many years.
The question then was whether this new comicbook series would move on from that format and evolve, or find some mechanism by which to return the duo to the Bureau and effectively reset the concept to what it was.

Somewhat disappointingly Carter and Harris chose the reset option.

So with issue #5 and the somewhat confusing wrap-up to the conspiracy arc Scully and Mulder are able to enlist back into the Bureau, with remarkable ease it must be said, and furthermore find Mulders office virtually untouched and waiting for them, both now back to work after what was essentially a long holiday and refreshed to the point of apparently losing a few years off their age..! It was a stretch too far even by X-Files standards. For what the book is now is little more than a direct imitation of the television series, Joe Harris recaptures the imagination, tone, feel, and content of that television format extremely well I might add, this is a remarkably well done piece of comic-strip, and yet while this nostalgia is enjoyable in its own way it cannot escape the fact that it has returned what was now an open and uncertain playing field to the routine and predictable world of Classic X-Files - all FBI agents, dark rooms, sceptical Scully, chirpy Mulder... a world perpetually frozen in amber.
But while the series has become disappointing in its lack of ambition there is no denying that Joe Harris has impressively recreated the series format in print form, not an easy task at all for a comicbook to do for a television format, but with Issue #10 he recreates a typical X-Files story and manages the equally impressive feat of telling it in 24 pages.
A complete story, in one 24 page issue. Is it little wonder the Independents are a rising force and tonic to the ever increasing unreasonable demands of the big two publisher thar are DC and Marvel...?
'Chitter' is an exercise in recapturing the X-Files when it was darkest - serial killers with a disturbing and unusual pathology, a central mystery that may or may not be unnatural, Banter between Mulder & Scully, Scully being caught in the heart of danger as things climax, and the mystery underpinning the whole story being left ambiguous and unresolved by tales end. Everything you remember about X-Files is successfully recaptured within this book, all aided along by near photo-realistic art from one Greg Scott.

Exercising the formats remit for imaginative but oddly plausible possibilities out there in the world the theme working in the background of the issue is the notion of the possibility of intelligent and organised insect life, realised here in the form of cockroaches, but the more pressing business is one of a grisly serial killer who has come to the authorities attention via a tip-off. Aiding in the police operation Mulder and Scully find one Milton Keansey, a tubby bespectacled middle aged man with a very acute pathology. As we open the issue Joe Harris' meticulous construction of the first three pages is captured by Greg Scott in gory and accurate detail, with the opening page comprising a series of four vertical panels which gradually come into focus from darkness and show us a close-up on a woman's dead eyed face... cockroaches swarm over her.
Second page is five different sized panels, these show us a man (Keansey) holding a meat cleaver and bringing it down in successive chops, the third panel of which we see an arm and some hair, just enough to show us this is a killer in action, disposing of his victim. And Cockroaches are everywhere. The third page, and three panels - first two with the killer, calling for the voices to stop, and the room is filled with roaches now... third and last panel the X-Files logo and story title. The effect is striking, a three page prologue that superbly captures those first four minutes of the television series yes, but also an example and method of a very effective way of constructing a compelling and immediate hook for a story. Harris has inadvertently reinvented and updated the long dormant format of the Anthology/mystery comic once so favoured by EC, Avon, and DC in the 60s and 70s. \(yes\)

Having arrested Keansey and interrogated him in custody Mulder has as yet no reason to think this is anything but a serial killer successfully tracked down and now off the streets, which is a neat inversion of the format. Although the police and Mulder are satisfied they have the right man questions begin to be raised as to whether they can find anything beyond the circumstantial to build a watertight case against him, Keansey's house is remarkably clean of visible evidence, and he has the additional sheen of being a respected member of the community, but as things stew we watch as a jailed Keansey receives some unusual and noisy visitors... as the tale progresses and we discover more we can look back on this scene and marvel at the sheer efficiency of a cockroach swarms housekeeping ethic - not a trace of Keansey remains, just, bizarrely, his clothes.
As Scully follows up another avenue of investigation we find her unwittingly entering the lions den and meeting the real power behind Keansey... or is it?

The evidence is presented for a verdict, It's left up to your imagination to decide whether it could be true.

The X-Files thus far has worked extremely well in this new medium. Thanks in no small part to the talent and discipline of Joe Harris and the guidance of Chris Carter. Harris' understanding of this medium and its potential has been impressive indeed, television tie-ins are not often as well translated as this and yet perhaps due to its mystery-investigator nature the X-Files format has been particularly stand-out in terms of its presentation and content. The book has made the questionable decision to turn back the clock and directly ape the television series at its peak rather than move the format onwards, but if you want something that directly mimics and recaptures that series of old then this is a book for you... complete with some very slick and detailed artwork and support from the talented Greg Scott this book continues to be one of the hidden gems out there on the shelves right now. Try it. \(coffee\)

The opening three-page prologue to X-Files #9. In a deliberate slow reveal we follow as the dark gives way gradually to what we see is a close-up on a woman's face,
covered in bugs. A scene shift and we are shown the our mysterious narrator, cleaver in hand, apparently dismembering a body.
Is he Delusional? Are we seeing what we think we are? what is the significance of the roaches? Page three and some answers... and more questions.
The bait is taken, the hook draws you in...

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