Writer Joe Harriss , Artist Matthew Dow Smith.
What is the purpose of a comicbook page?
Is it to Inform? To serve the script, the story
? To entertain? Perhaps to dazzle us with the artists skill and deftness with a clever angle or communicate emotion via facial expression? Is it ALL of the above?
Consider the above page sample taken from IDWs relaunched X-Files and quite clearly something is amiss in this work if you accept the above analysis on what it is a comicbooks page is meant to do, for here we have an important first issue relaunch and the considered choice of artist appears at first glance to have little experience in sequential storytelling and possibly even less firsthand experience in the comicbook field.
In truth however Matthew Dow Smith is no stranger to either field. Why it should be that this demonstation of his craft for The X-Files breaks with convention and delivers muddy visuals and poor composition is something only he might be able to explain. But as it is despite what is a fine enough conspiracy thriller script from series regular Joe Harris the reading experience of this debut issue was frustratingly a flat and desperately confusing one.
Opening with what is a bog standard X-Files conundrum with a horrific mass shooting at a Maryland Shopping Mall Harriss' cue is one which is taken directly from the grittiest and more graphic material of the television series, it is not a choice of story which translates well to the comicbook medium, but in lieu of the more fantastical elements of the series premise the thriller genre is a not unreasonable one by which to dip into and use to power an ongoing storyarc. We follow a predictable formula of Mulder and Scully being assigned to the shooting and their immediate investigation gradually picking up on the unnoticed apspects of which the police fail to recognise as being significant. Looking into employment records and a background check the now deceased gunmans girlfriend is discovered and we leave the issue in the secure knowledge that the shadier elements of the government are up to no good again... the rotters.
There isnt anything here that is original it has to be said.
And yet if you evaluate just the script and seperate it from the poor clutter of the visual Joe Harriss script is perfectly adequate, even if the story is not the best by which to draw in any intrigued audience who might want to check out this new X-Files volume.
When The X-Files came to IDW two years ago it was an immediate success, a success as Joe Harriss, with Chris Carter, captured the style and format of the television series and made a fine translation to the illustrated page with the help of the very talented and clear storytelling abilities of Michael Walsh
. Clear and economical Walsh's storytelling captured everything about the series, from faces to filth. With such a resounding success then why has the series never quite been able to follow through on that early success? Can it really be so hhard to find an artist in Michael Walsh's range? Matthew Dow Smith certinly fills a page, he positively fills it with ink, yet it is lifeless, cluttered, without any emotion or central figure on a given page by which to invest in. Indeed finishing the issue it became necessary to read it once again, not because Joe Harriss had failed to make a point clear, but because the artist so resoundingly fails in telling that story in a clear manner..
A dissapointing opening chapter then. Please IDW, get it together, find an artist who can work with
the writer rather than against him, and if Michael Walsh is not available take inspiration from his obviously very successfull work on your behalf those two years ago to find his spiritual successor... because as it stands this current approach is not at all appealing.