Number of pages: 128
The second compilation of stories from the X-Files Season 10 comic books, with four separate storylines.
First is "Hosts", the sequel to the classic Flukeman episode; I'd already read the second part of this story, but the first part had some significant plot points. It started off with a Jaws-like Flukeman attack in Martha's Vineyard. I liked the fact that continuity was paid attention to (one episode of the series had a visual gag in the form of a newspaper announcing that Flukeman had been found in Martha's Vineyard).
The story also introduced AD Anna Morales, Mulder and Scullys' new supervisor, as the agents were welcomed back to the FBI to work on the X-Files.
The only drawback in the first part was that, presumably for the benefit of anyone not familiar, Scully was forced to recap the main plot points of the original Flukeman storyline.
The second story was "Being for the Benefit of Mr. X". Mr. X was the nickname given to Mulder's second informant, who appeared in the second and third seasons before being killed off in the fourth.
It features a series of flashbacks to 1987, with a shocking opening scene that featured a Game of Thrones type level of violence that I suspect would have never been allowed on the TV series, as Mr. X arrives to clean up after a massacre at an elementary school, following some experiment using kids as test subjects for (evidently) the infamous black oil (a substance that on the show liked to possess human hosts).
In the present, Mulder starts to believe Mr. X is trying to contact him, particularly after the lesbian couple living in his old apartment find what appears to be a blood sample and also the X Mulder used to contact his dead informant.
The story features a couple more flashbacks, featuring the Cigarette Smoking Man and also the Deep Throat character from the first season. It was overall an interesting story that raised more questions than it answered, in a fashion that made me think of the show, "Lost". I loved the way that the incredibly harrowing first scene was followed up by a hilarious Mulder/Scully moment, not just for the fact that it bought back the show's running joke about Mulder getting pencils stuck in the ceiling, and reminding me that the show was always good at creating lighter moments in the middle of very dark storylines.
However, the ending was particularly bizarre:
[Spoiler (click to open)]After getting numerous phone messages in morse code, Mulder figured out it was the letter X that was being sent to him in code, and it all culminated in a meeting with X.
However, it didn't go quite as I expected, largely because as Mr. X talked about how Mulder's quest should not be turned into a crusade, he promptly dissolved into a mass of green alien blood. So, effectively the comic book series resurrected him only to have him presumably die right away. This will inevitably be explained later on in the comics.
The third story, "Chitter" felt like a filler episode; like previous stories, it was very cryptic and open to interpretation, but did return to the show's tradition of episodes that featured a lot of bugs (they did a memorable episode where people were apparently killed by cockroaches, and another where prehistoric bugs drained people of their blood).
The story features sacrifices to the evidently unseen "Chittering God", and I found it most notable for being very creepy, in classic X-Files style. My favourite aspect though was that the artwork was really good and made me want to see more of it; Mulder and Scully were drawn sharply, with the best resemblance to its actors I've seen in comic books for a while.
The final story, "More Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" revolved around Mulder and Scullys' long-term nemesis, a character who was usually a formidable villain, but shown here as often more vulnerable than usual.
The style made me think of Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse 5", as it jumped back and forth in time throughout the Cigarette Smoking Man's history, with a number of (often monochromatic) artistic styles. It featured a flashback involving his former wife Cassandra Spender, which got slightly disturbing (she attempts to stab her pregnant belly at one point before he stops her), and another flashback involving the young Fox Mulder and his parents. There was also a particularly scary flashback involving one of the "dino aliens" from the first movie, and a brief reference to a one-off character from the third season.
I liked the way that the style changed throughout, feeling almost trippy and surreal at times.
Like previous stories, it didn't exactly answer anything; it just made for some interesting storytelling, and developed the Cigarette Smoking Man's character a little. As for the final scene...
[Spoiler (click to open)]The Cigarette Smoking Man was shown to be talking to the mysterious figure he was seen speaking to at the end of the opening five-parter, who remains unseen. I thought at first it was Skinner, but I suspect I was completely wrong, particularly as this character seems to wield some supernatural powers, and was apparently the one who bought him back from being nuked at the end of the series TV run. Whoever he is, I am excited to find out.
Next book: Automated Alice (Jeff Noon)