Number of pages: 132
This book contains a five-part story, Elders that featured in the final issues of the X-Files Season 10 series of comic books. I am not sure if any more are planned, and with the show’s renewal, it is likely that the comics will no longer fit into the show’s canon.
The story opens with a scene involving the shadowy syndicate, who feature in the comics although every single member got killed in various ways throughout the show’s original run. It then cuts to Mulder and Scully at a funfair, where they are confronted by a woman who is angry at Mulder and starts shooting bystanders before turning the gun on herself. It appears to be linked with the mysterious, bespectacled man, whose identity has not yet been revealed in the comics, but who also seems to possess telekinetic powers.
Mulder and Scully are hauled into the Assistant Director’s office over this incident, and the fact that Mulder has been allegedly interviewing alien abductees without permission. After leaving the meeting, Mulder – surprisingly – tells Scully to leave things well alone, before explaining that the woman who confronted them was a supposed abductee that he interviewed in 1991. However, she was evidently not only lying, but she became obsessed with Mulder, forcing him to distance himself from her. However, she hanged herself many years ago - so how could she have been at the funfair?
Mulder is promptly kidnapped, and that sets the story in motion properly.
The rest of the plot synopsis is somewhat spoilery, so it’s behind a cut:
[Spoiler (click to open)]
Mulder ends up in a cloning facility located in Guantanamo Bay. It turns out that all members of the syndicate are clones, and all of them (including the real Cigarette-Smoking Man) are indeed long dead.
I figured out who the shadowy man was at the start of the second part, which contains a flashback to 2001 (the start of the show’s ninth season), with Mulder on the run and being given refuge by Gibson Praise, the boy who has the ability to read thoughts. It turns out that the stranger is the adult Gibson Praise, apparently intent on cloning the conspiracy members to get their knowledge and also take over Mulder’s work.
There was also a weird subplot with Skinner getting apparently kidnapped by the elders, although it seemed to be almost immediately forgotten about (unless the Skinner who returns later is going to turn out to himself be a clone).
Gibson also has a habit of constantly killing the clones in different ways, often using his telekinetic abilities against them, so there are a lot of scenes where clones are dispatched and then dissolve into green ooze. There seems to be an endless procession of Cigarette Smoking Man clones that are repeatedly killed, only for another to take his place (think of The Simpsons where Itchy starts making clones of Scratchy, just so he can kill them in different ways).
I liked the fact that the artist was able to create very good likenesses of many characters who were killed off on the show years ago, although I am unsure whether they could ever be brought back on the TV, largely because I have no idea if the actors who played them are even still alive. I also have no idea what Jeff Gulka, who played Gibson Praise, looks like now, but if the artist was indeed just drawing from his imagination, then he did a very good job at showing what the character would look like, aged almost 30.
The story actually isn't as complex as it sometimes feels, it just feels more convoluted because of the way it seems to jump around a lot, but the artistic style is very good, and I loved the way that the flashback in part 2 was given a sepia tone to make it stand out. I did notice also that the plot did become increasingly bizarre, mostly in the final part.
Towards the end, Scully decides that Gibson is too dangerous and shoots him dead, only for him to also dissolve into green goo. The elders make a decision to commit hari kari by hitting a self-destruct button, which wipes them out and destroys Gibson's cloning lab, seemingly ending the existence of the cloned Cigarette Smoking Men for good. Mulder then has to flee to escape the allegations made against him, before the story almost goes into David Lynch territory by showing Scully surrounded by a multitude of young men, who all look like Gibson. It seems like an ending that is just asking for more, although - as mentioned before - with the show returning, this might not happen.
I have no idea if Chris Carter would consider replicating any of the plots from the comic books for his own series, and I have no idea if he contributed any ideas to the stories beyond the opening five issues, where he is credited as a writer, or if everything else was from the imagination of writer Joe Harris. I personally can't quite imagine this story translating quite as well onto the TV screen as in the comic books and can imagine Chris just going off in his own direction.
But this comic books series, although baffling at times, was certainly an enjoyable read.
Next book: A Dream of Ice (Gillian Anderson & Jeff Rovin)