I’ve been an avid reader of IDW Publishing‘s popular The X-Files Season Ten comic book series since its very first issue, long before any hint that it might portend an appearance by Frank Black. Initially, I found the conceit of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully returning to work at the F.B.I. something of an unlikely turn of events given where we last left them in The X-Files: I Want to Believe but, having accepted this as a device to allow the creative team—led by writer Joe Harris—to tell the kinds of stories that are familiar to followers of the original series, I’ve been enjoying the ride. The series has to date consistently told excellent stories that are bold and fresh in their scope yet faithful to the television show’s roots.
When I first read Part One of the latest story, “Immaculate”, in Issue 16, the religious subtext very quickly put me in mind of Millennium, such that I did an excited double-take when the final panel proclaimed in its teaser, “NEXT: MILLENNIAL VISIONS”. Before long it was confirmed that Frank Black would make a special guest star appearance in the second and concluding part of this story, and thereafter the upcoming Millennium comic miniseries was announced for 2015. The concluding part of this story is now available, and here I share some spoiler-free thoughts on Issue 17, and on Frank Black’s long-awaited return.
“Immaculate” fits well alongside a strand of X-Files instalments that explored religious symbolism, often alongside a consideration of Dana Scully‘s faith, as exemplified by episodes such as “Die Hand Die Verletz“, “Revelations“, “All Souls” and “Signs and Wonders“. I often felt that these episodes were a good match for Millennium‘s own use of such symbolism in its exploration of good and evil, and so it proves here.
The story concerns an investigation into the bombing of an abortion clinic that comes to focus upon a remarkable teenage girl. She believes that God speaks to her, and is able to command a fervent group of followers. Events take an even more macabre turn with a mass shooting in a small North Carolina town, and it is into the aftermath of this massacre that Frank Black first steps.
Frank’s interactions are with Fox Mulder, and take the form of oblique warnings about the true nature of the threat that the F.B.I. are facing. For the most part these conversations resume a tentative dynamic of mutual trust and respect between the two men, but occasionally their interactions don’t quite ring true. Frank asserts that he no longer works with the Millennium Group, even though the Group was considered to have been dissolved at their last meeting, whilst Mulder references Frank’s “famous” visions, framing them as a “psychic ability”, a moniker that Millennium eschewed. Yet these exchanges serve to provide a brief exposition on Frank’s background, an economical narrative shortcut for the uninitiated. They also undoubtedly hint at to what is to come for Black and Mulder, and are effective when read in such a context.
What works particularly well for me is the colour palette utilised throughout this issue by Joana Lafuente. Most panels play out in muted tones that evoke the signature look of Millennium, and these contrast dramatically with the blazes of colour that signify Frank’s visions, and which are presented in a way that very much evokes the style of the series. The representations of Frank Black in Colin Lorimer‘s artwork also deserve praise, and it is to both his and Lance Henriksen’s credit that many images instantly evoke Henriksen’s own portrayal of Frank Black.
Ultimately, “Immaculate” is a story that leaves many questions unanswered, both about the nature of the underlying threat and also how and why Frank Black has chosen to become involved in the investigation. These hanging threads lend the issue the feel of a prologue for the story that will play out in the five-part Millennium comic miniseries from January 2015. As such, it is at once both a satisfying X-File and a tantalising teaser for what lies ahead.
Above all else it is, of course, thrilling to have Frank Black back in a new narrative, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. You can read the official solicitation and preview cover artwork for Millennium Issue 1 right now at Joe Harris’ blog. For me, on the basis of “Immaculate”, it’s a no-brainer: every fan of Frank Black and Millennium should be sure to pick up both of Issues 16 and 17 of The X-Files Season Ten—which are available both in print and digitally—to read this captivating launching-off point for Frank Black’s full-blown return in the upcoming Millennium comic book miniseries. Is it January yet?