There will be spoilers in this review.
After being sent to a small town to investigate what appears to be a simple, yet harrowing, case of a bombing of an abortion clinic, Scully and Mulder diverge in their investigation. Just what is causing a seemingly normal slice of Americana to turn in on itself and kill its fellows? Are they just a cult of radicalised Christians? Or is there something more at work than a charismatic young woman? This issue had a lot of points to resolve after the dramatic events of “Immaculate, Part 1” and I did have some concerns that we would be left too deeply pondering what the heck had happened.
What I’ve always liked when it comes to X-Files cases with a Christian element is how Scully tends to be the one who shifts into the seat of believer. While she’s always found it hard to completely accept the extraterrestrial elements that Mulder laps up, Scully is in her element when heaven and hell are at stake. She makes the most headway in this issue and I like how she’s the one to find the true source of the human element in this tragic, but mainly supernatural story. She understands that faith is at work somewhere over the course of the story, but she knows when to look towards more Earthly answers.
And it’s kind of interesting how she’s my hero in this issue, because, as you’ll read in a bit, one of my favourite team-ups happened in Part 2. But it’s good that Scully had some much needed focus spent on how she looks into things, rather than Mulder. In some ways, the way she reacts to finding the source, as it were, was painful to read, because it was like meeting a stereotype that you hope doesn’t exist (the lecherous pastor), but you have had it repeatedly reinforced by real news stories time and time again.
Something I didn’t appreciate as much last issue, but which I really dug this time round was the artwork of Francesco Francavilla. There’s just an intensity to some of the panels that really helps to echo the spiritual crisis bubbling away in the town.
Okay, so it’s not quite a team up. But Frank Black (from Millennium and who last had an appearance in The X-Files during a season seven episode) makes an appearance in this issue, showing his face to Mulder and talking to him about the events that have been unfolding in the town and hinting that a big evil is at work there. For me, I was concerned with how Joe Harris had Mulder not believing that Frank no longer had anything to do with the Millennium Group. To me this issue had been settled over the course of both TV series. And I’m now hoping that in the Millennium mini-comics series that was recently announced by Joe Harris and IDW that it will be made clear that Frank would rather the Millennium Group was dead and buried.
Another thing that bothered me was the way Frank is used to denounce any political affiliation the story may have, it just seemed kind of pathetic. Harris had chosen a very emotive event to centre this story around and while I don’t doubt that he and his editors didn’t want harmful attention drawn towards the series, the way Frank makes this pronouncement seemed too throw away. The dialogue wasn’t right and should have just outright said that something otherworldly was afoot without reference to the politics that had been invoked.
Mulder in this issue seemed a bit out of water, but I think this was a good thing. Mulder didn’t disbelieve the supernatural elements exactly, but with no ETs around it was unusual for him revert exactly to FBI protocol. Mulder following protocol is not something that happens often at all and it’s interesting to see him revert back to his training in such a way. He does so few things by the book that it’s useful piece of characterisation to suddenly have him laying by the FBI’s game book.
Despite my qualms around how Frank Black is used, I would say that this second part and the first one are definitely worth your time. It’s a really good pause from the usual alien stuff that’s been happening and tidy a story with some loving done pieces of characterisation. There’s enough of a mystery at the end that there should be a nice follow-up at some point (probably with Frank involved). But mostly what I liked about this issue was how Mulder and Scully’s investigation diverged, helping to show the strengths and weaknesses of both characters.
The X-Files season 10 issue 17 “Immaculate, Part 2” is out now. Our reviewer bought their own copy.