Joe Lansdale teams up with his son Keith in this opening episode of a new run of The X Files comics, helping celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary. Joe Lansdale, whose Hap and Leonard series recently finished an acclaimed run on television, takes Mulder and Scully to East Texas, home of the Owl Witch, and populated by the oddest collection of characters you’ll see outside a freak show.
Writer: Joe and Keith Lansdale
Artist: Silvia Califano
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Colorist: Valentina Pinto
Editor: Denton J Tipton
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Release Date: July 18, 2018
Previously in The X Files: 25 years of outlandish conspiracies, pursuing aliens, implants, Fluke Men and avoiding the second-hand smoke of the Cigarette Smoking Man bring Mulder and Scully to East Texas, chasing reports of a giant owl snatching locals into the sky. Can our terrific twosome unravel the mystery of the Hoot Owl and bring justice to the people of Muddy River, Texas?
THE TRUTHINESS IS IN HERE
I recently purchased a copy of The X Files anthology, Secret Agendas. Apart from two excellent stories, the rest of the book was packed with terrible ideas, bad characterization and even worse writing. As punishment for spending my hard-earned money on such a turkey, I forced myself to read to the bitter end, leaving me leery of X Files adaptations outside the show’s home on television.
So what to make then of The X Files Hoot Goes There? #1? Joe Lansdale has made his name with gothic detective fiction such as the Hap and Leonard series, as well as the gonzo The Drive-In and The Drive-In 2, where the audience of a drive-in is despatched to another dimension and have to fight each other to survive in a new, weird environment.
So sending Mulder and Scully to the badlands of East Texas is well within his wheelhouse. Lansdale populates The X Files Hoot Goes There? #1 with perfectly formed characters whose idiosyncrasies should leave the reader chuckling with amusement. Shark obsessed Sacky, Deputy Doglet, the donut selling Sheriff (who sells his trademark Grab our Balls donut t-shirt features prominently in the issue) and Calhoun, owner of Calhoun’s Emporium and apparent were-squirrel. All have a unique voice and play a part in the narrative.
The X Files neatly separates into two story strands. The first, and most (in)famous, is the alien conspiracy, which over the course of the series ascended its own fundament until it vanished from sight and coherence somewhere in the seventh season. The other side of the series is, of course, the Monster of the Week, where some of the most famous episodes and characters – liver eating Tooms, the Fluke Man – reside and remain seared into the collective consciousness of viewers from the 1990s.
The X Files Hoot Goes There? #1 definitely fits into the latter division. An apparent giant owl is snatching the inhabitants of Muddy River away from their homes and families, and agents Mulder and Scully investigate. In many ways, despite the issue featuring the modern versions of Mulder and Scully, the story itself could easily find a place within the series as it was in the mid-90s. Given the calibre of the writing team, this is something of a missed opportunity to take this type of story in a different direction.
RATED X FOR COMEDY
The X Files was also well known for its injection of comedy into episodes that otherwise would’ve been grim exercises. Both Lansdale’s get the cadences and snark of both Mulder and Scully exactly right. Again, it’s a bit strange that the characters don’t seem to have developed too far from their earlier versions, but perhaps that is the rights owner’s requirements. Either way, there is wry amusement to be had in the banter between the two leads, and also the situation and characters as a whole.
I can’t say I was a huge fan of the art. Duchovny and Anderson’s features are well rendered, but there’s a certain roundness to the art that I found a little off-putting. That said, it is well done, and the mood of the night scenes is very effectively handled as Sacky and Mulder run through a darkened forest in search of the Owl Witch
BOTTOM LINE – X MISSES THE SPOT, SLIGHTLY
This is a fun, well-written book, which doesn’t quite fit within what I like about The X Files. But the series was always about experimentation and pushing the storytelling envelope. The X Files Hoot Goes There? #1 strengths lie in the writing and characterization. Those who enjoyed the revival will enjoy seeing these updated characters in new adventures now the television series appears too, at last, have finally finished. In its 25th anniversary year, The X Files comics are a strong enough venue to embrace the show’s humour, and darkness, in abundance.