IDW is exploring alternate time lines throughout its publications this March with an event entitled Deviations. These “one shot” comics will look at what would have happened if one big thing had changed in an otherwise familiar world. In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe, what would have happened if Shredder had become the Turtles’ sensei? In the Ghostbusters universe how would have fallen if they had never crossed the streams?
Most importantly, who would occupy the basement office of the FBI’s J Edgar Hoover Building if Fox Mulder, not his sister Samantha, had been abducted? In what starts as a very promising concept writer Amy Chu (Poison Ivy, Ant-Man) gives a glimpse of an alternative pilot episode where Agent Dana Scully is assigned to the X-Files to assist Agent Samantha “Spooky” Mulder who had joined the FBI in a quest to find out what happened to her brother all those years ago. Unfortunately, things feel off immediately.
Agent Scully is given the assignment by “Director” Blevins, not Section Chief, as in the main timeline; while this could be a slight variation between universes where he has been promoted beyond even Skinner’s rank, matched with poor character dialogue instead it feels like lazy writing.
Where there was potential for this to be a parallel to a key scene it instead feels rushed and clumsy, the previously delicately phrased “Am I to understand that you want me to debunk the X-Files project, sir?” now has Scully standing up and yelling at her boss “What? Are you serious, sir?” which feels extremely wrong for both the character and the situation.
Scully meets Agent Samantha Mulder and we see a neater variation of the basement office, but still with an “I Want to Believe” poster and a few other references to the main timeline scattered throughout, but his meeting however the charm, subtlety or chemistry of the televised introduction.
Instead of a wry “I was under the impression you were sent to spy on me,” Scully is bluntly asked whether she believes in extra-terrestrials, leading to the background of the immediate case and a montage of the agents road tripping to investigate possible abductees before finally arriving at the Mulder residence where Fox was abducted all those years before.
There is very little smart banter or any attempt to flesh out Samantha Mulder, a character always presented as an enigma within the show and crying out for expansion. The one redeeming feature is the flashback of seeing an alternative abduction where Fox is able to reach Samantha, take hold of his sister’s arm and save her. The scene is emotionally rich, mainly because of the established history, but also because it is well done here.
Beyond this one scene though the content is lacking and the comic demonstrates little inspiration beyond the initial concept. While a one shot has only limited room to tell a short story, for that reason it is even more important those pages are well used, but Time and Being just feels disappointingly weak. With such an intriguing concept a limited run may have been a better consideration than trying to rush a story into twenty three pages.
With the artwork by Elena Casagrande (Doctor Who, Angel) and Silvia Califano (The X-Files: Season 10) giving more character and style to two stoners viewing the abduction in the opening pages than to the faces of the leads this feels like a wasted opportunity, and considering the high quality of other X-Files comics this is a surprisingly poor effort from IDW which has little to recommend it other than to satisfy curiosity or the urge to complete a collection.
The X-Files: Deviations – Time and Being is available in stores and digitally now