IDW Publishing Takes Us Back to Frank Black
It’s quite a month to be a fan of Ten Thirteen creations and their alumni. Frank Spotnitz‘s superb adaptation of Philip K. Dick‘s alternate history masterpiece The Man in the High Castle has just premiered as part of Amazon’s new season of pilots. (If you’ve yet to watch that, please do check it out and be sure to leave your feedback if you’d like to see a full series.) Meanwhile, news abounds of a potential return to television for Mulder and Scully in The X-Files. But perhaps most tantalisingly of all for us, this week heralds the return of Frank Black in a brand-new five-part comic book series of Millennium from IDW Publishing.
We’ll be sharing our thoughts on Frank Black’s return over the coming months right here on the blog, but for now we thought we’d remind readers of his initial appearance late last year in IDW Publishing’s comic book spin-off The X-Files Season Ten which we’ve been very much enjoying to date in its own right.
Initially, the conceit of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully returning to work at the F.B.I. seemed 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, we’ve found much to enjoy. 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 we first read Part One of “Immaculate”, the The X-Files Season Ten story that heralded Frank Black’s return, the religious subtext very quickly put us in mind of Millennium, prompting 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. Both parts of this story are still available in Issues 16 and 17 of the ongoing series respectively, and here we share some spoiler-free thoughts on the second half of this story, 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“. These episodes often felt like 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 for the most part. 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 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 that launches this week. 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 we 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. 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 imminent Millennium comic book miniseries.
Moreover, we’re just two days away from Millennium Issue 1 hitting comic books stores, and our excitement levels are brimming. Be sure to throw your full support behind this upcoming series as, if it is successful, a longer run is a distinct possibility. And who knows what sort of attention might be drawn towards Millennium from the powers that could bring about a filmic return from Frank Black if that happens, especially given news of Fox’s renewed interest in Chris Carter’s work. We missed you, Frank. But now, after a sixteen year wait, finally, the time is near.