If what we are hearing on The X-Files and the IDW grapevine is true, the Case Files that were launched with some fanfare earlier this year as telling anthological tales across the history of Mulder & Scully’s paranormal FBI adventures are coming to an abrupt end with ‘Hoot Goes There?’ Part 2. Ours is not to reason why (there could be several, from edicts on high to sales figures), ours is just to buy, and though ‘Hoot Goes There?’ is little more in the end than a comedic oddity in the lexicon of X-Files tie-in stories, it has enough kookiness to warrant reading.
Those of you who read the first issue (and if you haven’t yet, spoilers and uh, why are you reading this again?), will remember that the first part of Joe & Keith Lansdale’s two-part story ended with Mulder being visited in his motel room by, um… a talking dog. Yep. You read that right. In what had it been a televised episode would surely have entered the pantheon of ‘jump the shark’ moments for The X-Files, Mulder gets key information about the case he’s investigating—Texan townsfolk being done in by a giant, murderous owl—from a talking dog. Maybe. The plot throws shade later on whether it happened or was another ‘Babylon’ style fever dream.
Ultimately, this allows for interplay between Mulder and a naturally hugely sceptical Scully which more than entertains, and does heavily recall the days of the Darin Morgan comedy episodes (which I discussed more in my review of Part 1) whereby Mulder would encounter something utterly weird even by his standards and Scully would be ready with a cutting, hard to please retort. These interactions click better than the plot of ‘Hoot Goes There?’ which ends up not being much of a muchness by the denouement – sacrificing attempts to play the comic angle in order to turn the giant, uh, owl, into a credible monstrous threat.
Once again though, where narrative may lack, Silvia Califano does a great job with her panels capturing the likenesses of our two main players and depicting a sun-kissed Texan backwater contrasted with deep shadows and broad moons at night. In both published Case File stories, the artwork has struck more of a chord than the storytelling, which has repeatedly felt restrained by the limits of having to squeeze a full investigation into roughly 50 pages worth of comic. That being said, Joe Harris produced some excellent 25 page one-shots which felt more assured than anything across all four of these Case File issues.
By all accounts, The X-Files is taking some time in the garage to retool before choosing the next path to take in comic-book form. On the basis of these Case File stories, that may not be a bad thing. ‘Hoot Goes There?’ is fun in places but throwaway in most instances and The X-Files deserves a strong hand on the creative storytelling tiller in order to deliver the kind of tales we had in the Stefan Petrucha years, or indeed at points in the Harris run.
The truth is… Mulder & Scully deserve a little bit better.
The X-Files: Case Files ‘Hoot Goes There?’ (Pt 2) is now available from IDW Publishing.