The 2016 Annual, “Illegal Aliens,” is a classic X-File – maybe a little too classic. Writer Andrew Aydin – gamely assisted by artist Greg Scott and colorist Wes Dzioba — has the interactions between Mulder and Scully down to a tee, like when she calls to make sure he’ll meet her at the airport on time and knows he’s been arguing on conspiracy chat boards. Later, there are vintage Mulderisms, like when a man starts talking to him while he’s at a urinal: “I’d shake your hand, but …”
M&S investigate the disappearance in New Mexico of Al Hosteen, the great-grandson of the Native American man by the same name who appears in “Anasazi” (2.25) and four other mythology episodes. There’s no mystery, as the reader sees soldiers grab the youth after he takes pictures of a desert military caravan. Later, it’s mildly amusing when an alien (who looks human) joins up with M&S and just flat-out admits he’s an alien – and proves it when he boards the alien spacecraft and helps our agents escape the military.
“Illegal Aliens” raises the question of “How little plot can a story have and get away with it?” On TV, “The X-Files” can get away with it more than any other show, but in comics I feel like it needs more – especially at this stage in the game – than an alien, a military caravan and a spaceship. And especially since this is a standalone that probably won’t build into something more. “Illegal Aliens” is decent for what it is, but these are very familiar beats and it’d be nice if there was a wider purpose to what happens.
In another story propelled by an inexplicable human-looking alien, regular writer Joe Harris riffs on “A Christmas Carol” in the 2016 X-mas Special. Despite good likenesses from Wayne Nichols and festive coloring by Sebastian Cheng, the holiday spirit doesn’t shine through as much as I’d like in this issue.
Harris comes up with a few clever conceits, including the Cigarette-Smoking Man as Jacob “Morley’s” Ghost. He also smartly ties in the abduction of Samantha Mulder (on Nov. 27, 1973) and the death of William Scully (in early 1994, as Scully had last seen him over the holidays) with Christmastime.
But this X-mas Special doesn’t settle on a tone. It taps into holiday depression, with Mulder wanting to spend the night at the office. Meanwhile, Scully wants to attend a holiday pageant. There’s also through-line of consumerist satire via the kids’ altered versions of Christmas carols. There’s no mystery, as it’s clear the pageant director is an alien analyzing Mulder and Scully.
Overall, the tone is lighthearted but cynical, not too grim but never cheery. The 2016 X-mas Special isn’t a lump of coal in your stocking, but nor is it a Christmas classic.