The X-Files Annual 2014 hits the stands this week and is worth taking home — but not for the reason you might expect.
Here’s the official word from IDW:
The X-Files writer/producer Frank Spotnitz returns with an untold tale from Mulder and Scully’s first stint with the FBI. When a man returns from the dead with a warning for his wife, the agents investigate and cross paths with a very peculiar priest. And in the second story, Cerebus creator Dave Sim writes his first-ever The X-Files story and first scripted licensed work in… forever? with “Talk to the Hand,” a nightmarish tale starring a sleeping Dana Scully!
Most comic geeks agree: there’s something delightful about Annuals. These over-sized issues frequently offer a reprieve from the grind of continuity and deliver discrete little one-shots that feel like the prize at the bottom of a cereal box. For 2014 longtime X-Files scribe Frank Spotnitz offers this Annual’s largest story, a mostly flat tale about a ghost trying to make contact with his wife. While Spotnitz’s story offers some clever moments, there’s nothing incredibly unique going on here. If Spotnitz’s story were the only tale being showcased I might suggest you take a pass. But then came “Talk the Hand” by Dave Sim, the semi-famous (and maybe semi-insane) creator of Cerebus. For those familiar with Cerebus, you already know the creator is a bit odd — but in a powerful and brilliant way. Well, even though “Talk the Hand” is only a few pages in length it makes this issue worth the cover price. It’s haunting, heartfelt, and offers some of the richest characterization of Scully I’ve ever seen.
This issue’s first story is illustrated by Stuart Sayger and offers a sketchy, washed-out version of Scully and Mulder that’s refreshing just because it doesn’t try to perfectly capture the real-life actors — something that other artists of this series have fumbled with in the past. Instead, Sayger offers artistic suggestions, creating a swirl of features that let’s us know who’s who. Andrew Currie is the artist charged with bringing Dave Sim’s story life and he offers a stark contrast to Sayger’s work: Currie’s lines are sharp and chiseled, a feature that works nicely when depicting the “monster” at the center of this tale.
Overall, X-Files Annual 2014 is an uneven attempt — but thanks to Dave Sim’s work, it’s one of the best comics of the week, too.