If the first issue of “The X-Files/30 Days of Night” was the teaser and first act, the second issue is the second and does its job well of advancing the plot without giving away too much yet. The premise of Mulder and Scully in Alaska to investigate mysterious deaths that we know were caused by vampires is a strong one that Steve Niles and Adam Jones play out by teasing the revelation of the vampires somewhat. Mulder already suspects, while Scully finds the idea absurd, of course. It’s classic “X-Files” fare.
The problem with this point in the story is that it’s the most boring part of the story. The premise has been introduced, we know more than the FBI agents, and the writing needs to walk the fine line between revealing new information and not revealing too much or overplaying its hand. If too much of the vampires is seen, then Mulder and Scully have stumbled across vampires already, while not showing something leaves the reader hanging. Without the charm of the actors, some of the interaction between Mulder and Scully fall a little flat. Mulder’s hints about the culprits of the murders don’t have the same sly delivery, while Scully’s insistences that there’s a logical explanation for crimes that make no sense aren’t believable without an actual person like Gillian Anderson saying them.
But, these are smaller complaints as the issue contains some strong plot development. In their investigation of the crime scene, Mulder notices claw marks on the wrecked trucks that seem to have come from human hands, while Scully comes across a young girl that bursts into flames, but is unharmed when they bring her into a hospital. Mulder’s mocking tone and jabs at Scully’s insistence on a non-supernatural reason are funny much of the time even if they don’t always work. By having the pair come so close to a vampire and not have either realize it completely, Niles and Jones create compelling tension.
Tom Mandrake does his fair share of the work when it comes to creating tension. The page where Scully wanders from the crime scene and discovers the young girl is a slow, methodical page that uses a strong, open layout that closes in on itself with a sketchy, violent panel border for the shot of her seeing the girl burning up in the snow. I wasn’t sure that Mandrake would be a good fit for a licensed book like this, but his combination of dark, rough lines with smoother lines creates a visually intriguing interplay on the page. He’s very good at playing with the shadows and darkness to bring out the characters and create scenes that move forward through his art. His depictions of Mulder and Scully go a long way to giving off the impression of the actors that play them and selling their banter. He’s a really strong fit for the book.
While “30 Days of Night” fans may still find this series a little light on the vampires, “X-Files” fans should really enjoy this issue. The story is unfolding nicely and Niles and Jones clearly have the characters’ voices down.