(Joe Harris/ Colin Lorimer/ Joana LaFuente)
It’s one thing to write and create a comic for fans, but it takes a deeper level of understanding of the craft of writing to appeal to everybody else. Millennium #1 is a continuation of Chris Carter’s television show of the same name. The creative team behind Millennium, Joe Harris (writer), Colin Lorimer (artist) and Joana LaFuente (colorist), take control of the debut issue and with care deliver a unique and solid number one.
Similarly to picking up a number one of a comic series reboot, jumping off the end of a TV series can pose numerous challenges to writers. Harris accomplishes a strong narrative by structuring this issue with well-placed flashbacks and consistent pacing. Millennium #1 begins on Christmas Eve in 1999, with two men working on computer servers at a holiday party in New York. This serves as an introduction to the ideology behind the cult Millennium Group with mention of Y2K, unrest and meltdowns just around the corner.
We flash forward to the present, where we find FBI Agent Mulder trying to prevent the early release of Monte Propps, a man connected to the “Black Lake Murders”. Propps shares similarities to Charles Manson. He’s a master manipulator who is connected, but not actually convicted of murdering any of the victims.
Lorimer’s art is striking when presenting Monte Propps. At a distance, we see Propps sitting in a chair, hands in his lap. His face is covered with shadows, but we can still see distinct wrinkles and graying hair that show his age. We get a close up of Propp’s face that his equally as terrifying as it is intimidating. Lorimer uses multiple shading techniques to bring out detail in the inmate’s face. Lorimer uses blocks of solid black help form the shape of his face, while he uses a stippling technique to expose greater detail around the lips, eyes and nose. Up to this point, Propps is the only character to receive this amount of detail in his close ups. It adds a sense of mystique and power to this character. Despite all of this detail, his eyes are clear and blue, mesmerizing and frightening. It’s an added, skillful, decision that builds Propp’s character.
Quick snippets of flashbacks occur while Agent Mulder makes his case against Propps. As he explains the manipulation methods, we see the victims as its happening. These scenes, while fast, are effective on a couple of levels. There’s an odd dichotomy of understanding Mulder’s case mixed with the confusion that the victims are feeling. LaFuente’s colors during these scenes range from somber blues and grays of captivity to explosive reds and oranges of chaos and madness. Many of the panels are completely colored with shades of the same color that heighten the intensity of the panels that add to the airy, suspenseful mood of the issue.
The scene at the federal prison has one confusing moment where we get another close up of Propp’s face, then a fierce look into his eyes before the power goes out and he disappears. Mulder leaves and doesn’t say much other than this place gives him “…the heebie jeebies…” a reaction I don’t find believable for a federal agent. This circumstance has the opportunity to add to the supernatural and mysterious threads in the issue, but the execution didn’t quite cut it.
Mulder notices Frank Black’s name on the sign-in sheet at the prison and decides to pay him a visit. This last chunk of the issue displays some purposeful use of creative panel design and focused decisive coloring. We find Black in a cheap hotel with newspapers strewn about. He’s been off the grid since the events of the TV show and even though I’m unfamiliar with the series, Harris gives enough information for new readers to catch on quickly and easily. LaFuente uses contrasting colors to bring out focal points in the panels, like the brightly lit vacancy sign around the dim, drab exterior of the hotel. Bold, intensely colored panels continue to highlight the supernatural elements of this story, like Frank’s abilities to see and hear the victims and killers.
Lorimer’s unconventional panel designs work wonderfully for Millennium. I don’t think there are more than a couple of pages that utilize a common grid layout. Much of the panels are overlaid, staggered and incorporate numerous panel-within-panels to draw readers attention to specific areas on the page. Various panels are slanted and when paired with LaFuente’s dark and moody colors, create suspenseful and key readers in that something is askew.
Despite the unconventionality of the layouts, they did not cause me to be confused while reading this comic. My earlier confusion had nothing to do with panel layout. Lorimer’s establishes his shots well and has an even grasp of cause/effect. LaFuente’s coloring provides visual cues for the readers when scene or perspective changes occur. These components are strung together with Harris’s narrative for an easily understood story. However, being easily understood is different from being simple. Harris writes a richly detailed and interesting story with plenty of room to explore.
It’s revealed that Propps was released from federal prison so Mulder and Black go on a hunt to find him. The issue concludes with a creepy discovery and a direct link to the Black Lake Murders.
This series was announced as a five-part mini-series, but the writing doesn’t feel rushed or thrown together haphazardly. Everything moves at a fitting pace and allows us to experience this story rooted with supernatural motifs and mystery. The art is purposeful and effective, the colors set the mood and heighten the type of story Harris and Lorimer are telling. Despite a couple of instances I found to be confusing or brushed over, Millennium shows promise as a compelling story.