Resident Alien: the Man with No Name #1
Script: Peter Hogan
Art: Steve Parkhouse
I have not read any of Peter Hogan’s previous volumes of this character series. But I like what I am seeing so far. While Resident Alien does not necessarily kill it coming out of the gate, it’s a solid launch for a mini-series that is not in the super-hero genre. I think that one of the major problems is that issue #1 does not spend a lot of time focusing on the main character, but mostly vignettes of the supporting cast. I would have liked to have gotten to know Doc Harry, the alien, a bit more. Especially as there are apparently three other mini-series of canon behind him. I barely get a sense of what he is about and his relationship with the town out of the 20+ pages of this comic, and that was slightly disappointing.
Dr Harry Vanderspeigle is the assumed name of one alien who, for some reason accounted for in past history, has taken up residence in the town of Patience, WA. Harry has become an accepted member of the town’s society, and walks about normally, with no disguise or clothing meant to obscure his clearly alien appearance. Harry has fully integrated with the folk of Patience, and solves the occasional mystery in his spare time. With the Feds poking around the town inquiring about a missing girl, a strange homeless person wandering about Market Street, and an ensuing fire in the same location, Harry looks like he’ll have plenty of things to keep him busy.
Steve Parkhouse’s art is solid in this launch issue, if not ground-breaking. There’s not a lot of play in the panel work, and maybe that is appropriate to the book’s tone. It has a bit of a noire feel, with scenery and dialog that evokes memories of Northern Exposure, X-Files, and Men in Black. So maybe a ton of artsy panel play in terms of layout is not warranted here. Where Parkhouse is at his best is in his coloring work. There is a panel with a silhouetted figure of a supposed bum coming down an alley-way that is near perfect in color tone. Another is the panel near the end, of a significant fire in the town. It is beautifully lit up with bright reds and oranges above the rooftops and then transitions into the town’s skyline, the embers of the fire illuminating the sides and rooftops of the buildings. Good stuff.
The story, while engaging, feels a bit disjointed. There may be some assumption here that Hogan thinks that we have already read at least some of the preceding volumes. That’s a dangerous presumption, and the reader pays the price as I had to make some assumptions and reverse engineer a concept of how Harry fit in at Patience as each panel unfolded. Still, the relationships as they are revealed through the dialog are endearing. You can see the attachments that the alien has to different members of the town, although it is difficult to discern the differentiation in those attachments. Who is his best friend? Who does he spend the most time with? Who has kids that think of him as Uncle Harry? I am hoping that Hogan reveals some more of this as the series goes on, because, quite frankly, I have too many other comics to read to go back and read the past trades. This is a good example of where the trend against exposition goes too far, and leaves the reader swimming without a float.
Resident Alien: the Man with No Name #1 is a good start to a non-capes genre book. It will serve those well that are always in the hunt for this kind of stuff; the not-quite-mainstream that seeks to do something different than tights and eyebeams. In that vein, I like where this is heading. I just wish some more of the backstory would get fleshed out. But if you are ok with that being a gap, you should feel comfortable jumping right in. And I’m sure this will be a good as a trade, also.