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Resident Alien #1
posted June 7, 2012
Peter Hogan, Steve Parkhouse
Dark Horse Comics, comic book, 24 pages, 2012, $3.50
There are two curiosities concerning Resident Alien
#1 that have little to nothing to do with the story presented. The first and most obvious is that this issue is presented as a #1 of 3, despite coming after a #0 of collected short installments that seem to me to completely necessary to picking up a lot of what's going on in this issue. There's even a note on the first page warning the reader to pick that issue up, like the people in control of the inside pages are at loggerheads with those putting together the cover. The second and less obvious oddity is that this seems to be part of a more general effort by Dark Horse Comics to provide the Direct Market with some good, old-fashioned serial comics stories, drawing on the work and skill set of established creators: Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse here, Peter Bagge and Gilbert Hernandez in other, related efforts. I have no idea if it will work, but holding the comic in my hands feels like I'm slipping a vinyl album from one of those Musicland bags that hardly felt all the way there. I don't think that's a model that can reestablish itself with a few quality efforts (it'll take dozens, and still might not take), but I'm grateful that someone's giving it a shot.
The work itself has a kind of worn, comfortable appeal -- like one of those TV shows that unabashedly squats in its little-used genre. If it were a show on a television network, Resident Alien
would feel most at home on CBS. It's a fairly easy to explain high concept. A crash-landed alien poses as a research specialist while waiting to be rescued. A murder mystery in the community close to where he lives ropes him into other folks' lives in a way that poses an additional threat to his being discovered. Hogan and especially Parkhouse are total pros: it's hard to imagine anyone questioning their lead's fundamental appeal, or deny the creators the skill with which they present the broad outline of their small-town milieu. A lot of how Resident Alien
will be remembered, if at all, depends on how much this lengthy establishment of character and predicament and tone is used to drive a compelling, satisfying story. It's a delicate thing to craft a story out of mix of genre twists and the vague back-and-forth of human relationships; it could fall apart at any moment despite the seeming sturdiness of the effort two issues in. Still, the quotidian joys of minor-league world-building, of just spending time in a comic book world, those never go away or grow old.