Resident Alien is a space opera/mystery graphic novel series by Peter Hogan, and I love it. There are four volumes so far, with a fifth coming out in November, all from Dark Horse. Each is published as a miniseries and then a trade paperback, so it’s easy to follow what to read next. Each volume has a complete mystery story, although the character development continues seamlessly across the volumes. It’s about an alien named Harry who crashes on Earth and ends up serving as a town doctor in Patience, Washington.
Each volume is only about four issues long, so there’s not a lot of room for a fully-developed mystery, but you’re reading for the pace, the gentle space opera and cozy mystery atmosphere, and the slow characterization. Harry is a casually surprising character — I love his delight in mystery novels and, when he gets the chance, real mysteries. (His pulp mystery fandom is consistent, but eventually becomes the plot of book 3). I love his patient acceptance of the way things are and of who people are, not trying to change them or expecting humanity to be other than it is.
The science fiction elements mostly play out in his memories, his occasional thoughts about the lover who chose to stay behind to take care of her parents rather than go with him or enter stasis to stay the same age as him while he was in space. His references to his own people, and wondering if anyone knows to come and get him, and how it’ll take several more years either way. The Men in Black sort of agency that’s been looking for him for three years, but only reluctantly believes he’s an alien. One of the neatest ideas in the series is that Harry’s mental abilities can convince humans he looks human too, but one in a million will actually be able to see him, and he won’t know until they react. And because it’s a mental power, photos and videos taken of him will show his real face. He’s drawn as an alien throughout, giving it a strange but charming feel as we see this alien casually living in this small town… but then there’s that hint of tension, that all it takes is one photo to put him in danger.
The other main character is Asta Twelvetrees, a Native American nurse who also works in Patience. At first I worried her Native heritage was going to be used condescendingly, she and her father think Harry might be a spirit at first, but it turns out to be more matter-of-fact and more subtle than that. Their heritage is relevant because it’s their culture and their lived experience, but no more than that, and whether Harry is a spirit or alien it doesn’t really matter to how they treat him. Mr. Twelvetrees has some kind of magical awareness that’s a casual part of the worldbuilding here, occasional sleep-visions he can apparently share with other sleepers including Harry, and internet access, and uses all of the above to help stay on top of things and warn others of coming dangers.
Harry and Asta hold down the story, but I’ve gotten invested in all the residents of Patience. They tend to start off simply, with one or two characteristics to remember them by, but none of them are caricatures and the more you meet them the more you like them. They’re quirky, but not unbelievably so. They’ve got secrets, but no more than anyone else you know. (There are no queer characters as yet, but Harry makes a casual reference to another person’s potential bisexuality, so once again, I love him). This would honestly make an ideal TV series if they could adapt it properly — a little tension but not too much, and a lot of great small-town characters, some hints of romance and drama in the mysteries, potentially great acting opportunities for the leads…
Finally, I should mention the art by Steve Parkhouse. Another reviewer called it “charming,” which I think is a good word. You don’t notice the art most of the time, but I remember the expressions of characters and the emotions they felt, and that’s really saying something. I remember them in motion, with subtle reactions. I remember Harry’s face and the way he smiles. I love it. So, yes, I super want a TV series, but the graphic novel is amazing all on its own.
Everyone please buy and read this series, so maybe even if Syfy doesn’t pick up the proposed show, someone will at least issue some merch!