Three for Thursday: Independent Comics Review – Resident Alien, Winterworld And More


Every Thursday I would like to review a handful of independent comics released for the week. This week we look at three.

(Editor’s note: Yes, Vertigo isn’t really an independent, but it’s close enough for our purposes for this time around.)

Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery #1
Writer: Hogan, Paul
Artist: Parkhouse, Steve
Cover Artist: Parkhouse, Steve

When I get to the comic shop every Wednesday, I may have researched the comics I have interest in for the week. I may not. I want to leave space for unpredictability, titles that jump out  at me. Adhering to a strict pull list, I find, can cause me to miss out on those titles, big and small, that once I see them, hold them in my hands and leaf through their pages, they cause me to say: “Whoa, I did not know this was in the works. Where did this come from?” Admittedly, I am not an industry maven: I do not look to see what comics will be released months from now. I do have a feel for what my favorite creators are working on and what the big two publishers have in their pipeline, but with independent titles, there are just too many for my small brain to conceptualize their publishing schedules.

Having said that, I was not totally unaware of Dark Horse Comics Resident Alien #1. I did know the writer from his work on Tom Strong and the title stood out among Dark Horse’s other releases this week as a series premier, but I had no plans to pick up the title. When my browsing of the comic shelves and new releases presented only a few titles I wanted to dig into, however, I found myself picking through miscellaneous titles. “Miscellaneous” describes Resident Alien fairly accurately too. A mix of science fiction and mystery, it is brought together by the character of a stranded alien impersonating a human doctor.

The story opens in a small town and a doctor’s office. The doctor, we find, has purple skin and pointy ears, but interacts with everyone around him normally and as if no one sees him as purple skinned and pointy eared. It is a storytelling device that brought a smile to my lips. Not only do the townsfolk see “Dr. Harry” as their longtime doctor, there is no explanation for what they are seeing, or not, and for that matter, what we as readers find ourselves trying to understand. The writer does not once explain this seemingly absurd situation or how our pointy eared friend came into his

current circumstances or why no one sees him as an alien. I understand that there was a #0 issue out there for this title that may have shed some light on what is going on, but if the material in a #0 issue was really pertinent, would not it have been included in the actual series?

In any event, the storytellers of Alien Resident #1 give us a point of view, as readers, that no one in the story itself has. It feels like we are part of a secret and this shared secret draws you into the comic. I know I turned pages waiting for some explanation, someone to recognize the alien in their midst, but it never came. On top of that, the story that this narrative device is set upon is more or less strong: the “Doctor” uncovers a couple of mysteries all the while learning about his new home and trying to comfortably fit into it. We also get a good feel for the town and its main players. The writer has a good feel for dialog and characterizations. The art is consistent and strong. This is a story meant to set the reader up for what is to come in succeeding issues. And while my gut tells me that the writer will have to explain the character a bit more at some point in the series, there are worse things than hanging out with a purple alien and waiting to find out what he will do next.

From the publisher:

"The stranded, curious alien known as Dr. Harry tends to patients in the sleepy town of Patience, Washington. Questions about the town’s previous doctor arise when a strange briefcase is found. And does Harry’s favorite mystery writer live in Patience too? Peter Hogan (Tom Strong) and Steve Parkhouse (Milkman Murders) return to their unique science-fiction/mystery series!"

Winterworld: Frozen Fleet #1
Writer: Dixon, Chuck
Artist: Polls, Esteve
Cover Artist: Guice, Butch

I have followed Chuck Dixon’s work forever it seems. And though he may not be a mainstream creator much if at all these days, when his name pops up I try to investigate what he is working on. I have not read a story of his in years, mostly because his recent work is more commercially centered than anything else (he wrote for several issues of Simpsons and G.I. Joe for example). But when I saw his name attached to the intriguing Winterworld: Frozen Fleet #1, I remembered Dixon as the man who once wrote good Batman stories and I took the leap, got and read the comic.

And it was not bad. In a lot of ways, Winterworld seems like a mash-up of the two sides of Dixon’s career: a story set in a unique and strongly imagined universe on one hand, and a rushed, almost flimsy story that screams, “Please buy the next issue!” on the other.  The premise, as set up in earlier Winterworld tales, is rather straightforward: Earth has become a frozen wasteland, and people struggle to survive. I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic narratives, and Winterworld hit several of the genre’s characteristic notes. Civilization has devolved into ragged groups of survivors making their way through the world; they sometimes clash, people die, and if we are lucky a mystery or adventure presents itself and keeps our protagonists busy. By that standard, Winterworld: Frozen Fleet #1 accomplishes its goals. Additionally, the art is pretty good. The penciler appears to be still developing, or perhaps he lacks top notch layout skills in a general sense. But was he or the publisher more responsible for the pedestrian layouts?

In any case, the art is good but flawed. Likewise, the story clicks but does not sing. I could see myself digging for the trade paperback in the bargain bin next year, but unfortunately and despite Chuck Dixon’s presence on the title, I do not see myself picking up next month’s issue.

From the Publisher:

"The Frozen Fleet begins! Scully and Wynn aren’t travelling alone any more… but will secrets revealed turn tentative friends into certain enemies out on the Big Ice?"

Mad Max: Fury Road: Nux and Immortan Joe #1
Writer: Miller, George
Artist: Burchielli, Riccardo
Cover Artist: Edwards, Tommy Lee

Speaking of post-apocalyptic stories, are there any more famous or fleshed out than George Miller’s Mad Max? While it has been a long time since we have seen Max Rockatansky on the screen, this summer’s Mad Max: Fury Road has rekindled interest in the character and his universe. At first blush, it would appear that the Vertigo Comics interest in the property is more profit driven than anything else (Who can remember the last time a movie spawned a good comic, Star Wars aside?). But after reading Mad Max: Fury Road: Nux & Immortan Joe #1, and researching a little on what Vertigo plans for the property, I couldn’t help but get a little excited. For one, Vertigo has enlisted some really good talent for this miniseries: no less than the writing team responsible for the new film are at the helm. And while I am familiar with only David Mack as one of the artists, from what is in the premier issue, I am happy with the art and looking forward to seeing more.

Mad Max: Fury Road: Nux & Immortan Joe takes place perhaps simultaneously with the new film. It is hard to tell, but chronology does not seem to be the point. The story is structured to be approachable wherever you are coming from. A storyteller unique to the Mad Max universe (remember the last ones in Beyond Thunderdome?) sits with children and tells them about two apparently important people in their shared world: Immortan Joe and his War Boy, Nux. We, as readers, get access to the origins of these characters. More fun though, we get exposed to the world from which these characters spring. Dry and desolate, these Wastelands where both stories take place are textured with marauding gangs, brutal battles and horrifying circumstances. And while I have not seen the new film nor can I speak to how well the comic supports the narrative of the film, I can say that the comic stands on its own, offering a doorway to a world that is both beautifully and terrifyingly imagined.

From the publisher:

"In a fallen world ravaged by oil and water wars, humanity exists without law or mercy. All those who wander the Wasteland are ruled by a single imperative…survive! Among them is Max Rockatansky, a Road Warrior haunted by his turbulent past… “It’s hard to know who is more crazy. Me or everyone else?!” In this first issue, witness the rise of Colonel Joe Moore, a war hero turned tyrannical warlord…The Immortan Joe! And don’t miss the story of Nux, one of the Immortan’s “War Boys,” who knows only the chaos into which he was born. From the mind of George Miller, the creator of the Mad Max trilogy, comes a brand new epic tale that serves as a prelude to the upcoming film, Mad Max: Fury Road!"

Next: Previously on Three for Thursday: Mythic, Injection and Harrow County

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