Resident Alien #0–3
Written by Peter Hogan
Art/Colour/Letters by Steve Parkhouse
Dr Harry Vanderspeigle lives outside the small mountain town of Patience, USA. He’s a semi-retired doctor who keeps to himself, until the local police ask him to help in an investigation – the only doctor in town has been murdered, and he’s the only other doctor in the area. The only problem is that Harry is an extraterrestrial who crash-landed on Earth three years ago; he has blended into the community while he waits to be rescued, deliberately staying out of local affairs and trying not to get involved with the rest of the world.
My immediate response to this comic book was: ‘This is a great idea – why has nobody else done it before?’ The simplicity of the central premise belies the thinking behind it because it has a fish-out-of-water aspect, it has a great set-up for a murder mystery with added genre overtones to make it distinctive, it has a character forced to do good and interact with society against his will, it has the dimension of the dual nature of the alien in the United States, as well as the character interactions of our protagonist with the people he is now forced to deal with against the requisites of his mission. The scope for more stories is great, and it’s great to see that Dark Horse is allowing Hogan and Parkhouse to do more mini-series.
Harry is an interesting central character: he can ‘read’ human beings, which helps him in his chosen profession as a physician so he can diagnose more accurately and more easily, which means that he doesn’t have to interact with patients repeatedly because he cures them the first time. This ability is obviously helpful investigating the murder and provides the genre dimension that elevates this from a simple whodunit. His mental powers mean that nearly all people can’t see him for who he is – they see him as a human, although the art shows him as a pointy-eared, black-eyed purple alien – with the possible exception of the night nurse, whose father is a shaman who suggests that Harry might be ‘a visitor to our world’.
Harry is also a decent person – Hogan writes in the introduction that he wanted to have an alien as the good guy – and you care for him and his plight and you want him to be rescued. He is far away from home, he doesn’t know when he’ll return, he has a woman he loves waiting for him; he has been lonely, although he doesn’t know that he’s lonely, and he’s secretly fascinated by Earth and human beings, which is why he is drawn into their world. The resolution of the murder mystery isn’t a massive revelation that upends the status quo – it’s simply another part of existence on this planet – but that’s not the point of the story. It is a charming, small tale that draws you in, with the clear lines of Parkhouse depicting each of the characters in the book differently, with different body and face shapes to define the individual (something that a lot of comic book artists have difficulty with) but not as grotesque as the characters in The Bojeffries Saga, his collaboration with Alan Moore (who provides a nice pull-quote on the front cover). Resident Alien is a wonderful example of the joys of comic books and the result of two creators demonstrating top-notch craftsmanship.