Resident Alien #0
Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse
Dark Horse Comics
Last year the Dark Horse Presents anthology comic series carried a pretty interesting strip from Paul Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, Resident Alien. Harry Vanderspiegle is the titular resident alien – not one of those who sneaked over the Tex-Mex border that get right wing US politicians so excitable but an actual alien, an extra terrestrial being. He even looks a bit like the classic ‘gray’ alien, although taller. Well, to the reader, at any rate.
You see to the people of his small, isolated rural town Harry is just another person, thanks to some mental tricks he can exercise so the human population see him as one of them. And so there he is, settled down in his out of the way backwater, happily spending time on the lake fishing or in his cabin, keeping a low profile and little contact with others so as not to push his luck. Until the law comes knocking on his door.
It’s not a raid of police and federal investigators looking for ET though, it’s the local sheriff and he’s after Harry’s help. You see the mailman told him Harry is a doctor and in their normally peaceful wee township they’ve had a, for them, unusual crime – a murder. And since the town is too small for a detective force or forensics team and the state ones being loaned to them won’t arrive for some time they think to ask the old keep-to-himself doctor in the fishing cabin… Harry has deliberately stayed isolated in case he meets one of the very few humans his psychic disguise doesn’t work on, but he reckons in a small town it is unlikely he will meet such a rare person who can resist his trick, and besides he can’t really turn down the sheriff’s request for help without looking suspicious…
So Harry goes off to inspect the body, which turns out to be that of the town’s GP. And we discover that Harry has a bit of a fascination for murder mysteries and crime stories – he has an uncanny ability to discern people’s thoughts and motivations from the tiniest movements and gestures and expressions they make and, despite his caution at becoming involved with more of the natives, he finds himself drawn into helping, his curiosity climbing. And then the mayor drops another help request on him he can’t avoid – since the town’s doctor is the murder victim can Harry take over his practise? Just for a week till the replacement arrives… Unwilling and forseeing he may well be sucked into much more involvement with the people of the town than he wants, Harry knows that again he can’t refuse…
And that’s the set-up for the start of the upcoming three-part mini-series – this zero issue collects the original strip that was serialised in DHP last year in one, so it is a perfect introduction and set up for the series (I know Peter has plans for a second series should this one prove successful with readers, and I hope it does, because I loved it). It’s a great scenario, gleefully mixing science fiction aliens-among-us with the murder-mystery genre, while the odd characters and small town setting also evoke slight echoes of Lynch’s Twin Peaks and perhaps a smidgen of Doc Hollywood with the out of towner medic stuck in small town America and coming to like it (and Harry’s old fishing hat also reminds me slightly of MASH’s Dr Henry Blake). Harry himself is extremely likeable -we don’t know why he is there yet, shipwrecked alien or deliberate visitor, or if any in authority suspect he is there yet, and that adds to it – but his self-imposed, cautious isolation has left him realising when he interacts with the townsfolk that he misses company. Maybe not his own species, but they are people, and he finds himself being drawn to them, to their lives and problems and enjoying using his accurate observational skills to discern their hidden motivations.
It’s a real pleasure to delve into and I can’t wait for the start of the mini-series proper, to see Harry become more and more involved in his small town mystery – and to see if his sudden dropping of his former caution about becoming involved with humans leads him to better things or to the problems he adopted his isolated persona to avoid in the first place. And to help get you in the mood why not check out this interview that man Pádraig Ó Méalóid had with Peter about the series late last year on the blog?