Resident Alien #1: More Than Meets the Eye

resident alien

Resident Alien: An Alien in New York#1

Peter Hogan (Writer), Steve Parkhouse (Artist)
Dark Horse Comics
April 2018

An alien stranded far from home, Harry Vanderspeigle works as a doctor in Patience, Washington. Harry also investigates crimes freelance to keep himself occupied. With four positive outcomes under his belt, he finds himself on the case of the curious six-year-old, hoping to keep his patient, Honey, from accidentally revealing his secret identity. However, a more pressing mystery may be just around the corner.

Cover, Resident Alien: An Alien in New York, #1; graffiti Statue of Liberty in background; purple pointy-eared alien kneeling in the foreground

Maybe it’s because I read it right around Holocaust Remembrance Day and shortly before the United States launched missiles at Damascus, but Resident Alien prompted a series of unusually lucid Shower Thoughts™ the morning after the bombings. Harry’s fear Honey might reveal his true identity to the world haunted me. How many of those marking Remembrance Day were only able to do so because their relatives pretended to be Christian? How many of those hoping bombs didn’t fall on them had chosen not to do the same, or live another lie, to gain refugee status?

Those situations are probably not what Resident Alien writer Peter Hogan and artist Steve Parkhouse intended to evoke — it’s not that deep. But that doesn’t make them incorrect parallels to draw, either. After all, a story isn’t only about what the creators intend; it’s also about how the audience responds.

Meme; Top text: Look fam; Bottom text: It's not that deep; adult male dipping infant's toes in shallow ocean water
Literal photo of Peter Hogan and me

Harry’s worry once he confirms Honey can see who he really is sent me down the rabbit hole. Harry’s life is in tiny hands. How does someone live with so much uncertainty and anxiety hanging over their head? How long can they stand it? How happy can that person really be when a single throwaway comment could mean societal shunning, arrest, torture, death? I imagine the stress would be exhausting. It’s no wonder Harry works as a doctor and solves mysteries on the side to distract himself!

When it comes to art, Parkhouse employs color to delineate every setting in the story, washing each in tones of a single color. Gray-green for Harry’s practice, blue-gray in the forest, yellow at the bowling alley. The effect moves the narrative seamlessly from place to place, without leaving the reader guessing where one story thread begins and the next ends.

Three moments more closely resemble a kaleidoscope, including Harry’s memory of receiving a survival kit to assist him in the event he became stranded on Earth. A panel where Harry’s alien coworker discusses avoiding contact with Earth’s natives bursts with color as Parkhouse fills it with human faces of all races and ages in a rainbow of realistic shades. The broader palette for those scenes creates a memorable juxtaposition against the surrounding pages.

In the end, even if Hogan and Parkhouse didn’t intend to draw parallels to real life, they created a compelling character in an interesting setting who can be read as a stand-in for humans hiding an essential part of themselves. To me, that makes Harry worthy of a follow-up, if only to see how wrong I ultimately am about those parallels.

Laura Stump

Laura Stump

I'm a constantly sleep-deprived writer who mostly prefers the company of cats to people, although cats (curse their lack of opposable thumbs!) can’t fetch beer from the fridge the way people can.