Greetings, earthlings! New Comic Wednesday has come around again and among your usual (or not so usual) haul, consider picking this one up! Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde is the second volume in the Resident Alien series by Peter Hogan (writer of Tom Strong) and Steve Parkhouse (the Bojeffries Saga), published by Dark Horse Comics. These two have been on the scene for decades, and this collaboration is truly an unexpected gem among the comics that have come out in the last year. It’s about an alien stranded on Earth, who hides his appearance and seeks refuge in the small town of Patience, adopting the guise of a retired doctor. He’s not looking to do an evil take over, his only goal is to keep a low profile until his own people can find him and take him home. Then the town’s doctor dies and Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle (as the alien comes to call himself) is pulled in to temporarily replace him, soon finding himself more in the spotlight then he originally planned for.
This is the second volume in the series, but in so many ways, both arcs feel self contained. I recommend picking up the first volume as well, simply because you will get more of the story’s initial background and it’s also completely worth it, but I actually read the second volume first when it was in single issues and loved it fully on its own. The formula is more or less the same as the first, just a different plot point. Another death in town takes place and Dr. Harry is called in to inspect the body, becoming intrigued enough to take matters into his own hands and investigate the death on his own, as a consequence finding himself right smack dab in the middle of another murder mystery. This time it’s the death of a college girl who was found in a motel room and made to look like a suicide. The case leads Harry all the way to Seattle, where more then just the surprising truth surrounding the girl’s death is inevitably uncovered.
For an alien stuck on Earth and yearning for his home world, Harry is endlessly fascinated with American traditions and the people who observe them. We see him develop an appreciation for old horror movies and cheesy murder mysteries, even beginning to enjoy his work as the town’s doctor despite his original misgivings about becoming so involved with the people of Patience. Like any good alien story, there’s always some top secret government force on the scent of the Earth’s intruder, and from the beginning of the series we see a cat and mouse game afoot that Harry becomes less and less wary of as he is found more consumed by his cases. It’s all very E.T. meets Sherlock Holmes, a detective torn between two worlds and two very different lives, struggling with his relationship to the people of Earth and a love he left back home. It’s the story of an alien on a strange planet, trying his hardest to fit in and learning to empathize with a people outside of his own.
This book provides a unique experience for the reader, as we get to see a glimpse through the window into how our society looks through the eyes of an extraterrestrial outcast just trying to blend in. Hogan’s writing feels like a classic black and white film in the style in which Harry narrates to the reader, while Parkhouse’s art is so rich and colourful, complimenting the setting of the story and the characters in it. The artist creates a wonderfully diverse cast to tell their story, beautifully filled with different body types and face shapes that makes an avid comic book fan like me happy to be reading it. Harry uses his special alien abilities to hide his true appearance from other people so they only see a human face, but the artist only draws him in his alien form so you get to see page after page of the most obvious but entertaining game of Where’s Waldo. It’s shocking at first, but after awhile even the reader gets used to turning the page and seeing a purple alien sitting calmly in the middle of a diner surrounded by other people who seem completely unphased by it.
I’m a big fan of alien stories. I loved X-Files when I was growing up, I was even guilty of watching that terrible Roswell show on the WB. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Alien, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, District 9 – there are countless movies and television adaptions of various depictions of alien encounters, both friendly and hostile. I remember seeing Escape to Witch Mountain as a kid, one of my first real introductions into the concept of alien invasions, and going, ‘Man being an alien must be so cool!’ (Obviously, being a kid, you really just wanted the awesome powers, not the green skin that some versions accompanied it with.) For me, personally, I am a much bigger fan of alien stories where the alien isn’t necessarily the bad guy. The whole Independence Day thing is kind of old, and I think a story is much more compelling when the plot isn’t so black and white.
Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde is a seductive story that holds an intriguing element of noir to it that’s almost addicting in the chosen narrative. A beautiful woman with a rocky past is found dead and the emotionally detached (read: alien) detective is on the case, with the added bonus of a sex scandal, a corrupt politician, and a suspicious roommate who knows more than she’s letting on. Anybody who’s looking for a new kind of crime story with a fresh look and something other then the same, tired old formula, should definitely think about giving this comic a try. It’s also a pretty quick read, in case you don’t end up getting hooked. But if you do? Keep an eye out for the next installment! This dynamite team isn’t finished with this great story yet.