Review: Resident Alien #1 (of 3)A comic review article by: Jamil Scalese
Although it clearly says #1 in the top left corner of the cover for this edition of Resident Alien the story started last year in Dark Horse Presents. The beginning of this tale, following marooned alien "Dr. Harry Vanderspiegle," was collected in Resident Alien #0 which I reviewed a few weeks back and absolutely loved. With a fresh mix of untapped ideas and straightforward, gripping art, this offering from comic veterans Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse whetted my appetite for a what should be a fun, and enchanting venture.
Installment two does not disappoint, but is bogged down by what is generally known as "stage-setting." Resident Alien #0 did solid work in establishing the odd narrator, and Vanderspiegle is an alluring character to say the least, but considering that the crux of drama for this miniseries is based around a small-town murder the legwork needed to both establish the town of Patience, USA and develop the murder mystery plot is crucial. The story spends a lot of time showing us around the place, meeting key players like the Mayor Bert and Asta the night nurse and establishing the aura of Patience. It's not necessarily a bad thing, advancing the plot is nice and all, but pulling the reader from the centerpiece, Vanderspiegle, causes the book to lose a touch of momentum.
Parkhouse's art continues to astound, though. While the central tension revolves around murderers and a shifty small town, the style here is something opposite of noir. The choice of color is inspired, with greens and blues dominating the bulk of the backgrounds, and nature factoring into the story like a sprawling character with no lines. I will go out on a limb and say there is a little less rendering here than I've typically seen from Parkhouse, but it totally works. The completeness of the visuals is undeniable, and forces me to appreciate how complete and whole interior art can look when it's all done by one person.
At the conclusion of issue #0, Vanderspiegle is confronted by a shotgun-wielding woman who the alien thought could be one of the few thousand people on planet Earth able to bypass his mental powers and see him in true form. That tension is so quickly defused it's a little bewildering, but I guess the intended purpose is to reintroduce the concept down the line. I love me a good bloody mystery, but the element that keeps this whole thing glued together are the science fiction aspects. Conversely, in an almost contradictory note, the central unknown, who is the perp and why did he kill the town's original doctor, functions as a superb compliment to the story of a stranded extraterrestrial.
I'll dub this one as an obligatory bump in the road. Word needed to be done here in order for the comic to deliver in its conclusion. Totally understandable. I commend Peter Hogan in introducing as much as he did without using info drops or lengthy exposition from characters that don't matter. Everyone seems to have a clearly defined role, and most of the interaction is bounced off Vanderspiegle, which only helps enrich his character.
The concept has me riveted, the art has me in awe. Resident Alien continues to be promising and I am eagerly awaiting the next issue. Clearly one of the best, original creations to come out of Dark Horse in recent memory.
Jamil Scalese is just like you -- an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.