Resident Alien (Vol. 1): Welcome to Earth!: A murder mystery with an alien investigator

Resident Alien (Volume 1): Welcome to Earth by Peter HoganResident Alien (Vol. 1): Welcome to Earth! By Peter Hogan (writer) and Steve Parkhouse (artist)

In Resident Alien, Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle is a ship-wrecked alien in a small town, acting as a general practitioner. He appears as a human to adults — only small children can see his alien appearance. So, he goes undetected. He’s a matter-of-fact, down-to-earth kind of guy, and this first volume (of six volumes so far) by Peter Hogan tells us the story of how he came to be a doctor in the first place.

When our story opens, he’s been living for two years in isolation in a cabin on the outskirts of town. He’s out on the lake in front of the cabin fishing one day when the police come to request his help, since they’ve heard he’s a doctor. When we first see him, we, as readers, can see him as an alien, but the police see only a man in a boat. The police chief, Mike, calls to the alien. When he gets to shore, he’s told the problem the police face: There’s been a murder in town, and they need a doctor to look at the body, and since the murder victim was the town doctor, Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle finds himself getting engaged in the affairs of the town, and we, as readers, find ourselves in the middle of a murder mystery.

The clean, bright colors of this comic show us a beautiful town, and the art overall is realistic and detailed, serving well the storytelling. We meet at the crime scene key characters along with the police: Bert, the mayor, and Asta, the nurse who is quite shaken by the death of the doctor, a father-figure to her. Bert realizes the town won’t have a doctor for quite some time. It’ll take months to replace the doctor, Bert tells Harry, and he asks Harry to fill in to help the town out. Harry knows he shouldn’t expose himself to many humans, since apparently every now and then a human can see him as he really is, but he can’t resist getting involved with people. He’s been lonely since he got stranded on Earth, and he finds humans intriguing, as well as quite easy to read. He’s able to tell when they lie, and he is very perceptive. Soon, he moves into the old doc’s house which serves as the town clinic, and he gets to know Asta, the nurse.

The murder mystery is interesting and it gets complicated when there’s another murder, but it’s not the main attraction of the comic. This comic is really a series of character studies and good development of Harry and those he gets to know (We get flashbacks to when Harry first landed on Earth, too). Other side characters are developed as well: We meet the police officer Brad and his crush Amanda. We get a glimpse of a government official on the alien’s trail. We even get to know the local drug dealer, who is also trying to find the murderer, checking out his scummiest customers looking for a suspect.

When Asta starts suspecting that Harry might not be human, she goes to talk with her dad, a shaman. So, part of the real suspense of the book is whether Harry’s identity will be uncovered by Asta or if he will be caught by the government. And this suspense and the character interactions are why the comic is so good. I highly recommend Resident Alien: Welcome to Earth!


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BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Read Brad's series on HOW TO READ COMICS.

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4 comments

  1. This must be the source material for the SYFY series RESIDENT ALIEN. It sounds like an entertaining read!

  2. Haven’t read the comic, but really enjoy the show quite a bit

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