This month is all about the Resident Evil 3 remake (Capcom, 2020) and, as such, I’m taking a look back at the official Resident Evil comic released by WildStorm back in 1998 to 1999. The five-issue Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine mostly filled in events between, during, and after Resident Evil (ibid, 1996) and Resident Evil 2 (ibid, 1998) to flesh out the Resident Evil lore outside of the videogames.
Issue two, released in June 1998, features only three stories compared to the four of issue one but has more pages devoted to each one). From this issue, the comics also start to use the God-awful American variant of the classic Resident Evil title font, most likely as this issue is more focused on events surrounding the second videogame.
Another major change is that this issue actually includes a straight-up adaptation of Resident Evil 2, including dialogue lifted straight from the videogame. Whereas the closest issue one got was a recap on the first game, “A New Chapter of Evil” (Adams, et al) details pretty much the entirety of Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield’s stories, picking up with them being separated on the streets of Raccoon City and following both on their journey through the Raccoon City police station and the Umbrella facility beneath the city streets.
As in the game, the story jumps back and forth between the two but, ostensibly, the plot remains the same just without any Lickers: Leon makes it to the police station, where he meets and is eventually attacked by Marvin. After catching up with Claire, he bumps into Ada Wong and is shot by Annette Birkin after having a run-in with a G monster. Patched up by Ada, Leon dispatches of a giant mutated alligator and they descend into the Umbrella facility. Ada betrays Leon and falls to her death while trying to steal the G-Virus, leaving him with little time to escape the facility.
As all this is going on, Claire (who begins the story packing a lot more heat than her videogame counterpart) has an extremely brief and uneventful run-in with Mr. X. seriously, she takes him out with just “five rounds”, off panel, and he never appears again. It’s like the writers only played snippets of Claire’s story.
Anyway, Claire meets Annette’s daughter, Sherry, and they witness the corrupt Police Chief Irons be killed by Sherry’s father, William, who has mutated into “G”. Claire dispatches “G” (once again with laughable ease) and comforts Sherry after her mother is killed. They hook back up with Leon and, after finally doing away with “G”’s final form, they escape the facility just as it self-destructs.
As an adaptation of Resident Evil 2, “A New Chapter of Evil” is both extensive and rushed; loads of Claire’s story is skipped entirely, with Mr. X practically being a non-player, and the threat posed by “G” is almost completely non-existent as the characters defeat it while barely breaking a sweat. Hell, it takes Leon more effort to kill the alligator than “G”! Yet, as a quick run through of the game’s major story events, this is serviceable enough, though it feels as though the issue would have benefitted greatly from devoting its entire page count to their adaptation rather than twenty-odd pages. “Mutant Menagerie” (Oprisko, et al) briefly shows how Birkin was driven to infect himself with the G-Virus after being gunned down for his research samples. Mutating into “G”, all he can think of is to infect as many hosts as possible, which leads him to the Raccoon City Zoo.
This is bad news for the on-shift security guard Patrick Brady, who soon finds himself fighting to survive with limited ammunition and resources against infected tigers, pandas, snakes, apes, and prairie dogs. After he realises that he’s all alone, he fights through the zoo and its infected creatures to overload the zoo’s power generator and keep the animals from escaping. Though seemingly successful, he passes out from fatigue while one last prairie dog looms in for a snack.
This story does a pretty good job of relating the desperation that accompanies Resident Evil videogames; Patrick doesn’t have a lot at his disposal and is up against the odds, much like the player often is. He also is forced to battle through hordes of enemies to reach an elaborate objective, which is pretty much par for the course of all Resident Evil titles. Interestingly enough, one of the scenarios in Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2 (Capcom, 2004) saw characters dealing with a wide variety of infected creatures at the Racoon City zoo, though I would be surprised if that game took any inspiration from this particular story.
The final story, “Lock Down” (Oprisko, et al) follows Barry Burton about a week after the events of Resident Evil; traumatised by what he experienced, Barry opts to visit a psychiatrist but, wouldn’t you know it, the building is suddenly infested with zombies! Swiping an access key, Barry is handed a map and instructions by a dying guard and is forced to battle his way through not only zombies but a Tyrant in order to piece together a bomb that will destroy the building. Funnily enough, Barry struggles more with giant mutant cockroaches than the Tyrant and he is able to leap to safety as the building explodes.
If the first story was an adaptation of Resident Evil 2’s plot, the second adapted the survival/horror gameplay, this last story goes all-in with representing the arduous side missions and tasks players must complete while battling mutated creatures and monsters. Barry must search the building using a map to find the three bomb parts, even blasting a zombie apart to get a key to open a locker for one piece, and then assemble the bomb before escaping to safety.
It’s interesting how the first issue was basically an anthology comic of side stories and companion pieces to the first two Resident Evil videogames and it isn’t until the second that WildStorm produced a more traditional adaptation of the source material. That being said, while “Lock Down” does wonders for fleshing out Barry’s personality (he has a snarky, gritty action-hero attitude that wouldn’t really be seen for some time), the clear standout of this issue is “A New Chapter of Evil”. A lot of this is due to my personal bias for Resident Evil 2 but I feel it’s a stronger statement to feature an adaptation of the videogame alongside smaller side stories rather than just filling the pages with recaps or interludes.
Did you ever read the Resident Evil comics published by WildStorm? Would you be interested in the series receiving a reprint as the collection is currently out of print? Do you have a favourite piece of ancillary Resident Evil media? Drop a comment below and come back next Tuesday for my rundown of issue three.