The release of the Resident Evil 3 remake (Capcom, 2020) is still a big enough news item for me to continue my retrospective on Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, a comic book released by WildStorm back in 1998 to 1999 that ran for five issues and covered events between, during, and after Resident Evil (ibid, 1996) and Resident Evil 2 (ibid, 1998).
Issue one recapped and filled in events from the first game, while issue two focused entirely on covering the events of the second. The third issue oddly introduced supernatural elements to the lore and began a three-issue arc that would continue in issue four, released in December 1998.
The issue’s first story, “Night Stalkers” (Oprisko, et al), revolves around giant, man-bat creatures created by Umbrella’s G-Virus attacking and small Nevada town. Their bite infects a young boy, turning him into a zombie, but their true purpose is to spirit townsfolk away to a hidden Umbrella lab, where the lunatic scientist Dr Callos, can turn them into more bat-men. Luckily, Leon S. Kennedy rocks up to investigate and, after a brief scuffle, is captured by the man-bats and taken to Dr Callos’ laboratory. Leon manages to overload the machine Callos has been using to control the man-bats and they turn on their creator, ripping him to shreds while Leon makes his escape and the air force move in to eradicate the lab.
This was a slightly better attempt at mixing the supernatural with Resident Evil as, unlike last issue’s “Wolf Hunt” (Adams, et al), “Night Stalkers” shows these vampire-like creatures to be products of Umbrella’s G-Virus rather than anything mythical. Once again, the comic oddly foreshadows Resident Evil Zero (Capcom, 2002), which featured a giant infected bat as a boss battle, though that was noticeably less humanoid than the man-bats featured here.
Without really knowing it, this story also provides a bit of a glimpse into Leon’s life between Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4 (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2005); Leon even arrives in a small town using a little jeep, very much like the opening of Resident Evil 4, and is both decidedly more capable and written as more of an action hero as in that game . It’s not really revealed who he’s working for here; he wears a modified version of his riot gear but, judging from his rescuers, appears to work for the United States government.
“Special Delivery” (Mostman, et al) makes a minor attempt to address a concern I had with issue two’s adaptation of Resident Evil 2 as it follows two Umbrella helicopter pilots as the fly around delivering Umbrella’s bio-organic weapons (BOWs) to specific areas. Their first drop-off is Mr. X, whom they dump right on top of the Raccoon City police station; though this is the only time he is featured in the story, it’s interesting to see behind the scenes of his delivery as, in the game, he just comes crashing in with a bang.
The pilots then drop off a massive man-eating plant, similar to Plant 42, at a chemical warehouse and a Tyrant at a mineshaft working to synthesise anti-viral agents. Just as they’re about to make their last delivery, though, Umbrella’s deceitful nature kicks in and a canister activates, releasing a squid-like BOW on the chopper that promptly kills them in brutal fashion. Side stories like this are a great use of this comic as it allows us to see a version of events we’re normally not privy to in the videogames; Resident Evil, especially the earlier titles, was always ore about reacting to the events and trying to survive through them rather than worry about the hows and the whys. That came through the files and notes and was generally revealed the deeper you got into the games but, around this time, all we really had to go on about Umbrella were documents found strewn around the game’s environments, biased third-party information, and the drudgery that was Resident Evil: Survivor (TOSE, 2000).
The issue ends with a continuation of last issue’s “Dead Air” (Adams, et al), “Zombies Abroad” (ibid), which begins by solving the pesky problem of safely landing the zombie-infested plane that Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, and Barry Burton are in. Luckily, Chris is able to do this without any real issue and the rest of the zombies are subdued (thanks to Barry using a make-shift flamethrower, which seems incredibly dangerous in a pressurised aircraft…) before they can infect other passengers).
After landing, the three do a whistle-stop tour of some of England’s most iconic landmarks in search of Umbrella’s European headquarters and find nothing but zombies. The story then just jump cuts to France and becomes an action-packed montage of the three blowing zombies away outside the Eiffel Tower, in the Louvre, and in the Netherlands until they reach a castle in Germany.
Here, the story slows way down and pulls inspiration from the investigatory and puzzle-solving elements of the videogames; Jill finds a mysterious photograph, Chris discovers a hidden passageway after fiddling with a suit of armour, and Barry finds a hidden note after playing an organ in a near-exact recreation of many of the arbitrary puzzles of the first videogame.
The story ends on another cliffhanger, with each of our three heroes left in a face of jeopardy. I’m at odds with this one; on the one hand, it’s fun to see these three working together and blowing away zombies but, on the other, there’s a few questions raised. Like, when did the Tyrant-Virus (T-Virus) spread to Europe? Up until this point, it’s only infected small, mid-western towns and areas in America. When was the T-Virus released? If Umbrella’s headquarters weren’t in any of the places the three visited, it’s a bit weird that they’d encounter so many zombies.
Also, while it’s nice to see the comic really go all-in with adapting the game’s puzzles, I’m not entirely sure if it works for a comic book. Comic books are generally all about frenetic action and, so far, these Resident Evil comics have always had a good balance between gory fire fights and nods to the game’s slower mechanics. I kind of feel like they could have used an entire issue to tell a slow story where we follow a lone character investigating their surroundings, finding clues and maybe solving some puzzles while building threat and looming tension as we see zombies or BOWs closing in on them but suddenly juxtaposing seven pages of zombies getting their heads blown off with elaborate puzzles in a Gothic setting just feels a bit odd here.
Other than a few additional pieces of artwork from Carlos D’Anda, that’s about it for this issue. At this point, the formula is starting to wear a little thin; it really does feel like WildStorm would have been better off doing maybe three full issues adapting the first game, then three more focusing on the second game, with one side story or interlude in each to help flesh out the Resident Evil lore. They seem, instead, to have been aiming for an anthology-based title but I’m not sure it’s really paying off as we’re only four issues in and they already seem to be struggling for content and story ideas. As there wasn’t much to go on at this point apart from the characterisations and documents we see in the videogames, it might have been smarter to stick to being a straight-up adaptation rather than try and cobble together new content out of, effectively, nothing.
Could Be Better
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 five.