So it’s probably old news by now but we finally saw the release of the Resident Evil 3 remake (Capcom, 2020) recently and, to mark the occasion, I’ve been taking a look back at Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, a five-issue comic book released by WildStorm back in 1998 to 1999. If you’ve stuck with me through it all, well done; if not, you can read up on my thoughts on issue one, two, three, and four easily enough.
Issue five, published in February 1999, would be the last issue in this series and, honestly, it probably couldn’t have come at a better time. Rather than choose to be a by the numbers adaptation of the first two videogames, WildStorm mostly opted to tell side stories, interludes, and recaps of Resident Evil (ibid, 1996) and Resident Evil 2 (ibid, 1998). While this worked to begin with and nicely fleshed out some of the Resident Evil lore, choosing to be an anthology series rather than focusing on the events of the videogames has produces more misses than hits in retrospect.
This final issue begins with “…And the Last Shall Be First” (Oprisko, et al), a story in which a teenage boy, Dexter Whitlam, pushed to the edge by schoolyard bullies, steals and injects himself with a vial of G-Virus in order to exact revenge upon his tormentors.
Desperate for revenge against his bullies, Dexter stumbles across an Umbrella facility where a Tyrant is being held in stasis; it was at this point that I was hoping Dexter would release the bio-organic weapon (BOW) so that we could finally see it wreck some serious havoc as, up to this point, BOWs like the Tyrant had been given the shaft by WildStorm.
Instead, though, Dexter steals a G-Virus sample (I guess Umbrella were planning on experimenting on the Tyrant with it?) and, while he initially plans to create his own BOW, he is driven to injecting himself and transforms into a “G”-like monster.
G-Dexter hunts down and kills his tormentors but is subdued by Mr. Venk, an Umbrella operative, and taken to an Umbrella facility where, inexplicably, his G-infection is apparently cured. Reverted back to normal, he is offered the chance to join Umbrella and put his intellect to their use.
It’s kind of sad that “…And the Last Shall Be First” is the only time a G-infected human is given a chance to do anything of note as, even in issue two’s direct adaptation of Resident Evil 2, “G” was taken out like a bitch. Here, we finally see what “G” is capable of as G-Dexter slashes fools up with his claws and mutilates his bullies with extreme prejudice. Unfortunately, though, it seems like a wasted effort as it’s not like this is the origin of a character we know from the videogames; had the story been tweaked and reworked slightly, it could have given us an interesting glimpse into William Birkin’s childhood but, alas, we’re left with the potential of “G” being wasted on a random original character who, honestly, isn’t all that compelling; it’s the same “nerd bullied to the brink” story you’ve seen a hundred times before…but with the G-Virus involved.
The next side story, “Emmy’s Bloody Spoon” (Adams, et al), follows another couple, Deb and Terry, who decide to take their honeymoon in Raccoon City, of all places. They make a pit stop at a diner which, wouldn’t you know it, comes under siege from a zombie attack.
Despite the best efforts of the little old lady behind the counter, they’re all massacred by a lone zombie, who is interrupted by the arrival of Claire Redfield. So, what we have here is a brief prelude to the start of Claire’s story in Resident Evil 2, showing how the diner came to be infected when she rocked up in town.
The story ends the moment Claire arrives, though, and therefore doesn’t really tell us anything we really needed to know at that point as WildStorm were showing us the rate of infection in Raccoon City back in issue two so, other than filling in a very small hole in the overarching Resident Evil story, this feels, again, like wasted potential as they could have used these pages to tell a short story about Claire and Sherry after Resident Evil 2, or expand upon their time in Raccoon City but, instead, we get this…
The issue ends with the conclusion of the three-issue story WildStorm have been telling about Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, and Barry Burton trying to locate Umbrella’s European headquarters. “Kane & Abe” (ibid) opens by pretty much skipped over exactly how the three avoided being eaten by their attackers in the last issue’s conclusion and jumps right into Chris and Barry loading up on weapons to go find Jill.
Jill stumbles upon Abe, an Umbrella scientist, and Kane, a massive Tyrant-like BOW that Jill is unable to stop with just her pistol, which is a nice change of pace considering how easily “G”, Mr. X, and a Tyrant were taken care of without any real effort in previous issues).
Abe sets off the obligatory self-destruct and disappears, leaving Jill, Chris, and Barry to subdue Kane long enough to make their dramatic escape just as the castle explodes. The issue then ends with Claire and Leon S. Kennedy just happening upon the three like it was nothing, finally bringing an end to Claire’s long search for her brother.
Once again, WildStorm foreshadows Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2000) through the Gothic aesthetic of the German castle, European setting, and the reunion of the Redfields. The BOW the protagonists tangle with is also very similar to the Hypnos Tyrant from Resident Evil: Survivor (TOSE, 2000), of all things, and the action-orientated nature of their battle through the castle is more than reminiscent of the gameplay changes first seen in and Resident Evil 4 (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2005).
However, this was a very rushed conclusion to a three-part story; entire plot points and sequences are ignored and the story just jumps from one thing to the next with little in between to fill in the gaps. It’s almost as if WildStorm shouldn’t have wasted time in the last issue recreating the game’s laborious puzzles and, instead, focused on moving the narrative along in an interesting and action-orientated way.
In the end, Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine ended with a bit of a whimper. They didn’t do a proper adaptation of a Resident Evil videogame until issue two, didn’t start a multi-part story until issue three, and most of the stories they did tell, while interesting, were pretty forgettable and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
I applaud their efforts to tie each story together in subtle ways, and to refer to the events of the videogames; the artwork was strikingly gory and consistently good all the way through each of the five issues and they made an effort to adapt all the different nuances of the videogames, from the characters to the story, the creatures, and even the puzzles. While some of these land better (and are more suitable) than others, at least they gave it a fair shake of the stick and tried to expand upon what was, at the time, only a two game franchise.
Reading back these issues, it almost seems as though Capcom restricted the type of stories WildStorm were allowed to tell as, rather than go into detail about what the survivors did before, between, and after Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2, the writers dance and skirt around the issue, throwing as much smoke and mirrors (or, more appropriately, blood and guts) at the reader as they can to disguise the fact that they haven’t actually expanded upon these characters much at all…possibly because they weren’t allowed to given that Capcom had a couple of sequels and spin-offs in the works.
They tried to expand upon side characters like Ada’s boyfriend John and inject William Birkin with a bit more menace but both of these efforts were pretty much ignored and retconned by Capcom in subsequent sequels. With that in mind, it seems all the more sensible to me to have used these issues to tell adaptations of the first two videogames alongside one or two interludes and side stories per issue. Show a little more of Albert Wesker’s mindset, delve deeper into Chief Irons’ corruption, maybe just do a story the follows Mr. X bludgeoning its way through the Raccoon City police station. But to waste pages and effort on telling us what happened before Claire arrived at that diner seems like a waste of time to me, especially when you’re giving the shaft to the Lickers and BOWs like “G”.
WildStorm would revisit the Resident Evil franchise a couple more times over the years; they told the story of the hitherto-unknown Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) Charlie team in the four-issue Resident Evil: Fire & Ice series, published in 2000 and 2001. This comic featured many of the same writers and artists as Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine and even returned some of the original characters and places to the lore, like Patrick Brady from issue two and Saguaro Wells from issue four. They also published a prequel to Resident Evil 5 (Capcom, 2009) between 2009 and 2011 and, while they collected each of these different publications into trade paperbacks, they are all long out of print.
Overall, Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine was a pretty enjoyable experience but it had the potential to be so much more; it could have used its artists and writers to bring the videogames to life in a new way for comic readers and given fans of the videogames a lovely piece of ancillary media to collect. Instead, it’s more of a forgettable tie-in that peaks with the second issue, though it would be nice to see the collection get a reprint at some point.
Did you ever read any of 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 down below and stay in touch for more content and articles.