Earlier this year, in a shameless attempt to grab more views around the release of the slightly disappointing Resident Evil 3 remake (Capcom, 2020), I did a weekly review of a five-issue comic series based on Capcom’s popular survival horror franchise which was published between 1998 and 1999.
Given that, at the time, there were only two Resident Evil titles to work from, with the third still in production, Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine didn’t have a lot of material to work with and, whether through a direct mandate from Capcom or a conscious decision on the part of its creative team, largely decided against including direct adaptations of the source material and, instead, preferred to tell spin-offs, side stories, and interludes. Most of these, honestly, didn’t really add much, if anything, to the series lore; we saw what happened in the diner moments before Claire Redfield arrived in Raccoon City, for example, and follow Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, and Barry Burton on a zombie slaughtering tour across Europe and Leon S. Kennedy fight giant, mutated bat creatures but a lot of it fell far from the mark.
Honestly, Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine was at its best when it was telling recapped, truncated, or heavily modified adaptations of the first two games and was saved from mediocrity by some truly stunning and gory artwork. Although the series was short-lived, WildStorm revisited the Resident Evil franchise with a four-issue follow-up series published between 2000 and 2001 that, as it’s Halloween this month, I’ll be looking into. The Fire and Ice series focused entirely on original characters, some of whom even return from Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, and featured many of the same writers and artists as that first five-issue series, so it’ll be interesting to see if WildStorm have better success this time around with their original characters and stories than they did last time or if they’ll spew out more drivel like Jill inexplicably battling with a werewolf.
Issue one opens up with the hitherto-unknown Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) Charlie team battling against circus freaks infected with the Umbrella Corporation’s infamous G-Virus. The team, led by Falcon, consists of the knife-wielding Australian Quan Williamson, the high-kicking Rosa Cardenas, the tech-geek Jesse Alcorn, and Patrick Brady, who lugs around a comically large energy blasting bazooka.
If Brady sounds familiar, it’s because he appeared in Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine where he was a simple security guard at the Raccoon City Zoo; although he managed to survive against a hoard of infected zoo animals, he was bitten by an infected prairie dog and exposed to the G-Virus. Luckily, he was saved by Leon (…because of course he was) and a S.T.A.R.S medical team were able to reverse the G-Virus effects (…despite the fact that they had failed in every other attempt). Somehow, as a side effect, Brady could also “sense the presence of the G-Virus” which, alongside his “natural fighting skills” (I mean, he was a security guard so I guess he had some training but I doubt it’s anything like Leon or Chris’s. Plus, I remember him panicking and running a lot in his first appearance…) got him a spot on Charlie team.
After filling us in on Brady’s story, the comic then spends the next few pages introducing us to the rest of the team: Falcon, a muscle-bound archetypal action hero who seems like Terry Crews before Terry Crews was a thing and also briefly appeared in Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, is a former Army Ranger who was betrayed by his superiors and framed for an unexplained “international incident” before being inexplicably recruited by S.T.A.R.S. Rosa Cardenas is a bad-ass goth chick; a Mexican raised on a Hopi Indian reserve who is proficient in “tracking skills” who has a personal grudge against Umbrella and their experiments after her mother was killed in the aforementioned diner during the Raccoon City outbreak. Quan Williamson is not only Australian but also of “Thai descent” who left behind his promising academic career and his love of vehicles and machinery because of his natural aversion to authority and his desire to form a band, though his life was forever changed after he witnessed Leon’s fight against the aforementioned bat-men. The violent and slightly unhinged Jesse Alcorn also has a disdain for authority bordering on the psychotic as he used his “amazing computer skills” to hack in NORAD and nearly caused a nuclear war, after which he was given a choice: life in prison or join the S.T.A.R.S. Charlie team.
By this point, you might have noticed a common thread being weaved throughout the members of Charlie team: not only are they somewhat reminiscent of Task Force X (known by their more colourful title as the Suicide Squad) from DC Comics, each of them has either briefly featured on WildStorm’s previous Resident Evil comic series or has some link, however tenuous, with an existing and popular Resident Evil character. This reminds me very much of the way Paul W. S. Anderson would rope in popular Resident Evil characters like Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), Claire and Chris Redfield (Ali Larter and Wentworth Miller), and Leon Kennedy (Johann Urb) into his later Resident Evil movies (2002 to 2016) simply to give their approval to Alice (Milla Jovovich), the all-action star of his film series. As in those films, this association does very little to endear me to these original characters as all it does is make me wish I was watching (or reading about) the actual Resident Evil characters rather than these knock-offs.
Frustrated by the onslaught of circus freaks and animals looking to tear their throats out, Falcon gives the order for the team to deploy a series of bombs and blow the whole circus to cinders. In the aftermath, they discover a mortally wounded Umbrella employee who, with his dying breath, not only hints that Umbrella were aware and prepared specifically for Charlie team’s arrival but also drops Falcon’s name, sending him into a rage.
Back at their headquarters, Falcon introduces the team to their newest member, munitions export Raquel Fields, who essentially acts as the audience surrogate for the remainder of the issue as Falcon gives a brief introduction to his team members and then delves into a full-two page spread recapping the events of the first two Resident Evil games and detailing Charlie team’s overall mission goal: to track down, and put down, Umbrella once and for all.
Although she claims to have missed the opening mission due to being knocked out in a training session, it turns out that Raquel is undergoing a severe mutation from a wound she sustained that she is going to great lengths to keep hidden from her team-mates. Having acquired a disk from the Umbrella agents at the circus, the team is then split into two sub-teams to investigate Umbrella’s laboratories in Alaska and Mexico, where they are apparently working on developing new viral strains. Rosa is placed in charge of Quan and Patrick in Alaska while Jesse, Raquel, and Falcon head south of the border; it’s this scene that really hammers home just how militaristic S.T.A.R.S. actually is; this was briefly shown in Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine but, generally, especially in the original Resident Evil videogames, the team always seemed to be more like a black ops arm of the Raccoon City police department rather than an extension of the U.S. military (even though they clearly had ties to the military).
The issue ends on a cliffhanger as, when Falcon and the others arrive in Mexico, they discover that the annual Day of the Dead festival has become a literal Day of the Dead as the townsfolk are actually flesh hungry zombies! The final page of the issue is a teaser for issue two (which hints at a Tyrant but…well, we’ll see) and a quick blurb from editor Jeff Mariotte introducing readers to this new mini series.
Disappointingly, the first issue of Resident Evil: Fire and Ice contains more exposition than action; it reminds me of the first issue of Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, which was more interested in retelling events than actually showing us them directly and creating tenuous links to characters we know and love from the videogames. However, when the action does kick in, it’s just as bloody and explosive as ever and the artwork is decent enough, for the most part, but the character designs are extremely derivative and very nineties for a comic released in 2000. Each character is decked out in bulging muscles or impractical leather and buckle-clad outfits, wielding massive weapons and sporting such impractical accessories as eye goggles and a Mohawk. Visually, it allows you to easily tell each character apart, which is especially helpful when you’re dealing with original characters, but none of them exude the simple aesthetic of the earlier Resident Evil characters who didn’t need anything more lavish than practical, military-grade hardware and gear.
Did you read Fire and Ice when it first released? If so, what did you think of Charlie team? Did you ever read the earlier Resident Evil comics published by WildStorm? Which Resident Evil videogame or character would you like to see a comic book series about? Do you have a favourite piece of ancillary Resident Evil media? Drop a comment down below and be sure to check out my review of issue two.