It’s October and Halloween is right around the corner and what better way to mark the occasion and bring some extra views of any self-respecting content creator’s blog than by taking a look back at Resident Evil: Fire and Ice, a four-part comic book series published by WildStorm between 2000 and 2001. WildStorm had previously published a five-issue mini series that told interludes, heavily truncated recaps of the first two Resident Evil videogames, and introduced a whole slew of minor characters and original creators to what was, at the time, a far less complex lore. The Fire and Ice comics continue with this premise, ditching the anthology format to follow the hitherto-unknown Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) Charlie team, consisting of the heavily muscled team leader Falcon, newcomer and munitions expert Raquel Fields, and a whole bunch of one-dimensional nineties throwbacks with more diversity than you can shake a stick at: we’ve got the anti-authority Australian Quan Williamson, Patrick Brady (a former zoo keeper now endowed with minor superpowers), Mexican quasi-Native American Rosa Cardenas (whom it is implied Quan has a crush on but who actually has feelings for Brady…), and the somewhat unhinged tech-savvy Jesse Alcorn.
After splitting into two sub-teams, issue three rejoins Falcon’s team in Mexico where, you may remember, Falcon, Raquel, and Jesse managed to track down an Umbrella laboratory in Mexico. As they approach the pyramid-like structure, however, they fall victim to some of the oldest, most clichéd desert-based traps in the business: quicksand and darts! All that was missing was a pit of spikes with skewered skeletons and a rolling boulder and the writers would have nailed every cliché in the book.
Narrowly escaping, Jesse states that he’s unable to crack the code on the entrance because of the sheer number of possibilities; he reckons it would take his computer “days” to break into the facility, which Raquel gives him some grief about. And rightfully so; I mean, what good is a damn computer hacker when they can’t even do the one job you bring them along for? Luckily, Raquel actually remembers that she’s good with explosives in this issue and simply blows the door open; if only that was an option in the videogames!
Upon entering the pyramid, Jesse is immediately attacked by a Licker, further cementing himself as perhaps the most useless member of Charlie team so far. In true WildStorm fashion, the Licker is barely shown and easily dispatched by Jesse’s far more competent team mates and the three make their way deeper into the facility, where they not only discover Umbrella’s scientists cooking up new horrors in giant, gunk-filled tubes but also, inexplicably, spot Rosa and Brady held in captivity (this is presumably on some kind of monitor but, like last issue, the art isn’t very clear and makes it seem as though Falcon spots the two in the next room).
Back in Alaska, Rosa and Brady are being held captive in a dungeon-like cell after the events of the previous issue saw them attacked and captured by Umbrella agents Klaus and Mr. Venk in Alaska and Quan alone out in the frozen wastes of the Alaskan mountains. Quan rushes back to their last known location and finds only a radio transceiver that fell from Brady’s pocket in the last issue and allows him to listen in as the now grown-up (and, apparently, somewhat cybernetic) Dexter Whitlam monologues to Rosa and Brady about his evil plan. Building upon the work of William Birkin and refining the best aspects of both the Tyrant-Virus (T-Virus) and G-Virus, Whitlam reveals (much to Klaus’ chagrin) that he has crafted a new virus, the X-Virus, which he claims represents “a quantum leap in killing power” and boosts the victims strength, ferocity, augments their “natural fighting ability”, and renders them virtually unstoppable. He also reveals that, up until this point, the characters haven’t yet encountered anything actually infected with the X-Virus; the G-creatures were merely created to find suitable subjects for the X-Virus and, as Rosa and Brady were, somehow, the only two test subjects to not only survive but also kill two of the G-creatures, Whitlam believes that they will make ideal candidates for a dose of X-Virus.
Back in Mexico, and spurned on by the impending threat to the lives of their team-mates, Falcon’s team renders all of the Umbrella scientists unconscious with a gas bomb and moves to retrieve the data from their computers (assuming Jesse can hack in, of course) but, somehow, a Tyrant breaks free from its captivity and goes on a rampage. Partially stunned by the pain from her mysterious infection, Raquel is easily tossed aside and, with Jesse cowering under a table, this leaves Falcon to face the beast alone with only his shotgun. This is WildStorm, though, and they have never quite been able to portray Umbrella’s fearsome bio-organic weapons as the formidable threats they are in the videogames, particularly the Tyrant, and this is no different. It simply walks towards Falcon, who unloads shot after shot until he blasts a hole through its head and then fires a few more shots just to be on the safe side, proving once again that, in these comics, a Tyrant is a mere inconvenience more than a life-threatening menace.
While attempting to locate an antidote to the X-Virus on the lab’s computer, Jesse accidentally activates the obligatory self-destruct sequence and the three barely make it out alive. The Tyrant emerges from the flames but, again, it’s just an inconvenience as Raquel has all the time in the world to load up a rocket launcher and blast it to pieces while barely breaking a sweat.
The issue ends with the sub-team stranded in the desert, surrounded by cactus plants shaped in a biohazard symbol, with no way to reach their comrades. It also ends with a dangling plot thread as, when Falcon admonishes Jesse for risking their lives, Jesse acts very shifty and claims that the self-destruct was merely an unavoidable accident. Like the last issue, the artwork really lets this issue down. The whole series, so far, has lacked the polish and visceral gore of Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, which suffered from similar writing issues and problems with the portrayal of recognisable Resident Evil characters, creatures, and tropes but at least had some decent gore to look at. Here, though, everything is so bland and simple and dull; even the Tyrant looks like a cheaply-drawn knock-off and there’s even less sense of threat or danger even with the inclusion of a Tyrant and the compulsory ticking clock that has become a staple of the Resident Evil series.
Again, it doesn’t help that there’s very little to really keep us invested in WildStorm’s original characters; I can’t say that Fire and Ice would be better if the likes of Jill valentine, Barry Burton, and Chris Redfield replaced Charlie team but at least we’d be able to fill in the gaps about their personality and backstory. Here, we don’t really know anything about these characters beyond a quick introduction in issue one and some one-dimensional characterisation in these subsequent issues. It’s nice that WildStorm were able to give some of their minor characters more of a spotlight but Whitlam is just the clichéd mad scientist archetype, Falcon looks and acts like he stepped right off the set of Predator (McTiernan, 1987), and the rest of them are just a bunch of holdovers from the “Dark Ages” of nineties comic books. The next issue is the last in this series and it feels like I’ve learned very little to nothing about these characters and nothing of any real note has actually happened, and that’s a shame considering how WildStorm fumbled their last Resident Evil comic series.
Could Be Better
Do you agree or do you feel I’m being too harsh on WildStorm and the Fire and Ice series? Do any of the characters stand out to you? Which Resident Evil character is your favourite, either from the games, comics, books, or movies? Which piece of ancillary Resident Evil media is your favourite or would you like to see produced? Drop a comment down below and come back next Tuesday for my review of the fourth and final issue of WildStorm’s Fire and Ice miniseries.