Well, we’re in the last week of October and Halloween is this weekend. If you’ve been following my blog this month, you’ll know that, as a means to generate some fitting content for the season, I’ve been taking a look back at Resident Evil: Fire and Ice, a four-issue comic book series published by WildStorm between 2000 and 2001. This series was a follow-up to their previous five-issue mini series, Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, and focused on an entirely new group of characters, the hitherto-unknown Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) Charlie team, rather than telling interludes, side stories, or truncated versions of the first two videogames.
Charlie team was made up of a bunch of one-dimensional, impractically attired characters who looked like they had just stepped out of the worst comics of the nineties: led by the muscle-bound Falcon, who looks and acts like an extra from Predator (McTiernan, 1987), the team consists of newcomer and munitions expert Raquel Fields (who is hiding a mysterious infection following a zombie attack), the shady hacker Jesse Alcorn, Patrick Brady (a former zoo keeper able to sense G-Virus monsters), the anti-authority Australian Quan Williamson, and the Mexican quasi-Native American Rosa Cardenas (whom it is implied Quan has a crush on but who actually has feelings for Brady…).
This final issue rejoins Quan in the Alaskan mountains (Charlie team split into two sub-teams to investigate two Umbrella laboratories and run into a few troubles, to say the least, almost immediately upon arrival); he discovers the remains of an Umbrella surveillance minicopter, which he uses to spy on Dexter Whitlam, Klaus, and Mr. Venk, the Umbrella scientists and operatives who have captured Rosa and Brady and are preparing to subject them to Whitlam’s experimental new X-Virus.
Whitlam, who we first met as a misguided youth who stole a sample of Umbrella’s G-Virus, transformed himself into a violent “G”-type monster, and was summarily recruited to Umbrella by Klaus after (somehow) being cured, is now all grown up and has transformed into a semi-cybernetic mad scientist. He was one of WildStorm’s more interesting and layered original characters, an insight into the type of person Umbrella likes to have on staff and put to work on their experiments. So, of course, he is incinerated on page three by the exploding minicopter, bringing him to a sudden (if impressive) end.
Free from their captivity, Rosa and Brady are reunited with Quan and immediately get their asses handed to them by Mr. Venk. Venk actually puts up more of a fight and gets a better showing than popular Resident Evil creatures like the Lickers and the Tyrant but, in the end, he is dispatched with a judo throw that ends with him impaled on the bloody stump of Klaus’ hand. However, as they make their mistake, Brady reveals that Whitlam succeeded in infecting them with some of his X-Virus, leaving a gloomy shadow over their otherwise joyous reunion.
Back in Mexico, Falcon, Jesse, and Raquel take a jeep to a helicopter, where they spot the cactus plants arranged in a biohazard symbol. In a further nod to the series’ original Japanese name, they mention that the facility’s computer labelled their new virus as “Biohazard” and, dropping in for a closer look, discover that Umbrella placed a vial of the antidote into one of the cacti plant…because of course that was where you would leave the antidote to a deadly virus!
As he is lifting her back into the chopper, Jesse again acts a little shady, insisting that Raquel hands her the antidote and, in the brief scuffle, spills half of it. Just as Raquel expresses her concerns over Jesse’ competency, they are set upon by an Umbrella attack ‘copter; however, Raquel makes short work of it with her handy-dandy rocket launcher and the team prepare to fly to Alaska.
They’re going to fly from Mexico to Alaska in a helicopter! That’s over 3,500 miles! Most choppers are only good for about 400 miles before needing to refuel and, if you’re thinking they flew to an airport to refuel or switch vehicles, you’re wrong because they show up a few panels later to rescue their team mates and, judging by the background, it’s still the same day!
Speaking of the other team, Quan is forced to stop when, part-way through their trek back to the helipad, Brady begins to undergo a dramatic and painful metamorphosis into a really lame looking Mr. X/Tyrant-like creature.
Falcon’s team arrives just in time to stun Brady with a crossbow (yeah…a crossbow, perhaps the weakest and most useful weapon in the Resident Evil series) but Rosa suddenly transforms into a similar, hulking creature and the team tries to subdue them non-fatally so that they can be administered with the antidote.
Raquel manages to tie up Brady with some bolas and Falcon puts down Rosa using the snowmobile but, right as they’re about to get the antidote, Jesse reveals his true colours and, holding the two at gunpoint, reveals that he’s actually a deep cover mole placed in S.T.A.R.S. by Umbrella. This might have been surprising if the last two issues hadn’t made it abundantly clear that there was something very fishy about Jesse and it’s rendered completely redundant as Jesse is immediately skewered and killed by the monstrous Brady.
Raquel injects the antidote into Rosa but Brady wakes up before he can receive it and Falcon is forced to put him down with a single shot to the head; on the plus side, the antidote takes hold in Rosa and returns her to normal (though we don’t actually see this on panel).
Just as it seems like our heroes have survived, however, it is revealed that yet another shady Umbrella operative (or…maybe it’s Klaus? It’s not really made clear) who monologues that, actually, everything went almost exactly according to Umbrella’s plan as Charlie team eliminated “the rogue agent Dexter Whitlam”, killed one of their own, and Raquel’s infection will ensure that the whole team is dead before they ever get a chance to land and the issue just…ends.
So…what was the point of that sub-plot about Brady being able to sense the G-Virus as a result of being cured of the virus? That literally doesn’t crop up once throughout the entirety of Fire and Ice when it really could have been a useful feature that made him a relevant part of the team, or perhaps helped him to resist the X-Virus. Instead, he has this ability but does nothing with it, wields a massive, bad-ass electric cannon and is stated to be a formidable fighter (despite being nothing more than a zoo security guard), falls and hits his head, and then gets turned into a sasquatch-like thing, and summarily shot in the head. Nothing even comes of the poorly executed hint that Rosa is attracted to Brady.
It all just comes crashing to the ground in this final issue; since when was Whitlam a “rogue agent”? He was directly recruited by Umbrella and was using their existing viruses and resources to fashion a new, more powerful and deadly virus; that definitely sounds like something they would do, and want, but then it doesn’t even pay off as I’m not seeing anything in the mutations Brady and Rosa undergo that makes the X-Virus better than the G-Virus or even the Tyrant-Virus (T-Virus). Neither seem anywhere near as vicious or resilient as the Tyrants or the “G” monstrosities of the videogames; I know that WildStorm liked to really neuter Umbrella’s monstrosities, with even Mr. X and William Birkin’s “G” being put down with disappointing ease, but these X-Virus creatures are even more of a joke.
Not only that, issue one made it sound as though the Alaskan and Mexico laboratories were working on two separate projects and viruses. Instead, apparently, their “rogue agent” was working on the X-Virus in Alaska, which was also known as “Biohazard” in Mexico (…for some reason) and also produced an antidote…that was also in Mexico. Unless “Biohazard” is supposed to be the antidote? The issue isn’t written to support this, though, and instead it seems like Whitlam developed one virus with two names and stashed the antidote thousands of miles away for no real reason. If the X-Virus was really supposed to be the successor t the T- and G-Viruses, why even make an antidote in the first place?
And then there’s Raquel. All throughout Fire and Ice, a big deal is made of her mysterious infection (which, I assume, she got from her brief appearance at the start of issue one and is a result of her being infected with the G-Virus) but, again, nothing comes from it. Her skin changes colour, taking on a strange green hue, she grows a bony protrusion that she immediately cuts off, she suffers from headaches (but only when it’s dramatically appropriate), and then the series winds up with the threat that she’s going to transform into…something…and kill her team mates. I was expecting her to mutate into something and battle with the X-Virus monsters but…she doesn’t and, as a result, this whole plot point is a giant waste of time that adds nothing to the story, is never resolved, and leaves more questions than answers. Say what you will about Alice (Milla Jovovich) in Paul W. S. Anderson’s Resident Evil movies (2002 to 2016), at least her mutation actually factors into the plot and the movie’s action sequences.
Jesse’s heel turn is as obvious as the nose on your face and immediately amounts to nothing as he is killed right away; it’s not like he destroys the antidote and forces Charlie team to kill both Brady and Rosa, he just stands in the way for a moment and then gets stabbed from behind. Neither Falcon or Quan end up becoming fully-developing characters, but then this is par for the course of Fire and Ice. When I reviewed Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, I talked about how I wanted to see WildStorm focus more on telling a continuous story issue by issue rather than a whole bunch of vignettes and half-assed adaptations but, man, was I wrong. Their writers were no better at telling a month by month story with their own original characters than they were with Resident Evil’s more recognisable characters and, as I mentioned before, this time there’s no impressive, gory artwork to save the series. As a companion piece to Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, I guess Fire and Ice works well enough at fleshing out (or, at least, putting more of a spotlight on) some of WildStorm’s minor characters and maybe the team were planning on publishing a third mini series to wrap up all their loose ends but it definitely doesn’t read or seem that way. Instead, WildStorm again squandered their pages and efforts on one-dimensional, action, horror, and move clichés and archetypes, and somehow manages to tell a four-issue story without ever really getting into who these characters are, what their motivations are (besides being angry and quick to violence), or actually crafting a story that made logical sense.
Like Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine, Fire and Ice was eventually collected into a trade paperback which, like Resident Evil: Collection One (Various, 1999), is currently out of print but, unlike that collection, generally sells for about £40 to £60 rather than £60 to £200. They also returned to the franchise and published a prequel to Resident Evil 5 (Capcom, 2009) between 2009 and 2011 but, after reading Fire and Ice, I can’t say I’m too excited about covering more of their Resident Evil comics later down the line. If WildStorm ever re-released their original Resident Evil comics, including Fire and Ice, into one affordable collection then maybe, maybe, as one complete package these comics might hold up slightly better but, as is, I wouldn’t worry about trying to add these to your Resident Evil collection, no matter how big a fan you are, as there’s really nothing on offer here.
Did you ever read Fire and Ice? What did you think of Charlie team and WildStorm’s original characters? Do you agree that the artwork in these issues is a massive step down from WildStorm’s earlier efforts, and that WildStorm bungled their time with the franchise, or do you have fonder memories of their efforts than I do? Which piece of ancillary Resident Evil media is your favourite? Thanks for coming back each week for my review of Fire and Ice; are there any other Resident Evil games or adaptations you’d like to see me cover? Whatever you think, leave a comment below and have a great Halloween.