Back Issues: Resident Evil (2009)

BackIssues

Issue One
Story Title:
One if by Land, Two if by Space…
Published: May 2009
Writer: Ricardo Sanchez
Artists: Kevin Sharpe, Jim Clark, et al

Issue Two
Story Title:
Dirty Jobs
Published: June 2009
Writer: Ricardo Sanchez
Artists: Kevin Sharpe, Gabe Eltaed, and Randy Mayor

Issue Three
Story Titles:
If You Meet the Zombie on the Road… and Holiday Sugarman: Special Operations Agent
Published: January 2010
Writer: Ricardo Sanchez
Artist: Jheremy Rapaak


Issue Four
Story Titles:
Ich Bin Ein Schlechtes Genie… and Mina Gere: Special Operations Agent
Published: May 2010
Writer: Ricardo Sanchez
Artist: Jheremy Rapaak; Al Barrionuevo

Issue Five
Story Title:
The Bio-Weapons of Urador
Published: July 2010
Writer: Ricardo Sanchez
Artist: Jheremy Rapaak

Issue Six
Story Title:
Schafft Chaos Und Lasst Die Kriegshunde Los
Published: February 2011
Writer: Ricardo Sanchez
Artist: Jheremy Rapaak

The Background:
As I’ve detailed previously, WildStorm comics first published a five issue anthology series based on the first two Resident Evil videogames (Capcom, 1996; 1998). Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine featured stories and characters, both primary and secondary, from the videogames and fleshed out the lore surrounding the Raccoon City outbreak and the malevolent Umbrella Corporation’s experiments with the Tyrant Virus (T-Virus) and the Golgotha Virus (G-Virus). While many of these events have since been rendered non-canon, WildStorm also went to the trouble of creating a number of original characters, who were revived for a subsequent four-issue series, Resident Evil: Fire and Ice, published between 2000 and 2001. This series focused on the hitherto-unknown Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) Charlie team and was, honestly, pretty terrible compared to WildStorm’s previous efforts. With Resident Evil 5 (ibid, 2009) having been released earlier in the year, WildStorm returned to the franchise with another six-issue series, simply titled Resident Evil, that featured an entirely new creative team and was marketed as a prequel to Resident Evil 5 despite its events also being rendered non-canon almost immediately.

The Review:
Our story begins exactly where you would expect a Resident Evil story to start…in space. Thanks to some expository text boxes, we discover that the President of the United States has been made aware of some illegal bio-organic weapons (B.O.W.) research being conducted onboard the Joint Nations space station, so he authorises a shuttle to be sent up to investigate. The investigation is assisted by rookie agent Mina Gere of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (B.S.A.A.) who, after arriving on the space station, discovers no response from the crew and that the station has suffered a non-lethal hydrogen leak. Much of Mina’s backstory is later revealed through a two-page backup story that details that she was arrested for hacking into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (F.B.I.) most wanted and added her school principal’s name to the last as an April Fool’s joke. After choosing to enlist rather than go to prison, she excelled during her training with the Marines and as part of an experimental space combat unit, all of which made her an ideal candidate to join the B.S.A.A.

Of course the story begins in space, just like every classic Resident Evil story.

Her deployment to the space station is her first official B.S.A.A. assignment and she immediately lives up to her reputation by dispatching a Licker with her “shotgun pistol” that fires special “flechette loads” to keep her from accidentally depressurising the space station with an errant shot. Investigating the space station further, Mina confirms that the space station has suffered an outbreak of the T-Virus after they conducted experiments by exposing “Cnidaria” samples to the virus and that they launched satellites containing a G-Virus sample down to Earth before the station went offline. The danger to her is still very present, however, as not only do zombies roam the station but a monstrous, tentacled creature is also looming within, absorbing everything it touches, being completely immune to her gunfire, and Mina postulates that the creatures (and the virus) will evolve and mutate further thanks to the lack of gravity. This, apparently, rules out sucking the creatures into space so Mina fights her way past the zombies and escapes into space (and the safety of the space shuttle) after setting the space station to explode.  

Maybe if Holiday spent less time quoting philosophy and more time fighting he wouldn’t have lost his team…

The story also follows the B.S.A.A. Alpha Team, lead by Holiday Sugarman (a Barry Burton lookalike of sorts with an annoying penchant for quoting the literary greats and historical figures) who are dispatched to the hostile territory of Grezbekistan to contain a B.O.W. outbreak caused by one of these satellites. When the team are suddenly over-run with what appear to be Las Plagas, Holiday has no choice but to kill his own team after they are eviscerated by the creatures. This leaves him alone against the rampant creatures and hunted by a larger alpha who more closely resembles Doctor William Birkin’s “G” form. Holiday conveniently stumbles upon a weapon cache when trying to outrun the creatures which, even more conveniently, also includes a rocket launcher that allows him to hurt the “G” creature. Figuring out that all of the lesser B.O.W.s feel the pain of the Alpha, Holiday leaps in and stabs it repeatedly in its exposed brain with his trusty knife and causes all of his pursuers to die as a result. As his evacuation team flies in to retrieve him, he ensures that the mission wasn’t in vain by busting out a flamethrower and destroying all traces of the infected in the area.

While neither are happy about their partnership, it’s clear that they both need each other’s unique expertise.

Holiday doesn’t get much time to rest on his laurels, though, as he’s told that Giesel Industries made the satellite and is ordered to head to Übelandia, partner with Mina, and investigate further. Holiday is unimpressed with the assignment, believing it’s a waste of his time and is even more perturbed at the nothing of partnering with a “little [girl] who [has] no business in the field”. In Übelandia, Mina and her partner, Cruz, find a lone survivor, a terrified young girl, in a village on the way to Fritz Giesel’s estate and are summarily attacked by a hoard of zombies. Luckily, though, the three manage to fight their way to a jeep and escape without injury rather than trying to fight them all off but Mina’s insult at being assigned a partner after how capably she performed without one on the space station quickly takes a back seat in terms of priorities when the little girl suddenly attacks Cruz, biting him on the arm before she’s executed by Mina. This incident is used by her commanding officer, Espinoza, to emphasise how Mina is inexperienced and that partnering with Holiday, despite his rough and pig-headed demeanour, will help her to gain valuable experience. On his way to rendezvous with Mina, Holiday’s internal monologue reveals that much of his demeanour comes from the death of his daughter, Summer, who has many similarities to Mina. The exact specifics of his backstory are further elaborated on in a short, two-page backup story, which reveals that he gave up his former life as a teacher to become something of a mercenary before settling down with his wife and daughter in Raccoon City. The zombie outbreak took their lives and saw him return to action as a member of the B.S.A.A.; angered that men like Giesel caused the death of his daughter, Holiday made a vow to bring all of those responsible to justice.

Despite some obstacles and disagreements, the two manage to reach Giesel’s estate and meet his supposed nephew.

Upon the two meeting, they immediately air their grievances at being partnered with a “greenie” and a “babysitter”, respectively, but the two are able to fill in the gaps in each other’s knowledge (Mina has intel on the local area, the unrest between Übelandia and Urador, and the use of viral agents in the region and Holiday has more combat and field experience, not to mention being more seasoned overall). When their jeep is suddenly ambushed by zombies, Holiday thins out much of the infected heard by blowing up the vehicle with a grenade launcher (or, more specifically, a “tank buster” that fires a “depleted uranium armor piercing casing with a high-energy explosive core on a short delay”). Impressed by the weapon, Holiday quickly switches to plan B when Mina’s request for an air evacuation is denied and the group salvage what they can and prepare to make their way on foot instead. Upon reaching Giesel’s estate, Holiday and Mina disagree on how to get past Giesel’s massive armoured doors; Holiday wants to blow them with C4 but Mina manages to talk their way in more peacefully by stating their intentions to Giesel’s nephew, Neurmann (or “Neu” for short). Neu takes the team on a tour throughout his uncle’s elaborate estate, which more than resembles the Spencer Mansion from the first game and the various estates from Resident Evil 4 (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2005). Impressing with his eccentric demeanour, Neu leads the team into Giesel’s greenhouse where they are attacked by mutated plants, zombies, and infected apes, much to Neu’s giddy pleasure.

Although suffering heavy losses from Neu’s B.O.W.s, Mina is able to take out the Tyrant using a knife and a grenade.

While a number of their team are skewered and dismembered by the plant or ripped to shreds by the apes, Holiday and Mina manage to lead themselves and the few survivors to safety and, under Holiday’s supervision, immediately set about setting up a narrow kill zone to fight their way out using the remainder of their resources in clever combination with the supplies in the surrounding environment. This plan works but, again, Neu is more excited by their victory than troubled since he also has a Tyrant (the Ubersoldat prototype) at his command! Holiday’s improvised “fertiliser bomb” only causes the Tyrant to mutate into a more monstrous form but Mina proves her worth and her ingenuity by having the team distract the creature with gunfire so she can slice it open and blow it apart with a grenade. Still undeterred by these events, Neu watches the team through a series of monitors and prepares to send more B.O.W.s their way.

After fighting their way to safety, Mina reveals some interesting discoveries about Neu’s operation.

Still, despite being beset by more infected apes and even Hunters, the team are able to shoot their way to Neu’s control room…only to helplessly watch he fly away to safety on a biplane. Thanks to Mina’s hacking skills, though, the team are able to locate a B.O.W. manufacturing depot that is, of course, hidden beneath a Ziggurat pyramid in Urador and that the local villages were attacked by B.O.W.s as a demonstration for the local fascist dictator, Del Valle. As the entire area has been overrun with zombies and B.O.W.s, Espinoza is unable to spare a helicopter or any backup for Holiday and his team but authorises them to pursue Neu by any means necessary. While searching for more intel, Mina discovers that Neu has used T-Virus-based gene therapy to enhance his “metabolic function [and increase his] regenerative capabilities” and that Neu is Fritz Giesel but enhanced and restored to the prime of his life. The team take what they can salvage and head out on an armour-plated truck to rendezvous with a supply drop; along the way, Mina explains that the B.O.W.s have been fitted with an explosive charge to execute them if they ever become a threat to their masters.

While Holiday struggles against Giesel, Mina and the others place explosives while fending off B.O.W.s.

Loading up with heavy ordinance, the team begin a co-ordinate attack strategy on the pyramid (which is guarded by Hunters and Cerberuses) and manage to sneak in using a combination of sniper rifles and stealth. Inside, the team splits up; Holiday follows Del Valle in a bid to get to Giesel and Mina leads the rest of the team in planting explosive charges throughout the facility, which greatly resembles the hi-tech laboratories and facilitates from Resident Evil 5. Holiday is surprised by Giesel, who sets his Überhund B.O.W.s (basically albino Cerberuses that don’t appear to be much of a threat compared to the Hunters or Tyrants) against his team while he personally deals with Holiday. Absorbing bullets like they were nothing and exhibiting superhuman strength, Giesel easily overwhelms Holiday and has him at his mercy while Mina and the others place the remainder of their charges (ensuring that the finale as the trademark final countdown that accompanies basically all Resident Evil videogames) and fend off the Überhund.

Thanks to his enhacements and mutations, Giesel keeps coming back but is finally defeated for good by Holiday.

Although Holiday is able to incapacitate and then execute Giesel using an “infrasonic weapon” that causes his organs to explode from the inside out, Mina discovers that Giesel planted B.O.W.s all across Übelandia and rigged them to remotely activate if the facility were destroyed. While Holiday guards the door, Mina works to disable the “No Go” signal before the explosives detonate; while the two are injured in the explosion, she is successfully able to cause the implants to detonate rather than activate, stopping the B.O.W.s from being unleashed across the country. However, Giesel suddenly returns, now mutated into a “G”-like Tyrant and attacks Holiday; although he shrugs off their bullets and instantly regenerates from even a shotgun blast to the head, he is finally put down for good when Holiday uses his trusty knife to slice his head off. In the aftermath, while Mina recovers from her concussion, Holiday reveals that the documents they recovered from the facility show that Neu was a clone of Giesel and that the real Giesel is not only alive and well but publically absolved of any involvement in the events of the story. However, it’s not a total loss; Del Valle was summarily executed by the Uradorian military and the entire experience sees Holiday and Mina forge a strong bond, partnership, and friendship.

The Summary:
If there’s one area where Resident Evil excels, especially compared to Fire and Ice, it’s in the artwork; the art is much more in line with WildStorm’s first Resident Evil comic book series, with Holiday featuring a bulky build similar to Chris Redfield’s from Resident Evil 5 and Mina (and the other females) being very curvy and sexy but still bad-ass in their demeanour and ability, like Claire Redfield and Jill Valentine.

While the art is pretty good and gory, it often fails a bit when depicting the zombies and B.O.W.s.

Sadly, zombies and other B.O.W.s don’t benefit from the comic’s otherwise impressive art style as they take a backseat in the narrative. When zombies, Las Plagas, and other B.O.W.s do show up in a mindless hoard to be gunned and knifed down while ripping chunks of flesh from their prey, which is where the art fails to properly do them justice. When the more monstrous B.O.W.s like the Lickers, Hunters, and Tyrants appear, however, they are used sparingly and with dramatic effect but are still reduced to slightly tougher cannon fodder like in WildStorm’s other efforts. I’ve never really understood this; you’d think in a comic released to coincide with the more action-orientated Resident Evil 5 that the B.O.W.s would make more of an impact or be a bit more formidable but it really doesn’t take much for Holiday or Mina to survive a Tyrant’s attack and put them down using heavy weapons or even just their knives and grenades.

Holiday and Mina might be one-note characters but at least they have names and a degree of personality.

The story is also a little weak; it’s great that it focuses on Mina and Holiday but, even with their little backup stories, they’re largely one-note characters given a bit more personality through their frosty relationship but even this is largely put to one side as the two work together to reach the same goal. They are surrounded by numerous other characters, very few of which are named; even those that avoid being eaten or killed and actually play a more pivotal role in the story largely go unnamed and are just there to provide backup or be killed. Again, I find it very odd that these comics always leans towards a squad as the games generally only focus on two or maybe four characters in a survival situation and I think this story might have benefitted more from Mina and Holiday being the lone survivors after their team is wiped out at Giesel’s hands in, say, issue two.

Giesel is an eccentric madman with little motivation beyond being craving power and retribution against Holiday.

Speaking of Giesel, he’s this really elaborate, over the top German, a mad scientist type whose motivations are geared more towards his own self-interests (and amusement) and lust for power and superiority rather than anything else. He’s kind of an amalgamation of Birkin and Albert Wesker but, for all his eccentricities, is a shadow of those more iconic villains; for one thing, he’s dispatched stupidly easily, even in his Tyrant form, and he wastes time gloating and toying wit his prey rather than actually being a significant threat. One thing that is really underdeveloped is that he seems to have a vendetta against Holiday, specifically, but it’s not really shown why; sure, Holiday is actively hunting him and opposing him but so is Mina and the rest of their team but Giesel remains fixated on Holiday alone.

It’s bloody and action-packed but still doesn’t really do much with the license and misses the mark at times.

In the end, it was a pretty good story; way better than Fire and Ice and more coherent than the anthology format seen in Resident Evil: The Official Comic Magazine but let down byfocusing a little bit too much on trying to inject some life and personality into these characters rather than some good, old-fashioned gory zombie action. A resident Evil comic seems like it’d be really easy to do; you tell stories of ordinary people trying (and, possibly, failing) to survive against zombies and B.O.W.s or follow iconic characters as they clear out a facility and battle one or two super tough B.O.W.s that require a bit more than a few bullets or one shot to put down, or maybe even follow ordinary Umbrella scientists as they experiment on animals and humans. And, yet, WildStorm’s efforts always seem to miss the mark just a little bit; it’s not quite horror, it’s not quite action, it’s not quite a mystery, it’s not quite a battle for survival, and it does very little to really add to the lore of the Resident Evil mythos. This particular comic actually doesn’t do that bad a job of expanding upon the world seen in Resident Evil 5, which is dramatically different to that seen in the first game, but I think maybe tying into that game with a story involving Chris, Jill, and Wesker and the development of the viral outbreak seen in that game might have been better and more enjoyable.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Did you ever read Resident Evil? If so, what did you think to it and how do you feel it holds up compared to WildStorm’s other Resident Evil comics? What did you think to the new characters and villains introduced in this story? Did you like the art work and the use of B.O.W.s or do you think the comic could have emphasised these elements, and others from the videogames, a bit better? What is your favourite piece of Resident Evil media apart from the videogames and do you think a Resident Evil comic book could work in a different format? Whatever you think, feel free to leave a comment below.

2 thoughts on “Back Issues: Resident Evil (2009)

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