Thursday, October 1, 2015

Marvel Comics' Resident Evil #1

Happy Halloween everyone, and welcome to the 2015 installment of The 31 Days of Biohazard!
Unfortunately, I won't be reviewing any videogames this year, since my recording setup is in desperate need of a massive overhaul, and I'm determined to not record any more Let's Plays by pointing a camera at my television.
So, this year we're changing things up a bit. The good thing about reviewing an entertainment franchise is that they usually span a wide variety of media, and Resident Evil is by no means an exception. Capcom has made live-action movies, CGI animated movies, novels, board-games, restaurants, a theme-park attraction, an upcoming stage play of all things, and comics out of the game that defined survival-horror. For the last nineteen years, they've been licensing Resident Evil into every single medium they possibly can.
But for now, we're going to be looking at the very first Resident Evil comic ever published. The rest of this month, I'm going to be looking at the novels and comics based on games in the series I've already covered.
So, if you'll pardon me borrowing something from Linkara, let's dig into Marvel Comics' Resident Evil #1!
As you can see from the above image, this was a free comic. It was published back in April of 1996 by Capcom, in cooperation with Marvel, and was given away with copies of the game. At least, that's what the inside of the comic tells me. Wikipedia, and the Marvel wiki says that the comic was published in April of 1997. I've also found a lot of conflicting information as to how to comic was distributed. Some sources I've found say that it was a pack-in with the original longbox version of the game, some just say it was given away in an unspecified manner.
But no matter how it was published, this comic was still pretty hard to track down. I couldn't even find a copy myself, unfortunately. A fan sent me a digitized copy of the comic after much hunting sometime last year If I could remember your name, I'd give you a shout-out!
The only physical copies I could find on eBay were in the thirty-to-forty dollar range, and even so-called "Complete in Box" longbox copies of the game don't come with the comic. I've had a few of my friends pick up CIB longbox copies of the game, and the first question I always ask them is "Did it come with the comic?" and the answer is always no.
Plus, to the best of my knowledge, this comic was never reprinted. There have been plenty of trade collections of Wildstorm's Resident Evil comics, the Hong Kong manhua, the recent Viz comics. But as far as I can tell, the one-shot we're looking at today has never been reprinted.
Before we get into the comic, I'm going to lay down my criteria for reviewing these comics and novels.
First, I'll be looking at the material as it stands on its own. Second, I'll be looking at it as it ties into the franchise at the time. And finally, I'll look at it as it fits into the franchise as it is today.
Taking a look at the cover, it's essentially identical to that of the English cover of the original game, but with a few changes.
For one thing, they've added a big white box in the upper left, with the Marvel Comics and Capcom logos plastered above what appears to be Wesker's face. But for some reason he's wearing orange sunglasses rather than his standard black ones, and he's standing in front of a featureless blue background. Plus, his normally neat hair is sticking straight up in the air. And really, the only reason I know why this is supposed to be Wesker is because he sort-of looks like the Wesker in the actual comic.
I can't tell if this is just because of the scan, but the logo appears to be a lot darker than it was on the original cover. Plus, they've added some dripping blood from the "N", and they've shoved a giant eye behind the title, catching some of the blood, and ruining the perfectly efficient visual design of the cover.
Now, let's talk about the cover in general. Chris appears to be wearing grey camouflage pants, and a brown STARS vest, which is kind of weird, since that's not how Chris actually dresses in either the game, or the comics.
He's surrounded by surreal imagery, with two massive spiders appearing behind his legs, and transparent skulls, birds, and human faces on the ceiling above him. Plus, he's holding a rifle that I'm pretty sure never actually appears in the game, and certainly doesn't appear in the comic itself.
The opening narration boxes essentially describe exactly what Chris does in the opening of the game. STARS Bravo Team's helicopter crashed in the Raccoon City mountains when they were out investigating the recent rash of deaths and disappearances in and around the forest zone.
Except the narration suggests that they crash-landed in the mansions courtyard, when they actually crashed pretty far away from the mansion in the game. Plus, they also say that Bravo was fairly inexperienced, which isn't really the case. The only new member of the team was Rebecca Chambers, while the rest of the team were all fairly experienced.
The character pictured on the first page is one Richard Aiken, Bravo's communications expert and backup man. Right off the bat, I can see something wrong with the art. The actual radio you get from Richard in the game is a walkie-talkie,  but in the comic he's hauling around a suitcase-sized radio that looks like he pulled it out of Bravo's chopper.
Now, it's been a while since I played the original Resident Evil, but I don't think the room Richard is in on the opening panel is actually in the game.
Plus, he's doing that really annoying "Thinking out loud" thing that characters sometimes do in comics. All you have to do is shape the word balloon like a cloud and everyone will know they're supposed to be thinking, not speaking.
Then we move down the page and see what Linkara would refer to as an "Art Attack". Richard's face looks all out of whack in that panel. There are teal highlights here and there on the right-hand side of his face, which is also almost completely shrouded in darkness. This darkness also covers his left eye, making him look like Two-Face, as if the expression he's holding doesn't do that enough already. Then we get to his right eye, which looks massive.
Onto the next page, we see Richard running through a hallway, with a bunch of poorly-drawn fat zombies in the background, and some decently well-drawn ones in the foreground, even if they are silhouettes. The problem is, that two of them seem to be missing massive chunks of their heads, and one is missing all of the flesh on its left arm. As is established in the games, a zombie cannot function if it's missing most of its brain. Not to mention the fact that I've never seen a skeleton move in any of the games.
The zombie in the middle doesn't appear to be missing part of its skull and brain, fortunately. It's just got a screwdriver stuck into its head. I don't know if that's actually possible in any of the games, but at least it's capable of functioning within series logic.
Richard's dialogue in this panel is actually pretty good, conveying the urgency of his situation, while not insulting the readers intelligence by explaining something plainly obvious, and by having a good reason for him to be saying what he is.
The next panel is a silhouette of Richard on a black background, yelling into the radio, telling Wesker he needs to send backup. This is right before he notices that most of the wires on the radio-handset have come loose.
Back at the S.T.A.R.S. headquarters in Raccoon City, we confirm that the dude in the upper left of the cover was, in fact, Wesker. For some reason, he's wearing bright-orange sports shades, even though he's shown wearing jet-black ones in the opening FMV, not to mention in all versions of the opening cutscenes.
Fortunately, his hair isn't sticking straight up in the air, anymore!
The red phone on Wesker's desk rings, and he answers it. He also appears to be holding a massive knife in his right hand.
The call is from a cigar-smoking man named Holden, who never actually appears in the Resident Evil games, to my knowledge. He berates Wesker for giving in to public pressure and sending Bravo off to investigate. Wesker replies, stating that he arranged for Bravo to have a lethal transportation accident.
Yes, they literally gave away the ending twist in a pack-in comic. And as if that wasn't enough, Holden has a mug with "UMB" written on top of a parasol. No, it's not the classic Umbrella Corporation logo, it's literally just a drawing of an umbrella with the letters "UMB" on top of it.
Speaking of the art, the panel to the left of Holden is another bit of "art attack", because Wesker's mouth looks huge, and implies that he's shouting.
But apparently he wasn't, because Barry Burton opens Wesker's office door and didn't hear any of the conversation. Wesker hangs up the phone and starts telling Barry what the situation is.
In the very first panel on Page 4, Barry looks a lot like Billy Blazes, and in the next panel, Wesker's shades inexplicably turn red, before changing back to orange immediately after.
I'd just like to point out that S.T.A.R.S. Alpha had one office, with desks for each team-member, and a big one for Wesker. God only knows what Bravo did. Maybe they were housed in another building on-site.
So, in the third panel on page 4, Wesker's mouth disappears entirely, and his jaw just takes up his entire face, like he was The Maxx or something.
Again, he states that Bravo was too green to go out alone. To which I reply that if they were, they should have had Alpha as backup. Or better yet, don't send them out at night, if at all! It'd be less suspicious to just do nothing than to send out the Special Tactics and Rescue Service to sort things out and have them all killed, even if they were all green! Mark my words, people would as a lot less questions if they didn't have a bunch of dead special-forces operatives on their hands. But as we've already established, Bravo wasn't green, they were actually pretty well-trained, and were almost all veteran officers. Not exactly something that was immediately established in the first game, but the point still stands.
So, Barry asks what the plan is, and Wesker tells him that they're assembling The Avengers and going after them. Sorry, I meant Alpha Team.
See, this makes even less sense, because when Bravo goes missing, you obviously have to do something about it. Because of how events happened in the games, Wesker didn't really have a choice but to act fast and try and get a cover in place. In this scenario, it seems like they have a lot more time, in which case, Umbrella should send a cleanup crew to the Mansion to destroy all the evidence linking them and Wesker to the site, and then send in S.T.A.R.S. to deal with it.
Again, the comic seems to be running on different internal logic than the games are, because it once again references Bravo being green, even though that literally doesn't make a lick of sense.
Barry brings that up to Wesker, and Wesker says that he already told Barry that "They" insisted that Bravo get the assignment. This must have happened before the comic actually started, because it certainly doesn't happen on-panel. Also, I'd guess that the "They" Wesker is referring to is supposed to be Umbrella, but that doesn't really make sense, because Barry supposedly knows about it, even though Barry wasn't actually involved with Wesker's doings until Alpha arrived on-site at the mansion. This panel seems to imply that Barry's been under Wesker's thumb for a while now. Which doesn't make a whole lot of sense, because Wesker likes to work alone when possible and only takes on partners in crime when he absolutely has to. Plus, he's saying all of this out in the open, where anyone could hear it and leak it.
In the next panel, Wesker's mouth disappears again, and they state that the "They" Wesker was referring to insisted he lead the rescue mission. And that doesn't really make sense either. S.T.A.R.S. answers to the RCPD, otherwise the Chief of Police couldn't have disbanded S.T.A.R.S. after the events of the mansion incident. Wesker might actually be the one in charge of the police, but as far as official business is concerned, he's just the Alpha Team field commander, it's not like he's Captain Picard.
So, Wesker kicks the barracks door in and starts shouting at the rest of Alpha Team, telling them what's happened, and to get ready to fly gear up and fly out.
This little speech is incredibly out of character for Wesker, who's always controller and cultured about the way he speaks. In this, however, he's speaking like he's an army drill-sergeant!
Also, the Raccoon City Police Department didn't have bunks in it to the best of my recollection. Come to think of it, they didn't have a shower-room either, but that's irrelevant to this review.
The comic cuts back to Richard, trying to rewire the radio with his knife, as the captions state that he's furiously trying to rewire the handset.
The problem with that is that the frayed wires are clearly shown on page 2, and they appear as if they'd be fairly easy to reconnect. I mean come on, only three of the wires are disconnected, and they already look like they have the ends stripped off! It'd be fairly simple to just twist each wire back onto its mate and then tape it back up. And because Richard is the electronics guy, he should have some kind of tape on him. Be it duct-tape, or electrical tape. I mean come one, that's a thirty-second rewire job at the most!
I'd also like to point out that Richard isn't holding his knife properly for someone dealing with electronics.
But apparently the spot he found to rest isn't safe, because he's set upon by a pair of zombies. One of which is missing most of its' skull.
You know, maybe Richard should slash at their ankles with his knife, I hear that works well on zombies!
He runs away into a white void, and winds up in the room with the chess-pieces. He comments about how dark the room is, even though it's obviously well lit!
He backs into one of the chess-pieces, and the room begins to fill with toxic gas. He runs out (Presumably past the zombies blocking his way on the last page) and starts down a flight of stairs.
On the next page, Wesker is giving Alpha their final briefing before they head out, and it's on this page where we're introduced to the rest of the cast.
Jill Valentine is listed as the teams demolition expert, which doesn't make sense in the context of the original game, or the rest of the series. Jill never displays a particular talent with explosives in Resident Evil, rather being shown as skilled with lock-picks and medicine, which would make her the teams medic and B&E specialist, in addition to her post as rear security.
Up next is Brad "Chickenheart" Vickers, who's described as extremely timid, but one hell of a pilot, which is pretty accurate as far as the games go.
Then comes Joseph Frost, he's listed as the teams vehicle specialist, a bright and enthusiastic guy, and as the newest member of the team. The former two facts are true as far as I can tell, but I can't get any confirmation on the last one. There aren't really that many details on Joseph, since he didn't get a whole lot of screentime in either the original game, or the remake.
Finally is Chris Redfield, described as a former US Air-Force pilot who was dismissed for insubordination, and as a renegade, and a great marksman. Pretty much everything they say about Chris is correct. We'll see later on that Chris seems to be the one character whose details don't change a whole lot from one version of the story to the next.
Something I need to mention about the art is that there seem to be a lot of splotches on Chris's clothing and equipment. Richard had this same thing going on, but it actually made sense in his case, since he'd been fighting the undead. Chris just seems to have random splotches on his S.T.A.R.S. vest and his knife sheath, which don't seem to fit at all. Nobody else in this panel has that same issue either.
Onto the next page, where Wesker tells Chris to load the chopper up with as much firepower as it can hold, just in case they run into anything dangerous. This includes rocket-launchers. And this is all supposed to be happening in 1998! Three years before 9/11 happened!
This is what sort of led me to believe that Raccoon City had some sort of massive gang problem, and that S.T.A.R.S. was formed to deal with that. Militant gang warfare would explain why they seem to have such heavy ordnance on hand in the 90s.
Jill asks Wesker if he's serious about thinking there's something in the woods they can't handle, but Wesker says that they can't afford to make any judgement errors, saying that even though this version of Bravo Team was green, they were still good, and that if they've been cut off from communications, they should prepare for the worst.
The art for the final panel on page 9 is just bad. Jill's face looks all derpy, and Wesker is baring his teeth again, looking straight at the reader as if to say "Drop, and give me twenty!" I know he's supposed to be looking at Jill, but the way his head is angled towards the reader, plus the fact that we can't see his eyes behind his sunglasses leads to visual problem where it seems like he's looking right at the reader. Also, Wesker looks like Duke Nukem in this panel.
On the next page, we cut back to Richard attempting to rewire his radio in a room that I absolutely do know was in the game.
Now, instead of whispering, Richard is speaking at full voice, when he should probably be thinking all of this. Narrating aloud to himself winds up biting him in the ass quite literally when The Yawn (That massive snake in the first game) sneaks up behind him. How a massive snake can sneak around is anyone's guess. Maybe this Snake's code-name is Solid.
The next page cuts back to Alpha Team approaching the last-known coordinates of Bravo Team. The first panel is an outside shot of the Alpha Team helicopter, and the second panel is a shot of Jill's face, but rather than detailing her head, it's just her basic facial features slapped onto an off-white square panel. It makes her look like Cassandra O'Brien from Doctor Who. In the next panel, Jill's face looks fine, but the coloring on Chris's face is just a white on brown gradient. Plus, he speaks in that panel, but doesn't actually move his mouth. Jill does the same thing in the next panel speaking without her jaw actually opening.
Jill brings up that something is bugging her. She doesn't think he's telling Alpha the whole truth.
This isn't even a problem within the continuity of the games, it just doesn't make any sense in general, since on the next page, it's shown that Wesker is in the same freaking cabin as they are!
Anyways, Barry tells her to lighten up, because he knows Bravo can handle themselves. Chris says that Barry is being too optimistic, and Jill reiterates the fact that she's getting a bad feeling about the situation, and Barry tells them both that they need to relax. Brad tells them that they're about to land and the creative team of this comic finally display that they know how to use thought balloons. Chris thinks to himself that all Brad needs to do is get them on the ground, and the rest of Alpha Team can handle it from there on out.
On the final page, they show a pair of Cerberus's in the foreground as Alpha's chopper hovers about twelve feet above the ground. In the next panel, they show Chris, Jill and Wesker leaping out of the helicopter with Barry and Joseph following.
On this page, only Chris, Barry and Joseph actually look like who they're supposed to. Jill looks almost like she's supposed to, but she's missing a lot of detailing. And Wesker doesn't look much like Wesker is supposed to in this last panel.
Plus, there's their posing. Jill is leaping like Spider-Man, and Wesker seems to have leaped out heard-first.
Chris seems like the only one who actually dropped out of the chopper properly.
Mind you, none of them should be jumping out of the helicopter from that height with their guns drawn. Much less without safety ropes and harnesses. Would it really have been that hard to draw the chopper on the ground and have them walking out of it like a SWAT team would in real life? Why does it have to be so *EXTREME!*?
This closes out the comic, as the box in the lower right says "TO BE CONTINUED IN THE GAME!"
Before I start broad analysis of the comic, I'd just like to point out one more issue with the art. Alpha Team's helicopter appears to be splattered in mud, or partially coated in rust. It really doesn't make sense, either from the perspective of the comic, or the game. The helicopter was completely clean in the game, and even though you can't really see too many details on previous pages, it still looks pretty dang clean.
The last two pages of the comic are just ads for the game, featuring screenshots and a picture of the game-box.
A game-box which apparently has the eye behind the logo and the bleeding E. I can't actually find a final version of the game cover that looks like that, so I'd assume that it's just a test cover that never actually made it to print.
So, does this comic suck? I wouldn't think so. It's entertaining, and while it's got plenty of issues with the art, and a few issues with continuity with the game it supposedly leads up to, but I actually kinda like it. It's a shame that Marvel's run on Resident Evil ended with this comic, because I really like where I think they were taking this. They sort of make out that Wesker isn't a willing participant in the Umbrella Conspiracy, which could make for an interesting divergence of plot from that of the games. The art could certainly use a massive improvement, like I said before, but it's not a bad comic by any means. It had some potential, and I would have loved to see the cast of Resident Evil meet up with, say, ROM: Space Knight or The Transformers, like every other tie-in comic Marvel produced. It would have been kinda cool to see the S.T.A.R.S. members in Civil War.
All in all, while it has plenty of flaws, it's also a decent read for a fifteen page comic. If you can find a copy of the comic, it's a nice little piece of Resident Evil history if you want to own it. I know I'd love to find a copy for a decent price.
It doesn't really fit into modern Resident Evil continuity, since a lot of what they've established in this comic has been contradicted as early as Resident Evil 2 and 3: Nemesis, and then further contradicted by further sequels and the lone prequel.
In the end, I give the Marvel Comics' Resident Evil #1 oneshot a 6.3* rating. I'll see you next time with the first issue of the Wildstorm magazine!