Friday, October 9, 2015
WildStorm's Resident Evil #1 (Part 2)
If you haven't read the last review, you probably should, since this is part two. I'll link you to it here.
Anyways, we open to a page depicting a white-haired balding man sitting at a desk in a tiny laboratory office. Apparently this is supposed to be Ada Wong's boyfriend, John Clemens (Here known as John Fay). You'd be forgiven for thinking that he's supposed to be younger than this, but apparently he just went grey young, and started losing his hair as a result of T-Virus exposure, as we'll see later.
The story in this section is told entirely though John's letters to Ada, and I really like that. It was done in the games, so it might as well be done in this.
The story starts out with John telling Ada that they're seeing some unexpected effects when the T-virus is introduced into different subjects. FO some it increases their strength and healing abilities, but for others, they begin to deteriorate. He thinks he can correct the problem, and hopes he can use this work as a breakthrough in cancer research.
He mentions that he's been bugging Albert (Gee, guess what his last name is?) to give Ada security clearance, and says that meeting her completely changed his life. I know another guy whose life was changed when he met Ada Wong, but that was more of a coincidence than anything else.
H talks about how he used to work for the government, but everything was too slow for him, so when there came an opportunity to work for The Umbrella Corporation, he jumped on it.
Before we get to the rest of the story, I'd just like to mention that the art on these first two pages is really good. I especially like the detailing in the silhouetted panel on page eight. That and the presentation of everything else on these two pages just looks great. John is looking at some old pictures of his life while his letter to Ada is shown at the top of the panels. It captures the lonely and oppressive atmosphere of the game quite well.
Page nine is a full-page spread of two scientists in an operating theater working on a Cerberus, which is locked inside a glass box. It seems like only one of the scientists is doing anything on this page though. Also on this page, the narration style shifts from writing a letter to a scientific report.
They mention that the Cerberus has seen continued signs of physical deterioration after being dosed with the T-Virus, and that's it's starting to show signs of unprovoked aggression, and they've had to administer a lot of sedatives to keep it calm.
Then on the next page they switch immediately back to the letter-writing style of narration. Just as the Cerberus wakes up and breaks out of the glass box it's being held in.
John's letter to Ada mentions that despite the physical deterioration gave way to unexplained increases in strength and aggression, as well as a decrease in brainwave activity. It then goes on to say that the Cerberus escaped the lab and was lost in the forest.
On the next panel, John seems to be losing his hair, and is almost suffering from Youngbloods disease (That's what people call it when a characters eyes are entirely white)
He mentions that he's come down with some kind of flu, and he's starting to show the negative effects.
This is why I said that he looks like a young man who just went grey. Part of that is because his face looks like that of a young man, and the fact that me says that his body is showing the results of the stress he's under.
On the next page we see a figure who might be John looking into an aquarium with a giant shark in it (known as Neptune if you've read it's in-game file, or if you look at the monitor in the upper left of the panel) and the narration mentions that the Neptune has shown no negative effects from the T-Virus until right now, even though it was administered over two months ago.
Today however, the Neptune has started showing physical deterioration, and has been losing a lot of skin.
John wonders why it's taken the Neptune so long to be affected by the T-Virus when other subjects have shown almost immediate effects.
The next page has John telling Ada that he's gotten scared, since a lot of people in the compound have been expose to the T-Virus, and that he's starting to feel paranoid about his situation. Has he been infected? Who are these strange security officers watching over him and the other researchers?
And finally, he wonders what exactly the T-002 is, since he's apparently never seen it. This leads him to the idea that he's been tricked into working on bioweapons instead of cancer research. Which is in fact, 100% true, if you've been following the series.
John mentions that he couldn't live with himself Ada was infected by something he'd worked on, and he ends the letter by telling Ada that he loves her.
Again, the art on page twelve is pretty good. The problem is that they've recycled a lot of it from previous pages in the story. Most of background is taken up by repeating panels of varying size that are all copied and pasted from the first page of the story. This really doesn't make a lot of sense, since at maximum, they'd only need one monitor taken up by the feed from that angle. Plus, this is the 90s, so I'm pretty sure they didn't have flat-panel televisions that big back then.
There are also quite a few feeds that they couldn't possibly be getting all at the same time. There's the picture of John at his desk from the first page, the one of him in the mirror, the one of him operating on the Cerberus, and finally, the picture of John monitoring the Neptune in its aquarium. That one is especially strange, since the monitor it's being displayed on is well out of view of the two security technicians.
It'd be nice if they had some original stills for the security monitors that had nods to the stuff in the game instead of just re-using a bunch of artwork from previous pages in the story.
On page thirteen we see that John's body has been deteriorating heavily. His fingernails are cracked, and one of them has fallen off. And his skin's not looking too good either. They seem to be portraying T-Virus infection fairly accurately to how it was laid out in the game.
The narration confirms that John has been infected by the T-Virus (As anyone who played the game knows) and he apparently knows that Ada isn't infected. He tells her to collect all of the evidence in the compound and take it to the press after she's activated the self-destruct sequence to prevent the monsters inside from escaping and infecting the city.
He tells her that all the locks can be opened by the security system, and that it can be accessed by using his name as the username, and her name as the password. He fails to mention that the security room can only be accessed by finding about ten or fifteen keys and key-like objects to open up all of the doors around the compound, and the fact that all of the keys are scattered round the mansion and underground laboratory, or the fact that some of them are guarded by deadly monsters or traps.
As his final words, he tells Ada that if she finds him zombified, to kill him herself.
The last panel on page thirteen is one of Eve, in the garden of Eden, holding an apple. This is the lightbox painting from the game, and it's got the password from the game right on it too. It looks pretty nice.
Page fourteen shows the now zombified John at his desk, attempting to write one final letter to Ada as flies buzz around him. A *SMASH!* sound is heard from behind him, and the camera shifts to show Jill Valentine silhouetted in the doorway, holding a shotgun.
Page fifteen is a little strange. We'll get to the art in a bit, but the first thing that really stuck out to me when I first read the comic was the arrangement of the panels. The first one is a full -body shot of Jill holding a shotgun and ejecting a smoking shell from the chamber, implying it's just been fired. The next panel is a low shot of the room, showing Jill's right hip and her Beretta in its holster in the foreground. The background is John looking scary, but begging Jill to help him. Jill then levels her shotgun at him (Holding it in one hand rather than in both, like she did in the game) and firing.
The final panel doesn't make any sense. It's a picture of Jill holding her shotgun at John's head and firing, but John is on the ground, and Jill is holding her shotgun at point-blank range, even though she was at least six feet away from him in the previous shot.
Now, let's talk about the art. They've got the general look of Jill down, but it's very exaggerated. Her face doesn't look much like Jill. For some reason, she's wearing dark-red lipstick even though Jill didn't wear lipstick in the game. Then there's her shoulder, it looks like a ball-joint, especially compared to her tiny arms. As I've said before, Jill Valentine is a former Delta Force operator, and her arms shouldn't be this tiny. My arms are bigger than hers are here. And I'm no expert, but I'd bet that Ronda Rousey is stronger than I am.
Then we get to her massive shoulder-pads. I've never quite understood why Jill wore this harness and shoulder-pads instead of a regular Kevlar vest like the rest of S.T.A.R.S. Rebecca has one, so why not Jill?
Anyways, while her shoulder-pads were in fact fairly large in the original art for the game, they didn't look nearly this bad. I don't know if it's just how she's drawn, or what, but they just look oversized here. Plus, she's supposed to have a collar coming up behind her neck. Again, I don't know what purpose this is supposed to serve, but that's what it's supposed to do.
Moving on down her body, we see that her forearms are wrapped up in bandages and her gloves look like they're made for MMA fighting and not tactical SWAT combat.
Take a look at Jill on page five compared to Jill on page fourteen, and break this down bit by bit.
First off, her gloves are too thickly padded compared to both her previous appearance in the comic, and her official artwork. She did have padding on her wrists, but it wasn't nearly that thick!
Plus, the padding on the back of her gloves is both thicker than it was on her gloves on page five, and thicker than it is on her official art. Yes, it's still fairly thick in the actual artwork, but I'm comparing the size of her gloves to the size of her arms here, and that makes her gloves way too big.
Plus, her gloves are supposed to be fingerless, but they're not, as shown on her left hand in the first panel, and on her right-hand in the third panel.
Next we get to the shotgun, which doesn't look a thing like it did on the cover, or in the game itself. The body is okay, if a little too fat, but the slide is absolutely huge. So much so that it physically can't be used!
I don't mind '90s artwork normally, and I really like a lot of Rob Liefeld's old designs from his early days (Cable is one of my favorite characters from the X-Men series) but this just looks dumb. The slide looks like a lightsaber handle instead of the slide on a shotgun.
Then we get to Jill's waist. Fortunately she doesn't have the hourglass stomach she had on the cover, but she's got about three belts in place of that. She's got her regular belt, and her utility belt like she does in the original art, but Carlos D'anda (The artist on this story) has added another belt for her gun. Granted, it's nice to see that she's actually got a holster in this story, unlike everyone in "S.T.A.R.S. Files" and that it's on the right leg, unlike the cover, but the fact remains that having three belts like this looks kind of odd.
Also, the flap on her holster is massive in this shot, but on the next panel it's soberly proportioned. The holster itself looks weird. I've seen police-issue sidearm holsters, and they don't look like that. Not to mention the fact that I actually own one that I regularly use for costumes. Now, I could be wrong. There could, in fact, be holsters like this in existence, but I've never seen them.
The fact remains that the holster is way too big for her Beretta, and the flap on her holster is way too long. The flap on my holster is pretty long too, but it has Velcro on it to hold it out of the way of the user. This holster on the other hand doesn't. It also doesn't appear to have a catch that's easy to release.
Moving onto the second panel, her holster actually looks like it's made to hold a gun. This panel is fine.
The third panel however, is back to the weird artwork of the first panel. I forgot to mention this when I was talking about the first panel, but now is as good a time as any to address it. Jill beret looks dumb in this panel. First off, it looks more like a chefs-hat that got a little wet than a beret. Second, it's way too big. Third, in this panel, Jill's upper torso looks massive, her shoulder-pads are bigger than ever.
Fourth, I've fired a shotgun, and you DO NOT want to try and fire something like that one-handed. Yes, Jill is a former Delta Force operative. No, that doesn't matter. In this comic, Jill's arms are tiny, and firing a shotgun like that would break her arm. Even if her arms were more muscular, it would still be dangerous to fire a shotgun like that. Plus, nobody actually fires their shotgun like that in the game.
Funny thing, in this panel the shotgun looks more like an oversized pistol (NERF Recon CS-6 anyone?) than a shotgun.
Now we get to Jill's gloves in this scene, where we see that the pad on the back of her right glove is missing altogether. Also, it looks like she was drawn with a clenched fist, and then someone drew the shotgun on a different layer above her hand to make it look like she's holding it.
This can also be seen in the first panel, since it doesn't look like her index-finger is actually on the trigger, it looks like her right hand was drawn on a layer above the shotgun, since the placement of her index-finger is such that it would have to be located somewhere inside the area the trigger-guard occupies. Part of that is the thickness of her gloves, part of that is perspective.
The fourth panel on page fifteen is just the same artwork as on the third panel, but shifted into orange and with a muzzle-flash layered over the shotgun.
The final panel is the strangest, since as I stated before, it doesn't actually fit.
In the previous panel, Jill was holding the shotgun straight out from her chest at the approaching John. And while he was stumbling, he was still standing up when she fired her gun. In this panel, John is on the ground, and Jill is firing her gun at the floor. It's possible she could be firing the shotgun twice in quick succession, but there's no transition panel. No shot of her ejecting the spent shell, and no shot of John on the ground crawling towards her. This is why I said that the full-body shot of Jill on the left of the page looks like it's not supposed to be the first panel on the page. But even then, we're still missing a few transition panels.
The background on the fifth panel is just a grey on black gradient with "BOOM" over top of it. Jill and John are black silhouettes against that background. Then we get to the muzzle-flash from Jill's shotgun, which is the single most out-of-place piece of art on this page, because it doesn't look like it's coming out of the barrel, more like it was layered on top of the silhouettes. The previous muzzle-flash actually looked like it was supposed to be there, and not like it was just a piece of stock imagery that got stuck in for no reason.
Now we get to something which bugs the hell out of me. John is obviously still functioning on some level if he can speak and write, which is much more than what most zombies could do at his level of infection. That means that there could possibly be some way of curing his T-Virus infection and bringing him back to normal. Yes, it would take a lot of medical care. Yes, it would probably take a while, but it's still POSSIBLE to cure someone of the virus in Resident Evil. John was audibly begging Jill to help him. He wasn't threatening her or just moaning like the other zombies in the game do, he was begging for mercy!
Now, while this didn't happen in the game at any point in time, since John was zombified beyond return and probably wound up being killed like the rest of the zombies in the game, in this continuity, John wasn't trying to attack Jill. He was leaning against his desk and begging for help!
Yes I know that he told Ada to kill him. Yes, I know that most zombies don't act like this, and that it doesn't really make much sense for him to be able to beg for his life considering that most of the zombies didn't have any of their higher brain functions intact, but that doesn't change the fact that Jill Valentine blew the head off of a man who was begging for help! This just baffles me. It's cruel, it's out of character, and it doesn't make sense on any level. It doesn't make sense why Jill would kill him since he posed no obvious threat (Even in the situation) and it doesn't make any sense for him to still be able to form speech at this point in time.
Page sixteen is a full-page spread of Wesker watching Jill on a security monitor. Jill wonders aloud who the zombies are, and Wesker is picking up his gun, which he has apparently laid on the table for some reason. Another monitor in the background shows the Tyrant in its' stasis tube. Thus concludes the second story of the comic.
All in all, I liked the comic, and until the end, I liked the art a lot too. The problems with the story stem from the re-use of all the previous art in the comic on page twelve, and the badly-drawn Jill Valentine on page fifteen. As far as storytelling goes, I really like the narrative, and aside from a few little things, it fits into the existing canon perfectly fine (Probably because it was almost certainly adapted directly from John's letters in the game itself)
Unfortunately, since this story is essentially copied and pasted from the game with a few details changed, it doesn't win many points for the good writing. It gains a lot of points for its good artwork, but winds up losing a lot of those points when it introduces Jill Valentine, since she's so poorly drawn. That and the shot of the security center is my main point of contention with the art.
In the end, it's a good story, and it's a welcome addition to the magazine, despite its flaws. I give it an 8.1* rating. I'll see you soon with part three!