Sunday, October 9, 2016

Resident Evil #2 (Wildstorm)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the third annual 31 Days of Evil! We're coming right off of another series of event reviews and going straight into another!
For those of you just joining me, every October I dig into my favorite horror franchise, Resident Evil! From the games, to the comics, to the novels, and eventually to the movies, I hope to one day cover it all!
We're kicking off this years special with the second issue of Wildstorm's Resident Evil comic series!
Yet again, I'm borrowing a bit of my format from Linkara of Atop The Fourth Wall by starting this review out with a quick look at the cover.
Compared to the first cover, this one is actually pretty good. The characters actually have the proper anatomy. Claire and Leon's torsos aren't extruded all over the page, and their legs aren't posed awkwardly for the most part. Claire's right leg is a bit wonky, but other than that she's fine. Leon's hair is drawn somewhat sloppily, but the biggest issue on the page is his body. While Claire's body is close to her model from the game, Leon's body looks like Brock Lesnar's. His biceps are huge, his back looks like a gorillas, and then we get to his legs. Those look fine strangely enough. That makes the rest of his body look even worse.  Then we get to the faces. Once more, Claire looks enough like her in-game model to get a pass, but Leon looks more like someone pasted Chris's face onto Leon's skull.
One other thing that I noticed is the gun in Claire's hand is horribly drawn. First off, it's too big. Look at it, the proportions are all wonky even if you don't know what the gun is supposed to look like. Second while the front of the gun is drawn like it's in the middle of being fired (And judging by Claire's other hand, has recently run out of ammo) but the back end of the slide isn't extended beyond the top of the grip like it should be. Also, the front of the Browning Hi-Power (Which is the gun Claire uses in Resident Evil 2, which this comic is partially based on) doesn't actually look like that when the slide is locked back. The barrel is supposed to extend over empty space, not the lower half of the gun. If you want a look at the way the gun is supposed to work, check out this video I found.
Speaking of guns, Leon's shotgun is slightly off from the in-game model, having been given a brown pump despite the in-game version being entirely silver. If they were going for the Custom Shotgun instead of the stock Remington M1100-p, the barrel should be much longer, there shouldn't be a pumping mechanism and there should be a stock, although it's not like we would be able to see that, Leon's body is blocking where it would be.
The cover boasts a roughcut metal version of the Resident Evil 2 logo, which I think looks mighty fine. Then we move on down the page and see that, once again, the comic has been divided into three stories instead of just adapting Resident Evil 2 as a single issue. It also boasts "Artists' zombie sketches!" and "Internet story cover!" which sounds utterly irrelevant and like this comic has been translated into English by an idiot respectively.
Turning to the inside, we once more find a letter to the readers, detailing the contents of the comic. We've got an adaptation of Resident Evil 2, a side-story (read; filler) and an interquel set between Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2. Seems like that should really be before the Resident Evil 2 story.
The first story, "A New Chapter of Evil" opens cold right in the middle of the opening cutscene of Resident Evil 2. Leon and Claire start out in the police-car they found in the beginning of the game before the truck-driver from the beginning (You really have to have played the game to understand what's going on here) crashes into it and and they're divided by a wall of fire.
Leon goes to the police-station where he finds it has been over-run by zombies. One remaining officer explains the plot of the last Resident Evil game and all subsequent events to Leon before telling him to shoot him in the head before he turns into a zombie.
Meanwhile, Claire makes her way to the police station and runs into Mr. X along the way. She unloads a grenade-launcher into him before meeting up with Leon in the S.T.A.R.S. office. Leon informs her that her brother and the S.T.A.R.S. team have left to Europe, and gives her one of a pair of radios he found. Claire leaves, and Leon goes downstairs to free someone he found in the holding cells. On his way there, he runs into Ada Wong. They talk the the reporter, Ben, in the cell. Ada tries to find out where her boyfriend, John Fay is, and Leon tries to convince him to leave with them, but neither get anything out of him. Then Ben is attacked by a monster in his cell, and tells the two of them everything he knows before dying.
Claire runs into Chief Irons and tries to convince him to leave with her, somehow not noticing the girl clad in white and blood laying on the mans desk. Attempting to leave, Claire runs into Sherry Birkin. Chief Irons then pulls a gun on them and promptly gets eaten by a monster.
Ten minutes earlier, Leon and Ada ran into Annette Birkin, and Leon was shot. Ada tucked him away behind cover and went to kill Annette. Claire bandages him up, and goes to find Ada. An indeterminate amount of time later, Ada emerges from around the corner and a giant gator bursts through the wall. Leon shoots the gas canister on the wall and kills it. On their way to the escape-train, Ada is attacked by a mutated William Birkin (Who we have not seen once in the comic so far) and Leon blasts the man with his shotgun. He then hauls the wounded Ada to safety, but they're set upon by Annette once more. The self-destruct sequence of the hidden Umbrella laboratory (Not that you'd know that if you hadn't played the game) and some pipes bash her over the head. Ada tries to take the G-virus sample, but gets shot by Annette. Leon tries to save her, but she slips from his grasp and falls. Leon and Claire reunite, and leave in the escape-train just as the lab self-destructs.
On the plot-front, this story has been abridged beyond coherence. If you haven't played the game it's based on, you won't have a single clue what's going on. Plot-points show up out of nowhere and vanish straight back into nowhere. That's what you get out of smashing a twenty-hour game into a twenty-page story, when you have to adapt an hour of gameplay for every page of the comic.
Then we come to the artwork. Starting at the first page, the architecture of the buildings and the details of the vehicles, etc are beautifully drawn, but the human characters look horrible. Leon is routinely drawn like he's a brontosaurus (IE, his neck is too long) and Claire is always a mess of tangled limbs and poorly-defined combat-gear. The weapons are almost universally too big compared to real-life and the game, and Carlos D'Anda seems to rely on close-up shots and obscuring shadows to avoid drawing too much detail on minor characters and wide shots. Speaking of, wide-shots of most characters look fine, but the closer they get to the "camera" the weirder they look. Leon's face looks squashed most of the time, but Ada generally looks fine. The reporter, Ben looks like a squashed version of Jaeris The Gunslinger and Claire usually looks more like Mila Jovovich than her in-game model. Then there's the picture of her in the lower right panel on page eleven. Her head is alright, and some of her upper torso looks fine but moving down the picture we see that she's been afflicted by the same issues as Jill from the cover of Issue #1. Her torso is elongated, her vest and shorts are red instead of pink, she's got two belts instead of one for some reason, her hips are at an odd angle owing to the elongated torso, (If they just came straight out from the first belt it would look fine) her gun is huge, and her right arm isn't attached to her body. Or at least it doesn't look like it is. I don't know, her right sleeve looks like it could be the shadow from the ax on the wall and her skin is the exact same color as the wall behind her. It could just be my copy, but it really looks like part of her arm is missing here.
Going back to character art, for some strange reason Annette actually looks the way she's supposed to.
Overall, this story was below-average, the art kind of sucks and if you've played the games there's nothing new for you here.
The next story is "Mutant Menagerie," and it's written by Kris Oprisko and drawn by Lee Bermejo.
Our story begins with two security guards at the Raccoon City Zoo chatting as one of them clocks out. Some thing crawls over the wall as one of them tells the other to check out the electrical grid. On the next page, we see the murder of William Birkin by Umbrella's security forces. Despite having been riddled with hundreds of bullets, he manages to inject himself with the G-Virus and turns into a Tyrant. Back in the present at the zoo, Birkin bites, eats and kills many an animal, not to mention wholesale slaughters the attendants. One of them, a man named Brady manages to escape the wrath of Birkin and his zombie army long enough to lock himself in a building with a radio. He finds Leon attempting to contact Claire on the radio. Brady explains what's going on, and Leon tells him that he needs to try and kill the animals before the G-Virus spreads to the city. Brady remembers that if the system overloads he can possibly blow the zoo up and take the infected animals with it. He loads himself up like he's John freakin' Rambo and shotsguns, cattle-prods and blasts his way to the utility shed. He overloads the grid and blows up the zoo, taking most of the animals with it. Several hours later, he regains consciousness and makes his way back to the headquarters building, where he contacts Leon and Claire, who have since escaped the city. Brady makes camp in what's left of the building as sleep claims him. Right before he's attacked by... Something.
In terms of plot, there's not much to this. Patrick Brady wasn't in Resident Evil 2, and he wasn't mentioned in the previous story once. The only plot-critical information is what Birkin did to turn himself into a Tyrant, and that should have been in the previous story.
In terms of artwork, it's certainly a step up from the previous story. There's nothing quite as egregious as any of the examples I mentioned before, although Brady's face looks a bit like Hank Hill's in the first few pages. Later on, he morphs into some sort of cross between Leon S. Kennedy and Patrick Swayze. In fact, William Birkin even looks quite a bit like Leon. I guess they were making up for Leon not looking like himself in the last story by making everyone look like him in this one.
I'd just like to take this opportunity to mention that Birkin only makes appearances in his second form in this story. I don't know when this is set, but the comic makes it seem like it's right after he got infected, which should mean he'd be in his first form. If there was any kind of telling how long it had been since he transformed, then I wouldn't be questioning this, but there's not so I am.
Our third and final story is "Lock Down" with the same writing and art team as the last one.
This story is set exactly a week after the mansion incident in the previous issue. Once more, I wonder why this wasn't the story that started out the comic. Barry hasn't been handling the zombies situation very well, as is demonstrated by the fact that he sees them everywhere as he walks to his psychiatrist, Dr. Lengle. At the doctors office, an alarm goes off and zombies attack. Dr. Lengle's throat gets torn out by a zombie, so Barry pulls out his gun and blasts the monster. He finds a security-access card on Lengle's body, and finds that zombies have overrun the building. Barry makes his way to the basement to seal the zombies in the building. There, he finds a disemboweled man who tells him to gather pieces of a bomb so he can blow up the building and kill the zombies. He kills the man to keep him from turning into a zombie and takes the instructions for the bomb. Barry then finds himself face-to-face with a Tyrant.... Somehow. Barry chops its arm off with a fire-ax and tosses chemicals in its face as he escapes with one of the parts. In the mail-room, Barry finds one of the parts and a shotgun in the same locker. He finds the last part guarded by giant bugs. After getting it, he puts it together, rides up to the penthouse, torches it with the flamethrower he somehow has, sets off the bomb, and dives into a conveniently-placed pool.
All in all, this story was basically filler. It's not bad, but not great and not particularly interesting.
The artwork is pretty good. Barry looks like he's supposed to throughout, and the weapons are actually in-scale as they're supposed to be, despite the fact that Barry is carrying a semi-automatic instead of his signature Colt Python. One major issue in the comic however is the fact that it's basically a Die Hard ripoff with some incredibly lame action-movie clich├ęs thrown in for good measure. I also have no clue where Barry got his flamethrower. If they could keep this kind of steady quality throughout the comic, that would have been great. In fact, if they'd just stuck with adapting Resident Evil 2 and left out the other filler stories, dedicating the remaining pages of the book to adapting the story of the game.
Considering this series was released once every three months, and they got at most one issues worth of relevant content out of it, maybe they could have made it a monthly series, spread the adaptation of the first two games out a bit and brought in some connecting details between the stories. Dedicate several issues to the aftermath, clean up the overall pace, and I think they could have done incredibly well.
All in all, this issue was okay at its best, disappointing at its worst. I give it a 3.2*

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