Dig through a deep jungle, bumping and hopping over wild terrain, and you’ll eventually run into a prestigious school known as Marhawa Academy. Located in The Middle of Nowhere, Asia, Marhawa’s students are locked away from the outside world, experiencing life in their own special little bubble. But there’s also a dark secret hidden within that bubble, and the school’s headmaster, Mother Gracia, would like to keep it that way. This is the setup for the zombie-blasting action of Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire, which for the most part stays true to Capcom’s franchise, all the way down to the opening bellow of “RESIDENT… EVIL.”
It’s true, you can practically hear the game’s announcer over the manga’s first page, kicking things off in living (blood red) color. The art of Naoki Serizawa (Saru Lock, Samurai Man) stands out immediately. In fact, it’s almost too perfect throughout, but looks fantastic regardless. Serizawa’s characters have a distinct look to them—half of our pair of protagonists, professor Doug Wright, is the spitting image of George Clooney. There’s a framed picture of Mother Gracia’s father that looks like a spot-on portrait of Sean Connery. As for the established Resident Evil characters, Serizawa is slavishly accurate when it comes to illustrating Chris Redfield, grim gaze and massive head included.
Serizawa’s art is so good there was a point I was convinced it was mostly done using computer models. The way characters are posed and the way they make their expressions at just the right angle had me looking for seams, but I suppose it’s simply solid work. There are definitely some shortcuts made; Serizawa is a photographer, after all. The only moments that are really distracting are effects like images of real smoke layered over artwork rather than drawn. These are all minor gripes, but there’s a fine line between art that’s impressive and art that’s digitally overcooked, the latter is just something you tend to see more in western examples.
The first volume of The Marhawa Desire sets up a nice little horror mystery, with Mother Gracia calling in an old friend, the aforementioned Doug Wright, to help keep an impending zombie outbreak under wraps. Wright brings his son along for the ride, and the two quickly notice that there’s something up with Gracia and her insistence on keeping the pristine reputation of her academy intact. It seems she’ll go to great lengths to do so, even if it involves torching all evidence of a Biohazard and endangering the lives of her students. Once Chris Redfield and the BSAA enter the picture, you’ll be scrambling to find a button to press for the inevitable Quick Time Event. Press B to punch a zombie dog in the face!
Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire ends up being a pretty solid Resident Evil manga. It serves as a prequel to Resident Evil 6, and while it uses this as a nice excuse to sprinkle in pages of all-out BSAA action here and there, it plays out more like the slow burn survival horror that started the series so many years ago. It’s also appropriately grimy whenever a zombie lumbers its way into a panel. Hopefully subsequent volumes continue taking their time in unraveling the truth behind Marhawa Academy, because there’s a lot of promise in the first few chapters.
© CAPCOM / Naoki Serizawa 2012
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