The Marhawa Desire was originally released in Japan’s Weekly Shonen Champion (2012-2013) as a prequel to Resident Evil 6. The serialized manga established backstory by introducing fans to supporting protagonist Piers Nivans, hoping to build anticipation for the upcoming title. The action shifts to the Far East branch of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance, an organization founded to uncover and eliminate viral weaponry, spawned largely by the infamous Umbrella Corporation. An old friend enlists the help of Microbiology Professor Doug Wright to investigate a mysterious death and potential T-Virus outbreak at the Marhawa Academy in Singapore.
Judging by this first installment, the story is surprisingly accessible to newcomers. The plot doesn’t require extensive knowledge of the franchise; zombie survival horror is a pretty straightforward affair. And that’s not discounting its merit. The goal is escapism. Earlier events are referenced infrequently and explained succinctly when necessary. Granted, the comic is considerably more faithful to the games than the movie series, but I consider that a positive.
"Serizawa also applies heavy toning, perfectly augmenting the bleak setting. Skillful panel composition relays his cinematography background and further solidifies the storytelling."
Mangaka Naoki Serizawa utilizes atypical techniques that distinguish The Marhawa Desire. His stylization leans towards a type of realism I wish I saw more often. Likenesses are consequently more recognizable, avoiding the same face plague so often seen in anime and manga. Facial expressions don’t have to rely on caricature, contributing to a fitting and believable atmosphere. Serizawa also applies heavy toning, perfectly augmenting the bleak setting. Skillful panel composition relays his cinematography background and further solidifies the storytelling.
Does the comic adaptation succumb to cliché? The Marhawa Academy is not-so-conveniently isolated from the outside world, nestled deep in the wilderness. It’s run by a former love-interest of the Professor, Mother Gracia. Despite the impending danger, her actions seem suspect. She appears to be motivated by nothing more than maintaining appearances, valuing reputation over safety. To top it off, Gracia looks more like a supermodel than a nun, sporting the same curves and pouty lips as her students. Gratuitous sexualization in comics is still common.
"This is a light yet worthwhile read, not only for Resident Evil fans, but for horror enthusiasts seeking a new series."
The Marhawa Desire isn’t markedly progressive, but how often is anything in the horror genre? Serizawa’s unique art style complements an interesting and well-paced narrative. I can’t grant the vast number of zombie flicks the same generosity. More specifically, the Resident Evil films manage to devolve further into abominable territory with each release. Stiff acting highlights flimsy dialogue, stringing together plot holes. Regardless of the target medium, licensed material is often less than mediocre. Thankfully, the comic avoids these egregious tendencies. Swap out poorly directed 3D action for hypnotic inkscapes, and it’s even easier to forgive any inconsistencies. Though at first glance, Marhawa Desire may seem to target a slim audience, it’s relation to the mega franchise is negligible. This is a light yet worthwhile read, not only for Resident Evil fans, but for horror enthusiasts seeking a new series.
Review by: Ameenah Salamunic | Published by: VIZ Media