My cat is really not having this article.
I am usually able to write these in relative peace. I settle in on the bed in the spare guestroom, get something to snack on and some lemonade, and I got to town. Maybe one of the three cats will jump up on the bed next to me and chill out, but Nuke is being super aggro about this right now.
(Yes, one of my cats is named Nuke)
He is all up in my lap and insisting on getting petted and rubbing against my elbow as I try to type. He was sleeping next to me as I read this book, and he is taking great umbrage that I moved and disturbed his slumber so I could get the laptop out.
I think it’s the coronavirus. My wife is home all the time on her computer now (as of this writing, I have still been going to the office daily), and he just assumes our being home and on computers is solely to shower him in attention. How dare we try to accomplish anything!
TITLE: Marvel Zombies
Writer and Artist: Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips
Protagonists: Giant-Man, Colonel America, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Hulk, Spider-Man
Antagonists: Silver Surfer and Galactus
Marvel Zombies is a follow up to a story arc from Ultimate Fantastic Four wherein that world’s Reed Richards was tricked into traveling to an alternate universe populated by undead versions of classic Marvel heroes. Reed survived the encounter and escaped thanks to an unturned Magneto, and while that story continued on the Ultimate Earth, the other end of it was revealed in its own mini-series.
Magneto is able to provide a challenge for the zombified heroes for a bit after saving Reed, but he is ultimately devoured, thanks to The Wasp. From there, the story shifts from Erik Lensherr as the protagonist to follow the zombies themselves. After feeding, their sense of reason returns briefly, though only Spider-Man is really shown as repentant over their entire ordeal, as he breaks down in guilt when reminded that he ate Aunt May and Mary Jane after his infection. The others are mostly concerned about their new zombie physiology… and how they can get more food.
After separating, you find out that Hank Pym has kept a secret: an alive Black Panther that Hank has been carving up with an eye towards sanitary habits and eating so he could keep his reason. Janet discovers this, and their resulting struggle sees Hank literally bite her head off.
And who should show up during all this: The Silver Surfer. In the Marvel 616, mankind’s empathy and hopefulness is enough to turn Surfer against his master, but in the zombie universe, he is much more sickened by what’s come of the world. He eludes the undead for a bit and is able to summon Galactus, but before long, Hulk gets his hands on him and bites off his head. There are… a lot of people getting their heads bitten off in this book.
In the aftermath, only a few heroes get their teeth into Surfer, resulting not only in full bellies but also in gaining his Power Cosmic.
From there, Galactus appears and sets about turning Earth into energy. The zombies battle with him for a while, but are eventually able to overwhelm him, and the Devourer of Worlds becomes zombie food, too. The zombies absorb HIS power, too, and have both the hunger of the undead and of Galactus as they leave Earth.
So Robert Kirkman had been working on The Walking Dead for over two years by the time Marvel called him up to handle their own zombie property. It seems to make sense at face value, but only a bit. In TWD, the human survivors are the protagonists in the face of mindless walkers, who are obstacles devoid of personality or character. In Marvel Zombies, the zombies have most of their facilities about them, though clouded by hunger, and are the stars.
There is… a LOT of exposition here, and a lot of telling-not-showing. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but scenes like the one where Giant-Man is monologuing to an unconscious T’Challa about everything he has been through don’t feel genuine and are there JUST to update the reader on what exactly came of this Earth. Some moments have characters yelling at or talking to each other, and they fall into the story convention of “As you are aware, [plot details that have no reason to be spoken aloud]”. The zombified heroes spend a lot of the first issue discussing the state of their turn to each other, even though they all know the deal. this is solely to lazily catch the reader up.
Aside from that bit of sloppiness, the story is fun. It’s low-stakes, out-of-continuity nonsense, and Kirkman is just allowed to go berserk with it all. There are so many events in the Marvel Universe that could have worked here, but staging all of this against the backdrop of Surfer and Galactus is fun. Especially when you get to see an utterly contemptuous Galactus felled by the monsters and eaten. Hulk biting off Surfer’s head. Captain America running around with half his skull lopped off. Wasp biting off a chunk of Magneto with the plan of flying away and shrinking so it can last her for days. It’s nuts!
Sean Phillips’ art is great for this. The beasts are ghastly, with prominent teeth and a lot of gore. The world is muddy greens and browns, and everything feels appropriately hopeless as he presents it. The undead heroes all have distinctive injuries. It’s a great style for this world.
Talking Point: If you could take a regarded independent creator and let them create an alternate universe for Marvel or DC in their “style”… who would it be? Maybe a Mike Mignola world where the DC heroes are fighting off elder gods? Something like that!
It’s kind of dumb fun. You’ve got a lot of wildly imaginative stuff going on with a great writer who is let loose to whatever he wants, but the exposition and weird “let’s explain everything” bits slow the book down. This could be a higher grade if it wasn’t bogged down in that.