22nd Apr2010

Adventures West Coast #11: Marvel Zombies HC

by Will

Adventures West Coast #11: Marvel Zombies HC

Oh, Marvel Zombies! The series with the punny title that just wouldn’t die. I’m not sure if it’s still common today, but there was a time when fanboys only supported one of the Big 2. You were either a DC guy or a “Marvel Zombie”. “Marvel Zombie” had a bit of a negative connotation, as it implied that you would mindlessly consume anything that Marvel put out, regardless of quality. Well, just like when minorities want to “reclaim” slurs, Marvel decided to have a little fun with the name themselves.

Created by Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips, Marvel Zombies is the story of an alternate Marvel Universe where a plagued has broken out, turning everyone into zombies. The story actually began as a Mark Millar-written arc in the low-selling Ultimate Fantastic Four. I’m not sure if it was designed to bring readers to the book, or if it was felt that they could get away with something so weird since nobody was reading the book anyway. In any case, that story arc shows Ultimate Reed Richards discovering a gateway to all universes, and he receives a distress call from Reed Richards of yet a different alternate universe. It’s all a trick, however, as distressed Reed was just trying to summon more food for him and his fellow zombies. As odd as it sounds, that was one of the more successful storylines in the Ultimate Universe – so successful, in fact, that Marvel decided to spin the zombie universe off into its own miniseries.

As the story opens, the events pick up where the Ultimate Fantastic Four story ended. Magneto had sacrificed himself in order to destroy the portal that the zombies might’ve used to travel to other universes. Unfortunately, he finds himself at the feet of the zombie Avengers. Magneto puts up a good fight, but he’s simply the victim of teamwork and zombie-level hunger. The zombies tear him apart in gruesome, panel-by-panel manner. Since there wasn’t exactly enough to go around, the zombies are still hungry and start bitching at each other. That’s pretty much how the rest of the story goes: the zombie Avengers are hungry and comically bitch at each other while in the pursuit of food.

Every now and then, the heroes’ humanity will shine through, as they express disgust at what they’ve become. Otherwise, it’s a different take on what qualities the Marvel characters would retain if they somehow suddenly became monsters. Cap’s still a leader, Spider-Man’s still a smart-ass, oh, and Hank Pym is still a wifebeater. In fact, he does one better by biting off her fucking head and then spits it out. I swear, that guy needs a new agent. The “Hank Pym as misogynist” thing happened ONCE, but he’s never been able to shake it. If he were a real celebrity, he’d go to Wife Beating Rehab and we’d be expected to forget all about it. Not in the Marvel Universe, I guess. In any case, the zombies notice the Silver Surfer high in the sky, and he becomes the new target of their hunger.

Meanwhile, there are some human survivors. Magneto had been a survivor of this world, and we find out that Hank Pym has Black Panther stashed away. Since food is scarce, is been snacking on BP gradually, unbeknownst to the rest of the Marvel Zombies. Unfortunately for Black Panther, he’s still alive while all of this happens, under the influence of a mild sedative.

Silver Surfer finally deigns to speak to the zombies, telling them to prepare, as the coming of Galactus is near. In case this is your first time here, or you’re not a comic person, Galactus is a big ass alien who eats planets. Silver Surfer is the guy he sends to the planets beforehand, just to relay the message that their asses are about to be eaten. The zombies don’t really care what he has to say, as they only see him as food. So, just as with Magneto, they assemble and try to take him down. Finally, zombie Hulk bites off the Surfer’s head, while the other zombies feast on the body.

While that fight was going on, Black Panther managed to escape capture, along with the Wasp’s head. He feels that there’s some piece of his friend left, even if she’s just a zombie virus-riddled head. They encounter Magneto’s old disciples, the Acolytes, who are searching for their master. Black Panther tells them that he’s been killed and, following a fight, convinces them to take him and Wasp’s head with them to Asteroid M, Magneto’s space base outside the range of the virus.

Galactus finally arrives, and the zombies just see him as a big-ass meal. The zombies still seem to have some intelligence when focused on a goal, so Tony Stark develops a weapon that can actually hurt Galactus. At this point, it’s revealed that the zombie villains have stuck together just as the heroes had. It then becomes as battle as to who should get to dine on Galactus, and the scene turns into a classic throwdown between zombified “heroes” and “villains”. The heroes have the upperhand, however, as all of the ones who had eaten a piece of Silver Surfer acquired a portion of the Power Cosmic. This is what they use for their final assault on Galactus, which ends in the same gory panel-by-panel evisceration as the Magneto scene at the beginning of the story. As the story ends, the Acolytes and Black Panther return to Earth 5 years later, finding the planet deserted. They don’t know where the zombies have gone, but all planetary scans indicate that no one is left. That’s when we see the zombies, floating through space with the powers they’d acquired from Galactus.

I was surprised at how quick of a read this book was. I mean, when you get down to it, it’s really just Fight-Eat-Bicker-Repeat. It also helps that most of the groundwork had been laid in the Ultimate Fantastic Four arc, so there wasn’t much of a need for set-up. Even if you hadn’t read that story, all you needed to know was that this world was filled with hungry zombies. That’s it. At last count, they were currently up to Marvel Zombies 5, so this has been quite a moneymaker for them, even if many folks tired of the concept some time ago. After all, this led a bit of a zombie renaissance, where EVERY company jumped on board with projects, none of which were as well-executed as this one.

My own personal bone to pick is the exposure that this gave Arthur Suydam. One of the selling points of the series was that each issue issue featured a cover by painter Arthur Suydam, where he reimagined a classic Marvel cover in a zombie motif. Remember the cover for Iron Man: Demon In A Bottle? Well, now see it ZOMBIEFIED! It was a concept that got old FAST, considering the multiple printings on the issues and collected editions. He even started making zombie variants for books that weren’t even tangentially related to the zombie phenomenon. There was a period between 2006 and 2008 where Suydam was unnecessarily EVERYWHERE, and I got to a point where I wanted to punch him in the face should he ever cross my path.

Anyway, it’s a fun book. That’s really all I can say. It’s a good way to kill 45 minutes, and it’s nice to see Marvel poking fun at itself, which isn’t something that its Distinguished Competition would feel comfortable doing. Marvel looked to all of those people who laughed AT all the little Marvel Zombies, and gave them something to laugh ABOUT. Ain’t nothing wrong with that!