Monday, 18 March 2013

Marvel Zombies review

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colourist: June Chung
Letterer: VC’s Randy Gentile
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Covers: Arthur Suydam

This is a story of an alternate universe were the entirety of the Marvel Universe is infected by a zombie virus. Most of your favourite superhero characters (name a few) are flesh eating monsters. Their only goal is to feed; their only concern is when they will feed next. The idea boils down to zombies with superpowers. It sounds good for about a second, after which it starts to sound like a pretty terrible ideas. It’s difficult enough to write good zombie fiction and the same can be said of superhero comics but combining the two together is just asking for failure. This comic should have been bad, it should have been terrible. Turns out it’s pretty good and very enjoyable.

In his introduction, Robert Kirkman of The Walking Dead fame mentions a few of the story ideas he and editor Ralph Macchio had for Marvel Zombies. I have to say some of those ideas sound pretty darn boring or uninteresting. See, what makes this an interesting comic is that the zombies are the main characters. This isn’t a story about survival; it’s a story about learning how to live with never-ending hunger. The marvel heroes are nearly all zombified yet they remain true to their (alternate universe) selves. They still have their superpowers and they use them to their advantage. For example, Janet Pym, the Wasp, takes a chunk of flesh from a victim then shrinks to eat it. By shrinking down she can easily make a seemingly small morsel last much longer than it would have at her full height.

It also helps that Kirkman keeps the tone of the book rather light. This is still a very gory book and definitively not suitable to impressionable minds or the faint of heart. The story simply doesn’t take itself too seriously. Kirkman and Phillips included several nods to the Marvel Universe and its characters and often doing so in a humorous way. This alternate universe’s Iron Man is still wearing a helmet with a face plate that flips up, allowing the reader to see Tony Stark’s face. As a zombie, lifting the face plate allows him to feed while still wearing his helmet. You get several zombified cameos of Marvel characters even if they don’t play any significant role other than fan service. Things like Wolverine doing a fastball special with Iron Man’s upper half and having elements of well-known stories pop up here and there are all part of the fan service. You could convincingly argue that the whole purpose of Marvel Zombies is to delight the fans of both Marvel and the Zombie genre with a short and fun tale combining the best of both worlds. By keeping it simple, the creative team succeeds quite well.

Kirkman also decides to add some plot elements that could easily be, and have been, picked up for future instalments of Marvel Zombies. These plot points are of a more serious nature than the main plot of the comic and lead the story in a different direction. This direction is a more classic zombie story dealing with the continued survival of a small group on a zombie infested planet. Kirkman give it his own little twist but it barely has time to last. Essentially, it’s the zombies are gone . . . or are they?

My one main complaint is about the Marvel Universe villains. I think the main cast could have used a few villains. What’s the difference between hero and villain when everybody is a zombie? They all want the same thing now and it could be beneficial to all to team up. Not only that, but in a zombie apocalypse, who’s still complaining about old rivalries? They’re all got biggest problems.

Although it’s not the most important comic of the last decade, Marvel Zombies is a joy to read. It’s gross, it discusses at length what this type of zombie can and cannot do, and it’s got carnage by the hearse load and superpowered blast firing out of severed arms along with a heavy dose of cosmic energy. There wasn’t any meta commentary comparing the endless hunger of the undead and the seemingly endless demand for superhero comics from fanboys but it would have fit right in with the rest of this series. In the end, what makes Marvel Zombies and a few of the sequels a good read was the tone of the series. By keeping it fun and playing it fast and loose, Kirkman as well as the other writers to have played in the zombified Marvel sandbox, have written a few good mini-series starring some of the most beloved superhero characters, nearly all of them talking, superpowered zombies. I might review some of the other Marvel Zombies comics in the future. 

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