Life Isn\’t Already Enough of a Dystopia, Let\’s Talk Marvel Zombies (2005)

Now that we are living in a world of social isolation and dodging diseases let’s talk about the modern Marvel “classic”: Marvel Zombies. The first one. Like the real first one. This is a series that has had a mess of itself in naming.

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Confession time—I haven’t read a Marvel Zombies comic at all before now. I did randomly pick up an issue of Marvel Zombies 2 #1 when it came out, but I was at a loss. This franchise was already in full swing when I first started reading comics in 2007. I can vouch for its popularity at the time. People legit talked about this comic all the time in the early days of Myspace Comic internet (If there wasn’t such a terrible phrase ever typed). The fact I managed to never once pick this up in trade is odd with how oversaturated Marvel Zombies. Especially given how often I bought trades at the time because I was young, dumb, and full of disposable income. Passed Marvel Zombies for Identity Crisis. I was the loser of that deal; I tell you what.

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Still one of my biggest comic buying regrets. This comic is terrible.

Given my isolation in this pandemic, I have begun diving back into comics through Comixology Unlimited, Marvel Unlimited, and soon DC’s Infinite Universe Service. I don’t get to go to the comic shop much anymore and these unlimited platforms help me read comics. I should write an article on that soon. Either way, Marvel Zombies is available on Marvel Unlimited. Pandemic season made it seem like a good time to check it out. Overall, I was impressed. It was a fun comic that while dark had moments that reminded me of why I like Marvel especially from this era. I can’t believe the readers of that era were correct. Marvel Zombies was actually good?!

 This is an actual review so let us establish the basics:

Obligatory Comic Review stuff

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Marvel Zombies (The original series)
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Sean Phillips
Colors by June Chung

Kirkman is probably best known for The Walking Dead, or Invincible (if you know what’s up), and the dude knows what’s up when it comes to writing a Zombie story. Except this wasn’t a zombie story. Or at least the traditional one where you watch a band of human survivors fight against the odds hopefully to someday win—see Walking Dead. Instead, Marvel Zombies is largely a Post-Post-Apocalyptic story. The Zombie Heroes won and the few humans remaining aren’t banking on survival. There are no heroes left to save them from the horrors of the marvelous mutants marauding the streets.

 Marvel Zombies originally started as an Ultimate Fantastic Four story in which Reed is tricked into letting the Zombie Fantastic Four into their world and Reed enters theirs. While there, Reed is saved by Magento who helps him return back to the Ultimate Universe and destroys the machine that allowed for the dimensional travel to occur. The Ultimate Fantastic Four defeat the zombie versions of themselves and all is good. Except for being in the Ultimate Universe. Either way, this drives home the main issue facing the zombies and sets up the story for the miniseries.

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Ultimate Fantastic Four #21-23

Marvel Zombies focuses primarily on the zombified heroes dealing with their zombified condition and trying to be rational in an increasingly irrational world. The situation is getting even more grim by the day. With all of the humans largely dead, food is running out for the zombies. They just ate the last non-zombie source in Magento. Without food, the heroes are unable to think clearly and soon the hope of reversing their condition (however unlikely and full of false hope it may be) fades with their memories into the dark abyss of their zombie rage. The main plot of the story is set against the arrival of the Silver Surfer, harbinger of the ultimate end, Galactus. The heroes manage to overtake the Surfer, though only few remain from the fight. As they devour the galactic glider, they discover they are imbued with the Power Cosmic. This plays useful when Galactus arrives on Earth to find his missing herald. Galactus’ arrival also brings out the zombified villains. They all brawl with the zombies fighting for the right to eat Galactus and Galactus fighting for survival. The Hulk takes down Galactus and with it the universe is doomed. As the heroes, victorious against Galactus and the villains, consume Galactus, they ascend to the Devourers of Worlds. Spreading their terror across the universe in the name of the one true hunger.  

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Marvel Zombies is well done for what it is and what it ultimately comes down to is an action movie where the heroes are zombies. Their motives are not altruistic but instead influenced by the HUNGER that drives their actions. It is done well. There are character moments that show they are not truly mindless zombies but instead afflicted monsters that cannot seem to escape their own nightmare. Death will not come for them. Kirkman isn’t my favorite writer by any means but every now and then one of his comics click for me.

Peter Parker is the star of the comic for me. He tries to maintain being hero and holds out hope that they can be cured. He almost always wears his mask. He cannot bare the thought of seeing himself in the mirror. All the terrible things he has done in the name of hunger. Parker expresses deep guilt in way that only he can do. Peter’s actions—eating Aunt May and MJ—are some of the most chilling. I keep thinking back to this teaser for Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake (a contemporary to this series) and there was this moment where this little girl walks into her parents’ room. Something is visibly wrong with her and the mom (unknowing to the Zombie Apocalypse) walks up to her to check if she is okay. Only for the zombified daughter to lash out at the mother.

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Peter’s terrible moment occurs after he returns to the apartment following this large chaotic incident where the virus is spreading in the streets of New York. Pete is unknowingly infected and is falling to the virus. He isn’t aware of this at the moment and by the time it is clear, it is too late. This incident isn’t truly established in this story, merely alluded to in dialog. None of the events explaining the cause of Marvel Zombies outbreak is ever explained in this miniseries. It is remarkably similar to the Walking Dead in that regard. Kirkman isn’t preoccupied with the cause of the outbreak, but instead he focuses his efforts on the impact of the outbreak. The cause and spread of the virus would be explained in subsequent Marvel Zombie releases along with a brief one in the Ultimate Fantastic Four Arc.

The art by Sean Phillips and colors from June Chung is superb. The character models are loosely designed on the classic versions of the characters and that is nice touch. Helps the comic stick out from the mainstream universe and ultimate universe of the time. Phillips, (known for Criminal, Hellblazer, and many more) brings a dark feel to the world with is use of shadows and deep blacks. Phillips’ art brings emotion to the void eyes and the grisly grimaces across each of the zombies’ faces in a chilling yet delightful way. 

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Chung (known for coloring Birds of Prey, Batman, and various other titles) does some visceral color work with a world of grim and muted colors with a layer of grime to everything. Normally, I am not a fan of muddied colors in comics, but this fits the tone of the comic perfectly. The art puts the book over the edge in terms of quality and helps sell the tone of an action-horror story.

Marvel Zombies wasn’t without fault, though. It reads fine collected, but I could imagine it being a bit sparse in singles. I didn’t read it in that format but still worth noting. Additionally, the B-plot of Black Panther surviving largely doesn’t do much within the story (hence why it wasn’t mentioned in the synopsis), but it is obvious that it is setting up the seeds of the eventual sequel, Marvel Zombies 2. If anything, Marvel Zombies felt like a 2-3-episode story of a mini-series setting up for future events. It works well in its confines, but I would have liked it more if there was more substance. That said, I enjoyed it. The dark tones of the story and artwork well together in a way that makes for a creepy read. I recommend it. It is not this deep story that will change your world view. It doesn’t necessarily try for that. It is an action zombie story and if you like that, you will likely enjoy this. However, keep in mind a lot of Marvel comics from this era was written for trades and if you get a chance to check it out, I recommend picking up the trade or reading it through an unlimited service.

This has been Extremely Uncanny, see you next time.

Jordan Jennings

Jordan has written for wide array of comic review sites over the years including Comicosity, Comicon, and Comic Book Revolution. He has been reviewing and discussing comics for over 10 years. In addition to comics, Jordan enjoys various types of games be it video games or trading card games.

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