Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Sean Phillips, June Chung (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
EDITORíS NOTE: The first issue of Marvel Zombies 2 arrives in stores this Wednesday, October 17.
Ariel Carmona Jr.
Marvel Zombies 2 attempts to follow up on previous stories which have been blockbusters for Marvel. Previously, I had read reviews of the original Marvel Zombies series and of the Ultimate Fantastic Four arc which spawned the Marvel zombie universe but never read the series because I was reading other books. This comic seemed like it would be another fun journey through an alternate universe in which the heroes are no more and the zombies take center stage.
I fully enjoy Kirkmanís other zombie series, Imageís The Walking Dead, so one would surmise that I would equally revel in sampling this comic, but I didnít take to it as much as I figured I would, perhaps because there are references to the previous series which I had never sampled. Comparisons between Kirkmanís two zombie works are inevitable. For one thing, The Walking Dead doesnít have the undead as their protagonists, focusing instead on the survivors of a zombie invasion. Conversely, Marvel Zombies makes no bones about placing the zombies in the spotlight.
This series apparently picks up from the events of the last, and it is interesting to note that some who had been transformed into zombies like the Wasp are able to control their feeding frenzy, at least temporarily. The Acolytes in Asteroid M are also figured prominently in this story where leadership of the surviving race of humans is being disputed.
Meanwhile out in space, zombie versions of the X-Men, the Avengers, Spiderman and the Hulk are freaking out over the prospect of having no more food. Theyíre scouring the cosmos to find additional food, and there are some funny interactions between Zombie Hulk and Zombie Thanos. Kirkman does a good job of presenting this absurd conflict with the necessary sense of urgency, and it makes for some really good dialogue.
Sean Phillips adds consistent visual flare to this comic with a unique style clearly influenced by previous zombie and monster books but distinct enough to be recognizable. There are some unforgettable images here, including some impressive depictions of the Avengers as zombies out in space wearing their classic uniforms. His full page spreads add a lot to the proceedings, but the artwork is less effective when depicting a scene in which the Wasp feeds on another character and the latterís entrails are seen hanging out of his midsection. Scenes of gore and blood like these are a staple of horror movies and comics, but they take some getting used to, especially when they abruptly interrupt the flow of the narrative.
Final Word: Overall, this is a fairly entertaining comic book, even if the story isnít as engaging as it could be. This comic book seems full of potential with many story possibilities, and it will be interesting to read the next installment.
Forty years after the end of Marvel Zombies, the zombies have eaten their way across the universe (and picked up a few friends). Theyíve left nothing alive. Thatís when Giant-Man remembers Reed Richards dimensional transport machine. The zombies make way for Earth and more food. Back on Earth, King TíChalla faces a rebellion from the children of the Acolytes and the impending extinction of humanity. And the discovery of Hawkeyeís severed head provides proof of the long-term effects of the zombie virus.
Fantastic Four #547 has Johnny Storm talking about his trip to the ďMarvel ZombiesĒ universe. He compares it to Shaun of the Dead, then turns to the reader and says, ďExcept it wasnít funny at all.Ē This was probably writer Dwayne McDuffieís way of expressing his opinion of the Marvel Zombies mini-series. I found the original series a dark mix of horror and comedy. Since then, Marvelís beaten the joke into the ground. Marvel Zombies 2 shows little evidence of deliberate humor. Itís a more serious tale about humanityís struggle for survival, as another disaster slowly approaches.
I canít say too much about the comic without giving away major spoilers. I can say Spider-Manís going to have another reason to feel guilty. Kirkman has introduced a plot point that could spell the end of the Marvel Zombies concept. Frankly, Iíd like to see that. This joke has run its course. What started out funny has inevitably turned serious. A zombie story can only end one of two ways: Either every zombie dies or every human dies. And if every human dies, youíre left with a bunch of zombies bemoaning their fate. Thatís not entertaining.
Sean Philips art is as good as it was in the first series. Itís dark, gritty, and dirty. You feel the angst and terror of the humans. Philips art lends the simple expression of cartooning with the realism of comic art. There are times when the characters look stiff, but only when theyíre standing around. Now that I think about it, there isnít a lot of action aside from one fight scene and a murder.
Iíve enjoyed the first Marvel Zombies and the Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness comics. But the humor has finally worn out. We readers have spent two years with these monsters, and itís just not funny anymore. Iím hoping this will be end of the zombie craze at Marvel. There comes a point where death isnít funny anymore. And we passed that point after zombie Howard the Duck ate Bruce Campbellís brains. Youíre just not going to top that.
Paul Brian McCoy:
Iím not going to lie to you. I read this over and thought to myself, ďAm I tired of this whole Marvel Zombies thing?Ē This was a sobering thought, and I wasnít even drinking. You see, I love zombies (flesh-eaters only, please Ė for some reason, though I have an intense fascination with Vodou, I have little to no interest in Caribbean zombie lore). Whatever the medium, I just canít get enough. I have bookshelves devoted entirely to zombie fiction (both novels and short story collections), and a section all about zombies in film. I have a book of philosophy that uses the zombie as a starting point for philosophical explorations. I have zombie action figures (I physically ache with longing for that Zombie Captain America statue that I canít freaking afford), and Deathlok is one of my favorite comic book characters of all time. And the movies Ė donít get me started talking about the movies. I have a collection of zombie films on DVD from around the world: Spainís Blind Dead series, Japanís Versus, Hong Kong ís Bio-Zombie, shambling hordes of Italian films, New Zealandís classic Dead Alive (directed by Peter Jackson), all the Romero films (of course), not to mention Englandís brilliant Shawn of the Dead. This list could go on and on. (Yes, I know that this means I may have a serious psychological problem. Who doesnít, though? Have serious psychological problems, I mean; not know that I have one.)
And finally, there are the comics. Iíve checked out all the zombie comics that have flooded the market over the past couple of years, but only a few have been brought home with me from the shop. Robert Kirkman is responsible for two of my favorites in this genre. One is, obviously, The Walking Dead: Kirkmanís serious psychological exploration of survival among the undead. It takes all of the issues, both metaphoric and literal, from the best zombie fiction and regularly cranks out some of the top work in comics today. Thatís in all comics. Itís that good. In that title, Kirkman rivals Romero himself for quality existential character work.
And then thereís Kirkmanís other revolting, flesh-eating baby, Marvel Zombies. I know, I know. He didnít come up with the idea, but thatís irrelevant. He owns this idea now. As smart and chilling as The Walking Dead is, Marvel Zombies is irreverent and splatter-filled. The gross-out is king here, and in the first series, Kirkman got away with disgusting images that I never would have believed Marvel would publish, especially with zombified versions of all of their most popular characters. It was truly spectacular. The hardback collection has a very nice place of honor on my bookshelf.
So, back to this new series. Like I stated, I read through it once and felt disappointed. The thrill was gone. Maybe I had burnt myself out on the whole Marvel Zombies concept. I enjoyed the crossover with Ash from Evil Dead that was out a few months ago, but to tell the truth, that series kind of limped across the finish line. That wasnít Kirkman, I know, and the excitement wasnít there at the end, even though that story told the origin of the zombie plague, sort of. So I decided to put this issue away for a day or two before taking another look at it. I like to do that anyway when Iím writing a review, so I donít just go with my first impressions. In fact, there have been many a time when I thought I knew what my bullet score was going to be when I started writing but then changed it by the time Iíve finished working the book over.
So I read it again a few minutes ago, and guess what? I liked it. From the opening joke to the surprise guest appearance of a larger-than-life cosmic character (not that one Ė the one they eat!), this was a pretty good start to another wave of horrific murders and cannibalistic mutilations.
This is an advance review, so all Iím going to tell you is that forty years have passed since the end of the first series (you remember, when the super-zombies killed and ate Galactus and finished up the series by beginning an intergalactic feasting spree), and The Black Panther is ruling an extremely diminished human society. The Marvel Zombies are out at the fringes of the galaxy, having run out of places to visit and people to eat, when Giant Man struggles to remember that once, long ago, there was a machine that could open a gateway to other worlds. Worlds filled with food.
Aside from that, thereís political turmoil, an interesting development involving the zombie hunger, and some nicely nasty scenes of cannibalistic excess. Philipsí work here is up to the bar he set with earlier Marvel Zombies work, although to be quite honest, Kirkman doesnít give him a lot of craziness to work with in this first issue. Instead, this issue focuses mainly on establishing the two storylines Ė the zombies in space, and the humans with political problems. Neither is all that ripe for the gore at this stage, but believe me, itís coming. June Chungís colors are a major contributor to the overall success of this book. The skins are mottled and stained. The costumes are filthy. The teeth Ė yuck! And the eerie glowing zombie eyes (thanks to Galactusí cosmic power) are nightmarishly creepy.
So, basically, what Iím saying is, if you like zombies, particularly the first Marvel Zombies series, then you should probably give this a shot. Thereís a chance you might be burnt out on the concept, but give it a try anyway. I think it will win you over. Itís a good, solid start to what will hopefully be another horribly disgusting, over-the-top zombie extravaganza.
Marvel Zombies 2 canít hope to achieve the same runaway success as its predecessor. The first series was a surprise hit which took the current vogue for zombie comics and applied it to the heroes of the Marvel Universe, getting a lot of mileage out of seeing just what levels of sick humour and disturbing character developments Kirkman could get away with. The combination of such established Marvel properties with the escalating gore and gruesome storyline of the first volume made it a fun enough read, but it was hardly a substantial or memorable comic, and by the end of the first series there was already a sense that the one-note joke had run its course. Put simply, Marvel Zombies didnít demand a sequel - and on the evidence of this first issue, Iím not completely convinced that it will be able to support one.
The book opens some years after the last volume ended, with the remaining Marvel Zombies flying through space in search of any last remnants of food which could stave off their eternal hunger. Thereís some fun bickering and in-fighting between the heroes (with an amusing piece of banter between the zombie Hulk and ďPrune ChinĒ Thanos), but the majority of the issueís intrigue comes not from the zombies themselves, but from the human survivors of the first miniseries. To give him his dues, Robert Kirkman does seem to be making a genuine effort to give the book some substance, kicking off a few separate plot threads in the Black Pantherís kingdom: we see a growing political revolution, the suggestion that there might be a possible cure for the zombiesí condition, and a surprising personal development for TíChalla himself.
The trouble is, thereís not much else to the book than that. Thereís no big hook, nothing to instantly grab you about the series, and the titular zombies (arguably the bookís main attraction) go through several repetitive scenes of floating through the universe without really doing anything interesting or significant. Anyone hoping for the same kind of fast-moving plot that we saw in the original series will likely be disappointed by how little action we actually get to see here, and even the major development of the end of the first series - the zombiesí theft of Galactusí cosmic powers - seems to have been all but ignored in order to reduce them to regular zombies once again (albeit ones who can fly through space). There are a couple of hints which imply that we might see an invasion of the regular Marvel Universe by the zombies before this series is over, but thereís no sense of urgency apparent in the zombiesí quest to return home.
The art team of Sean Phillips and June Chung is reunited to bring the world of the Marvel Zombies to life, and they successfully imbue the twisted zombified heroes with real demonic character. Phillips accomplishes more than just making the zombies look good, however, illustrating the suitably otherworldly environs of New Wakanda with a strong sense of atmosphere, and adding some fun touches of detail (like the Hulk wearing Galactusí skirt). Phillips and Chung are such an important part of the bookís appeal that I simply couldnít imagine the world of the Marvel Zombies working nearly as well without them on art duties. Equally, the book wouldnít feel complete without the talents of Arthur Sudyam, whose homage to the cover of Civil War #1 suggests that we might see some serious in-fighting between the Marvel heroes later down the line. For now, though, thereís nothing as exciting as that for readers to get their teeth into.
After the massive popularity of Marvel Zombies, a backlash was perhaps inevitable - but Iím not giving this issue such an average score for that reason. Thankfully, the Marvel Zombies craze is a phenomenon that Iíve mostly managed to avoid, and as such I havenít become as tired of the concept as I might have been if Iíd read every zombie-based storyline or bought every comic with a Sudyam variant cover. Still, the fact that Iím not predisposed to dislike this series doesnít alter my general impression that this sequel is milking a concept which was always going to be a limited-lifespan novelty to begin with. This first issue is not particularly notable (although itís not particularly heinous either), but the general sense that itís more of the same as we saw in the original Marvel Zombies means that it will probably be welcomed by the legions of fans that bought into the original. For everyone else, though, this is a cash-in sequel which seems likely to suffer from the law of diminishing returns and become even more disposable and forgettable than the first miniseries. Fittingly enough for the franchise, it looks as though Marvel Zombies 2 is going to be overkill.
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