“It began with a flash in the sky”
So begins one of the most entertaining, and gory, sagas in the Marvel Universe:
MARVEL ZOMBIES #1-5 (Dec. 2005-April 2006)
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Sean Phillips
Covers by Arthur Suydam
The story began as a tease in the early Ultimate Fantastic Four series. See, they teased that Ultimate Reed Richards would be meeting a Reed Richards from another reality so, naturally, the fans thought this was going to be the first ever meeting of the Ultimate Universe and Marvel-616. Turned out it was a reality where the Marvels were infected with a zombie virus and Zombie Reed Richards was simply looking for was way to get more food by going to another reality. They were only partially successful as the Zombie Fantastic Four made their way to the Ultimate Universe before their version of Magneto, not a zombie, destroyed the machine that made it possible thus trapping the zombies in their reality ‘forever’ (These events are collected in Ultimate Fantastic Four, Volume 5: Crossover while the Zombie Fantastic Four, renamed the Frightful Four, get some spotlight in Ultimate Fantastic Four, Volume 6: Frightful available now!)
Marvel Zombies starts right after these events and shows a victorious, and weakened, Magneto now fighting for his life against the zombies of Col. America, Spider-Man, Hulk, Luke Cage, Moon Knight, Daredevil, Wolverine, Giant Man, Thor, and Archangel. He manages to hold his own for some time, even takes out a few and severely ‘injures’ Col. America by taking off the top part of his head, leaving the zombie’s brains exposed, but eventually is taken down by Wasp then torn to shreds by the rest in what is still the goriest scene I’ve ever seen in a mainstream Marvel Comic. This is also where we learn some of the rules of this zombie plague for example: while the zombies do retain a lot of their former personalities, after they eat the hunger fades and all of their memories return. This pretty much impacts them all because of the guilt over what they’ve done, though Spider-Man takes it a little too far, and Hulk reverts back to Banner. Mostly, they use this time to figure out how to find more food though Giant Man, aka Dr. Hank Pym, uses his time to try to find a cure.
But Giant Man has a secret: he has food. Black Panther. He keeps the Panther alive and when he needs to think clearly and try to find a cure, Pym cuts off an arm or a leg to feed so he can work. It’s not something he really enjoys but he nearly loses it all when his wife, the Wasp, shows up and threatens to tell the others unless Pym shares Panther with her. In response to this threat, Pym becomes Giant Man and bites her head off.
From here things get even bigger as the Sentinel Of The Spaceways, The Silver Surfer, appears in the sky and the Zombies see this as a new source of food and nothing more. This eventually leads to a confrontation between the Surfer and the Zombies and it doesn’t end well for many of the Marvel Zombies including Iron Man who loses his lower half and Wolverine who loses an arm. But the killing blow on the Surfer is deal out by the Hulk. A hungry Zombie Hulk can bite through anything, including the silver skin of the Surfer.
After the Zombies devour the Surfer they discover they have gained the powers of the Silver Surfer, known as the Power Cosmic. They begin to attack the other Zombies, at one point they wonder if ‘cooked’ Zombie flesh is tasty (it isn’t). Zombie Iron Man also learns he can use his new powers to fly, since he no longer has legs. But they have little time to enjoy their new-found powers because the Devourer of World, Galactus, arrives and he is outraged when he learns the fate of his Herald and the statement that the Zombies still hunger.
Keep in mind that while all this is going on Black Panther, along with the head of Wasp, manage to escape Pym’s lab and are basically ‘rescued’ by the followers of Magneto who are still alive on Asteroid M.
The Zombies, though, are far from safe as they devise a plan to take down Galactus because of the massive meal he represents. Through some collaboration, where the Zombies figure out a rather disgusting way to make the food they eat last longer, they finally create a weapon that allows them to take the Devourer down and the feast begins.
But if they were able to gain the Surfer’s powers when they ate him, you can only imagine what they gained from Galactus. The rest of this Universe soon learns what the end result is as the Marvel Zombies become the Galacti who travel from planet to planet and devour every living being on them.
So, what was it like reading this series again? Well, to be honest it was just as much fun as it was the first time. It got me interested in reading the follow-ups to this specific story (many of the later Marvel Zombies books took place in different realities) and will probably do so before too long. But the writing was still edgy and the gore still shocked me, I mean this was a ‘mainstream’ Marvel book, it wasn’t Marvel Knights or MAX where this sort of thing would be expected. I’m still surprised this thing was published but I’m glad it was because I absolutely love Marvel Zombies and re-reading this sparked that love up again. You could tell this was supposed to be a one and done story and I remember everyone being shocked at its success, I certainly was. How successful was it? All but the second issue went into multiple printings and the hardcover collection became the first hardcover in Marvel history to go into multiple printings. It has at least 5 printings.
Not only does the writing hold up but the art is still second to none. It’s dark, gritty, gross, everything a good horror comic should be even if it features former heroes. I still can’t get over those nine small panels where Magneto meets his gruesome end. While the follow-ups may be a lot for most people this story is one all fans of horror and zombies should own!