Who would have thought, three years ago, that one of Marvel’s most successful franchises would focus on zombiefied super heroes, searching for innocent victims to munch on? It certainly wasn’t Mark Millar, the prolific writer whose work has been mentioned in this column multiple times. In issue #21 of ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR, which came out way back in 2005, Millar introduced an alternate Marvel Universe, where all the heroes and villains had been infected with a zombie virus. Millar didn’t see the story potential of this disturbing universe, where the probability was very high that you could become dinner for characters such as Captain America or Daredevil.
Fortunately, Marvel’s executives thought the idea of zombie heroes was pretty keen, and later in that same year, a five issue miniseries came out that took place in the Zombie Universe. They made the brilliant decision of hiring Robert Kirkman to script the series. Kirkman was then, and still is, the poster boy for zombie comics, since his ongoing series THE WALKING DEAD is considered by fans and critics alike to be the best zombie book on the stands. In the first MARVEL ZOMBIES miniseries, Kirkman was able to flesh out this alternate universe, filled with beings covered in rapidly decomposing flesh.
In the past three years, the MARVEL ZOMBIES have become more and more popular. There was a second miniseries that took place in their alternate universe, where every single human has been captured and eaten by zombiefied superheroes. The Marvel zombies have even gone toe to toe with Ash, in MARVEL ZOMBIES vs. ARMY OF DARKNESS. There was a beautifully disturbing scene in that miniseries, where Ash ran into a zombie version of Howard the Duck (I bet you didn’t know that Howard was a Marvel character). Ash basically stumbles upon zombie Howard the Duck digging the brain out of an innocent girl’s skull. Great Stuff. Ash believed that the zombies were actually heroes who had been taken over by deadites, but the Marvel Zombies have an origin very similar to the zombies in “Night of the Living Dead”. The zombie virus is extraterrestrial in origin.
One of the main reasons why the MARVEL ZOMBIE love has spread as quickly as the zombie virus, is the fact that Arthur Suydman paints an eye catching cover for every comic staring the Zombies. Suydman takes a classic image, each from Marvel comics that were printed decades ago, and zombiefies the heroes on it. Suydman’s covers have been printed on posters as well as tee shirts, they are so popular.
MARVEL ZOMBIES 3 takes place in the regular Marvel Universe (Known to us comics geeks as Universe 616) as opposed to the Marvel Zombieverse. For those of you who are not raging Marvel-a-holics, there aren’t a lot of references to dissuade you. The only thing that might trip you up is a reference to “The Initiative” and the fact that superheroes now have to be registered. The Initiative was born out of a major crossover event, constructed by Mark Millar (it always goes back to that prolific Scot) called CIVIL WAR. Due to a disaster caused by novice superheroes, all people with super powers have to be registered with the Government. Now that superheroes are card carrying government employees, they are spread out evenly across the country. Instead of having a large amount of superheroes in New York City, now there are teams of six members or so for each of the fifty states- and that, in a nutshell, is the Initiative.
The Florida branch of the Initiative is made up of some ridiculous, low level superheroes. I spend about forty bucks a week on comics, I have been a fan for over a decade, and I only recognized one of these obscure characters. The team leader is a guy named Siege, who in the narrators description is “Half Human! Half Cyborg! All American!”. In the beginning of this first issue, Siege and his Initiative team, The Command, are investigating a disturbance that occurred in a swamp in Citrusville, Florida. Unfortunately for The Command, the disturbance was caused by refugee zombies from the Zombie Universe.
Even worse is the fact that a zombie version of Deadpool is in charge of the refugees. Deadpool is known as “The Merc with the mouth” and is one of the most deadly 616 Universe characters. Zombie Deadpool is just as bad. He and his fellow zombies slaughter the Initiative team. Siege and his teammate, Jennifer Kale, survive the attack. Siege, however was bitten and has become infected. Before Siege can take a bite out of Jennifer Kale, the security system in the cyborg half of his body detects the zombie virus in the human side. The system makes his head explode. No more Siege.
So now the zombie plague has crossed over to the 616 Marvel Universe, bringing us to the second act of the first issue. It turns out, Siege, besides being a member of the Intiative, was also a member of A.R.M.O.R. (Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operational Response). A.R.M.O.R. is aware of the plague, and recruits even more no name heroes, to help prevent it from spreading. To find out what happens next, you will have to pick up issue 2.
Fred Van Lente steps up to the plate as scribe for MARVEL ZOMBIES 3. His name doesn’t carry as much weight, as Kirkman or Millar, but, judging by this first issue, he seems qualified for the job. Van Lente is known for the indy comic series, ACTION PHILOSOPHER and another bizarre Marvel book, M.O.D.O.K. 11. According to Ven Lente’s site, Comics Should Be Good listed Fred as one of the “365 Reasons to Love Comics” and he has also been called “one of the most idiosyncratic and insightful new voices in comics.” That voice comes out in MARVEL ZOMBIES 3.
This can most obviously be seen in the attention to detail that Van Lente pays to the obscure characters throughout the book. There are no grade A characters in the entire book. It is a smörgåsbord of D-list characters, and Van Lente is good enough at characterization, to make us actually interested in all of them. Sure, there are some hokey moments that Van Lente throws in. For example, the zombie version of Moribus (the superhero known as “The living vampire”) is able to impersonate the 616 version of Moribus by applying spirit gum and latex to his face. What???
Kev Walker is the perfect type of artist to work on this book. Walker is from Britain and is most known for his work on the British weekly comic 2000 AD. He has also illustrated a lot of cards featured in the Magic: The Gathering series. Walker is no stranger to drawing fantastic characters or the undead. The strongest image in the first issue is when zombie Deadpool gets taken out. He is thrown into the propeller of one of those massive propeller boats. Walker uses the majority of a page to show Zombie Deadpool getting turned into sloppy joe meat.
Before you get into MARVEL ZOMBIES 3, I suggest you pick up the original MARVEL ZOMBIES miniseries, to get an idea of what the zombies are like. It is not just the superpowers that make the Marvel Zombies unique. Unlike your typical zombies, they have retained their original personalities. Unfortunately, their super heroic moral code has been replaced with the frantic need to feed on the living. If you want to see the Zombie plague spread in the first place, I recommend you pick up MARVEL ZOMBIES: DEAD DAYS, which I consider to have the best story out of all the MARVEL ZOMBIE books. If you like superheroes, and you enjoy watching people getting torn to pieces, then you have most likely already picked up this book. If not, pick it up.