Friday, October 24, 2008

ZOMBIES versus ZOMBIES
Marvel Zombies Conclusion (Marvel)
Where:
Marvel Zombies #5 When: June 2006
Why: Robert Kirkman How: Sean Phillips

The Story So Far...
Earth 2419: A frightening twisted version of the Marvel Universe, infected by the decay of an alien virus that turns all infected into decomposing, viracious zombies.

With the Earth's population decimated by the super powered zombies, food supplies begin to run low.
Failing to follow their zombified Fantastic Four into a parallel universe (Earth-1610), the zombies finish the last active snack, Magneto, before the heavens present a miracle.

The timing of his arrival affected by unknown elements of this universe; the Silver Surfer descends in present-day to assess the viability of the Earth for consumption by his master - Galactus: Devourer of Worlds. Irony smiles upon the fortunes of Earth, however, and the Surfer is quickly devoured by the once heroic collective of Avengers, granting them the alien energies of the power cosmic!

With their newly aquired powers the zombies seek to feast on Galactus himself, but first they must face the zombie horde of those who opposed them in life. Freed of the moral constraints that spurred their infinite war, the rabid heroes march against their enemies in a battle to the undead-death.

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Dr. Doom 6 (Genius)
Speed: Colonel America 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Juggernaut 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Super-Skrull 6 (Rubber)
Fighting Ability: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: Super-Skrull 6 (UWMD)


- The zombie-heroes are: Colonel America, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-man, and Giant-Man.

The Avengers were the first to fall before the zombie infestation of Earth-2419.
Carried by an alternate universe Sentry who had escaped from the gates of the afterlife; the plague spread to even the most powerful members, benefitting from the powers of the likes of Thor to spread the undead plague throughout the superhero community.

Despite retaining cognitive function, the heroes quickly abandon their morals, driven mad by the bloodlust of hunger, to lay waste to the Earth's population.
The few who remain uninfected whittle the zombies number, among them; Magneto, the Acolytes, Black Panther, and Reed Richards of Earth-1610.

Eventually the zombies themselves decimate their own in desperation, leaving only Hulk, Spider-man, Wolverine, Iron Man, Power Man, and Giant-Man, to devour and absorb the powers of Galactus, becoming the interdimensional menace called The Galacti.

As the Galacti they possess the immense energies of the power cosmic, while the many zombies previous retained their abilities from life, with a deminished physical integrity and penchant for bouts of mindless violence caused by the hunger.

- The zombie-villains are: Red Skull, Mole Man, Green Goblin, Super-Skrull, Rhino, Juggernaut, Venom, Dr. Octopus, Stilt-Man, Lizard, and Dr. Doom.

Like their heroic counterparts, the villains of Earth-2419 succumbed to the spread of the zombie plague. Their already questionable morals were altered far less than their counterparts, but in a world where the ravenous hordes quickly became the mainstream, their struggles are on an even kilter.

As with the hero zombies; the villains possess all the abilities they had prior to infection, albeit with a dramatically reduced physical integrity due to decay. Likewise, they are also susceptible to the intellectual haze caused by hunger.

Math: Villains (Ttl) Heroes (Avg) Ranking: Iron Man (#3)

What Went Down...
With Galactus toppled by the cosmic powers of the heroic zombies, the villains who played an integral part in the assault find themselves at odds with their traditional foes. The two factions face off to fight for their food, with the first shot fired by a cosmically endowed Colonel America, who blasts the head clean off of Mole Man's shoulders!

The two sides clash, but the villains quickly find themselves outmatched by the heroes who gained control over the power cosmic by devouring Silver Surfer [Marvel Zombies #3].

Spider-man endures a slash from the taloned fingertips of Venom, only to return fire with a blast of cosmic energy. The costume recoils from Eddie Brock's body, revealing the zombie corpse to be an insufficient host for the symbiotic creature.

Meanwhile, the armored Juggernaut scoffs Wolverine's one-armed stand.
With his healing factor decimated by decomposition, Wolverine's own adamantium laced claws tore through his now missing limb. The already dimwitted Juggernaut suffers for his boast as Wolverine plunges his clawed hand into the exposed mouth of his magically endowed foe, only to blast his decrepid flesh with a swelling mass of cosmic energy!

The raging X-Man turns his attentions to his undead nemesis, Sabretooth, while Giant-Man does away with Rhino with a decapitating blast of the power cosmic.

Colonel America has his own personal showdown, facing off in a physical mismatch with the Nazi, Red Skull. Already his physical superior, the zombified Skull provides little challenge for the zombie icon.

At close quarters, Red Skull loses an arm for his troubles, but delights in the Colonel's absent mindedness. Having had the top of his head sliced open by Magneto [Marvel Zombies #1], the Colonel's wounds provide Red Skull the ultimate equaliser. Tearing at the rotting remnants of Colonel America's brain, Red Skull puts an end to the undead life of the zombie super-soldier.

Spider-man spots the showdown too late to intervene, but scores a vengeful blow for his fallen leader, decapitating the cackling Red Skull with an energy blast, leaving the head to burst like a tomato beneath the heel of Giant-Man.

Green Goblin falls to the cosmic power of Spider-man, while Super-Skrull is stretched to breaking by Giant-Man, who also decimates Dr. Doom with the power cosmic. Finally, Wolverine finishes Dr. Octopus, severing the two remaining mechanical arms, before ending the villain.

The heroes stand triumphant as Galactus rises, crackling with energy. Little does the great devourer know, he faces an enemy like none he has ever seen... [Marvel Zombies #5]

The Hammer...
The Marvel Zombies win! Fatali... Er, you get the idea.

Alright, let's work out how this went down.
Colonel America killed Mole Man; Spider-man took out Venom & Green Goblin; Wolverine killed Juggernaut, Sabretooth, (& Dr. Octopus); Giant-Man killed Rhino, Red Skull, Super-Skrull, and Dr. Doom; and Red Skull killed Colonel America (downgrading his contribution to an assist).

For the trainspotters: Lizard and Stilt-Man go almost unnoticed, but if you look carefully enough, you'll know they're there. The action is really focused on key skirmishes, but Philips works in enough background detail to imply vital input from heroes like Luke Cage and Iron Man, and the presence of these mostly obscured villains.

I don't want to get too wrapped up in the 'game' aspect of the Infinite Wars, but it's probably worth elaborating on the ranking aspects for those who came in late.
Our interpretation is that these alternate universe versions of characters fairly contribute to the win/loss tally by representing elements of unlocked potential. For versions deemed definitively removed (ie; Superboy-Prime) we accept a seperate ranking, but in the case of Earth-2149, only zombie infection differentiates the basic make-up of the characters.

It's a fine line that might be subject to change, and if you have an opinion on this aspect of the blog, you should feel encouraged to drop a comment. It's a discussion we usually prefer to avoid, but it doesn't hurt to hear your thoughts.

As you might have gathered Marvel Zombies is just another perfect contribution to our October spookfest here on the Infinite Wars. As is becoming characteristic of the site, our schedule is running a week behind, suitably enough this time because I had an infection of my own. We're not here to hear about that, though.

Whilst sick I fell in love with zombies all over again whilst watching plague films like Doomsday, Resident Evil, and the Dawn of the Dead remake (which turned out to be much better than I had imagined). Of course, while this immersion in the genre made it easy to come back to Marvel's version of the undead, it did shine further light on the gaping weaknesses of the series.

For a high-concept spin-off from the Ultimate books [ie; UFF #23]; Zombies probably deserves some accolade for grafting something very similar to a plot to the mini. However, after seemingly attempting to take back the derogatory 'Marvel Zombie' descriptor, the series has come to encompass the type of oveworked brand serviced by those very same mindlessly dedicated fans.

I feel a little inside-out talking about the series in negative terms.
To be fair, the most recent incarnation [Marvel Zombies 3] manages to lend gravitas to the brand by admirably introducing it to the Marvel Universe proper. This kind of investment in the concept is what I believe will win Geoff Johns' inevitably compared Black Lanterns kudos, benefitting from the more immediate sense of meaning. It's a point that encompasses Marvel's situation.

I think it's retroactive perspective that has me looking far more negatively upon the first series, which was at the time, fun enough, if already clich├ęd.

As if presenting a fasttrack guide to Marvel's historic development processes; the Zombies series have arguably found their narrative strength the farther they've gone. Millar's original required only a vague antagonising concept akin to the anonymous threat best associated with zombies, while Kirkman elaborates on the very same characters immediately after Millar's work, indulging moreso in retro superheroes, whilst perhaps saving the good ideas for his own series (Image's; Walking Dead).

The concept of superhero zombies is a very interesting one.
Kirkman, whilst doing little to use the strong conventions of the sub-genre, offers some justification with the simple exploration of the superhero zombie. By keeping elements of the characters intact he really does tell more of a macabre superhero story than a zombie thriller, but even this has it's own merits. I have to at least acknowledge this version's conceits of cognitive function -- which deteriorates with the rise of hunger, but is diminished (in Zombies 2) with a clarity provided by longterm starvation. It provides a chance, albeit a shallow one, to look at zombies with some sense of existential self-awareness.

This only goes so far, however, leaving questions of sustainability and other reflections provided by the genre to his creator-owned work. Not that I say that with any contempt. I haven't read the stuff, but arguably because I anticipate a competence I would not want influencing me in my own aspirations to explore the genre in comics. [Is now a bad time to plug my $1.99 comic?]

On that self-indulgence; there's the matter of the origins of the zombie plague. Later series awkwardly bound the Marvel Zombies to licensed contributions from Sam Raimi's Evil Dead franchise, a fact sure to bite them in the arse in decades to come (so buy now if you want it), but still answered some questions about the spread. The origins, of course, like so many zombie tales, remain obscured, provided by an interdimensional introduction similar to our first meeting with the concept (in Millar's Crossover arc of Ultimate Fantastic Four).


As a bit of a fan for procedural detail, I think the most fascinating concept not yet hammered in to the ground by zombie comics and film is the origin story. Not so much the cause of the plague, which was given a competent sci-fi origin in Resident Evil, but how traditional zombies can achieve their terrifying hordes. While I have to admit, the concept lends a slow burn potentially fatal to audiences, but it's a concept I'd very much like to explore.

With any luck we'll talk speculatively a bit more about what history might lie behind the history of the Marvel Zombies. Probably a refreshing change from the repetitive brow furrowing these entries tend to devolve into.

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 4.5

Are you a dedicated Marvel Zombie? Want to avoid those inevitable rights struggles that render the backstory out-of-print? Dive in now and take advantage of Amazon's online purchases! By using links provided you help sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars, and open yourself up to a world of financial exploitation through our Gift Shoppe. Let's face it. You like comics, I like comics. Why not? Collected editions featuring most issues reviewed are available! Hey, it beats being part of the effectless mass! C'mon!

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