Friday, June 19, 2009

Marvel Zombies 4: Midnight Sons Part 3 (Marvel)
Marvel Zombies 4 #3 When: August 2009
Why: Fred Van Lente How: Kev Walker

The Story So Far...
When zombie infected heroes from parallel Earth-2149 find their way through the Nexus of Realities hidden in the Florida Everglades, an unprepared group of C-list heroes assigned by the Fifty States Initiative find themselves under attack! Alternate universe monitors, ARMOR, succeed in preventing mass invasion from the parallel universe, but are forced to deploy a team to eradicate infected Men-Fish.

Having played a pivotal role in containing the threat and defeating the zombie invaders; Dr. Michael Morbius emerges as a new leading operative with ARMOR. He recruits traumatized survivor Jennifer Kale, along with familiar occult allies, Son of Satan and Werewolf by Night, into a new taskforce dubbed the Midnight Sons. The group succeed in destroying the Men-Fish, but fail to recognise the threat of "Z-Pool" (Zombie Deadpool's decapitated head) and Simon Dark, the latter of whom falls under the spell of Black Talon -- a voodoo mystic capable of enslaving the zombie.

Black Talon offers the interdimensional zombie plague as a weapon to Kingpin of Super-Villains, The Hood. Through a series of blunders on the island of Taino, the plague is unleashed through Black Talon's minions, ultimately mutating into a gaseous airborne form. With the plague spreading to remote populated areas, the Midnight Sons battle against the clock to contain the threat, or condemn the area to destruction by an ARMOR nuclear assault.

Jennifer Kale summons Man-Thing to pursue the threat, while Z-Pool develops a mild psychic link with the plague as it becomes rain and raises corpse pieces of super-powered Roxxon security agents to create a super-powered composite being. Thus, the monstrous Man-Thing fights for the fate of humanity!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Man-Thing 5 (Superhuman)
Intelligence: Draw 2 (Average)
Speed: Man-Thing 2 (Average)
Stamina: Man-Thing 6 (Generator)
Agility: Man-Thing 2 (Average)
Fighting: Man-Thing 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Man-Thing 2 (Projectile)

- The exact details of Wade Wilson's early life remain a mystery, perhaps even to him. During his adult life he became a mercenary who, upon learning he had developed cancer, gave up on his life to submit himself to experimentation with the top secret remnants of the Weapon X program. The project experimented with altering Wilson on a genetic level, attempting to treat him with a healing factor developed from the genome of former subject, Wolverine. However, Wilson's cancer interacted with the process in unforseen ways, reducing the effectiveness of his healing powers, and rendering him hideously disfigured.

Skilled in hand-to-hand and weapons based combat, Wilson becomes Deadpool.
In the alternate universe of Earth-2149, Deadpool is among the countless heroes and villains who are infected by a zombie plague. He crosses through the Nexus of Reality into Earth-616, where he engages members of The Command. He is sliced into a pieces by a skiff propeller during the fight, by Wundarr and Jennifer Kale, continuing life as a decapitated head. He is nicknamed Z-Pool.

- Project Gladiator was an experiment to recreate the effects of the "Super-Soldier Serum" developed during the Second World War by assassinated German scientist, Dr. Abraham Erskine, and used to create Captain America.

Stationed in the Florida Everglades; a team of biochemists including Dr. Theodore Sallis work on Project Gladiator in secret in close proximity to agents of AIM. The science terrorist network infiltrate the project through Sallis, who defies protocol to sneak his wife into the base. Though Sallis was able to destroy his research, his escape was impeded when he injected himself with the serum, and crashed his vehicle into the neighbouring swamp. When he reemerged, it was as the marshy muck-monster, created by science and mysticism, called Man-Thing!

As Man-Thing; Sallis possesses a primitive mind rarely capable of recalling more than glimpses of the knowledge he held as a biochemist. He does possess an instinctive psychic empathy capable of sensing emotional disturbances. Via a secretion triggered by this shift, those who know fear burn at the Man-Thing's touch. The marshy composition of his form is also highly durable, capable of recovering from significant wounds and adapting significant malleability, while also producing form strong enough to deal superhuman strength.

Man-Thing also possesses mystic sensitivities and serves as the guardian of the Nexus of Reality -- an interdimensional crossroads located deep within the swamps of the Florida Everglades from which he arose.

Math: Man-Thing Ranking: Z-Pool (#449)

What Went Down...
Carried by a zombie of a very different kind, the decapitated head of Deadpool spies the looming silhouette of Man-Thing as it stalks through a red rain of gore and infection. Man-Thing, though not immune to the effects of the rain, shows considerable resilience as he is replenished by mother nature so long as he remains connected to the Earth.

Z-Pool [and Simon] takes the weather with him, and upon encountering a team of super-human security guards for a Roxxon Blackridge resort, gains the means to fight back against his stalker. The rain devours the guards, only to reassemble them as a composite revenant possessing their combined powers.

Receiving psychic direction from Z-Pool, the creature unleashes a bolt of electricity, taken from Lightning Fist, that severs Man-Thing's right arm.
Wielding the toothed whip of Razor Wire, the revenant throws the jagged saw into Man-Thing's body, slicing down through the shoulder deep into it's torso.

Feeding from the Earth, Man-Thing reconstructs it's vegetative limb and swings it with superhuman strength at the patchwork revenant!

The blow sends the creature hurtling into a nearby resort light, snapping the post with the impact. Gaining strength from the limbs of Ogre, the revenant creature proves strong enough to wield the lamp post as a weapon, which it again uses to bisect Man-Thing's form!

The swamp monster snaps the post and heals around the impalement, fighting on with a wild slash to the revenant's race. It is then, however, that the zombie creature makes a horrific deduction. Gaining understanding through the rain, the revenant clutches at the snapped-off post protruding from Man-Thing's chest, and denies him his connection with the Earth!

Robbed of the replenishment of nature, the Man-Thing begins to wilt in the rain, and gradually, he succumbs to decay as the burning zombie rain destroys his form completely. Held skyward by the composite revenant, Man-Thing dies.

The Hammer...
Infinite Wars stat counters will appreciate that it's incredibly difficult to make a call on exactly who or what gained victory in this exchange. For the implication that it was he pulling the strings, I'm going to make the easy call and say it was Z-Pool, but there's an argument the Marvel Zombies plague (as rain) has gained a degree of sentience. It should also be reiterated that the revenant was created from characters called Razor Wire, Lightning Fist, and Ogre.

After skipping MZ3, it's become apparent to me that Fred Van Lente has really been a revelation as writer of these series. We've documented in the past the origins of the high concept as a Mark Millar UFF storyarc [Crossover], and it's devolution as a thinly developed mini-series under Robert Kirkman, and a well beaten dead horse for marketting gimmicks like line-wide gimmick covers.

Even with those historic shortcomings; Marvel Zombies 4 has managed to rise above the past to be one of the very best Marvel comics published in 2009!

By utilizing a cast once popular, but now overlooked Marvel characters, Van Lente has transformed the brand into something slightly more conventional, but much more realised in it's design as a superhero-horror comic. With MZ4 in particular, he's drawn from the horror comic boom of the seventies, to create a grounding of character in the story that recalls that time period and embellishes it.

[Mark] Millar's original creation of the zombie heroes of Earth-2149, (in Ultimate Fantastic Four), played extensively with horror elements which Van Lente appears to have bifurcated between MZ3 and MZ4. The latter contains the conventional zombie horror of visualized gore and unsettling images of disfigured humans, while MZ3 inherently plays with the psychological horror of mistrust in characters who might not be themselves. This appears in MZ3 through the plot of Z-Morbius posing as our Morbius, but also through the threat of infection, ala; Jennifer Kale's turning teammates, and even Jack Russel in the cliffhanger for MZ4 [#3].

Of course, in developing the depth of plot further, Van Lente runs afoul some of the difficulties posed by Kirkman's thinly considered backstory.
The chief difficulty stems from the issue of immunity. It's a vital part of Man-Thing's almost checklist-like appearance in this issue (as another seventies horror icon), but rubs awkwardly against the list of characters who've been established as turned in the past [see; Marvel Zombies Defense Strategum].

I'm happy to not think about it too much, particularly if we assume there was never any grand plan for Marvel Zombies to explode the way they have. It's a great concept and I can't blame Marvel for wanting to expand upon it! It's just a shame there couldn't have been a greater awareness at the beginning, to allow for a more thorough design of this weird and wonderful world of undead heroes.

Kev Walker deserves a lot of credit for realising this and every other issue!
Zombie clouds, zombie rain, and all the other wonderfully wacky things going on in this issue could've made for a visual nightmare, but he pulls it off superbly. There's a suitable rough edge, but as I've mentioned before, the treatment feels a little bit more superhero friendly than the previous series. I like that it isn't quite as heavy-handed with the darkness, and not nearly as motley looking.

There are so many threads up in the air that I'm really looking forward to the fourth issue! I anticipate what might come next for this collaboration of brand and creators, because they really do seem to have a wonderful grasp of it all.
As if to go above-and-beyond the call of duty, there are also some really interesting developments in The Hood's story that will almost certainly be of interested to readers of Dark Reign and New Avengers! There's nothing as specific as references to events in other series, but the relationship between Parker Robbins and his (Dormammu) powers is explored in interesting ways.

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 5

Marvel Zombies 4 is a four-issue mini-series that concludes next month! You can pre-order it in collected form, or pick up one of the various previous Marvel Zombies mini-series, via Amazon! MZ3 in particular comes with recommendation for planting the seeds that gave us MZ4! You'll also find other tales in our Amazonian Gift Shop which features editions of most stories reviewed in the Secret Archives. By using any purchase links provided on the site, you help sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars! Every referred buy is much appreciated and helps spread the Infinite Wars infection! Mmm, brains!

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