Ever imagine what it’d be like if George Romero and Stan Lee had a sick and twisted love child? If you’re a normal human being, then the answer should be a resounding “No.” But in 2004, the Ultimate Fantastic Four creative team of Mark Millar and Greg Land gave us “the Marvel Zombies” (a little play on a term applied to the more fanatical Marvel Comics enthusiasts). In this parallel dimension discovered by the “ultimate” version of Reed Richards, he finds a world not unlike the main Marvel universe, where familiar faces such as Spider-Man, Wolverine, and the Hulk call home. The only difference here is that they’ve all been infected by a zombie plague, one that specifically targets superhumans…and makes the nonpowered community easy pickings.
If you were anything like me, you thoroughly enjoyed what Millar did in his three-issue “Marvel Zombies” arc in Ultimate Fantastic Four. And when Robert Kirkman (of Invincible fame) picked up the plot in the eponymous Marvel Zombiesminiseries, I was thrilled. And while his story was enjoyable—albeit not on the level of Millar’s—I began to lose interest in the franchise as Marvel began milking what they saw as a cash cow. What followed were a Marvel Zombies: Dead Daysone-shot, a Marvel Zombies/Army of Darkness crossover with Ash of Evil Deadfame, a Marvel Zombies 2 miniseries, and a plethora of zombie variant covers across nearly all their titles. It was (pardon the phrase) overkill.
With all this in mind, I was more than hesitant to pick up this paperback collection that comprises Marvel Zombies 3 #1–4. That is, until I saw the name on the cover: Fred Van Lente. In the last few years, Van Lente has quickly risen to the top of my favorite writers list due to his outstanding work on Incredible Hercules(with Greg Pak), Amazing Spider-Man, and All-New Savage She-Hulk (among others). Trusting the writer—who manages to blend goofy humor, kickass action, and decades of continuity seamlessly together—was a no-brainer for me. And, like always, Van Lente does not disappoint: Marvel Zombies 3 is a delightfully disgusting joyride, and the author’s tight, comical scripting reignites the spark of the original concept and makes a great addition to the subgenre of zombie comedy (zomedy?) along with such works as Shaun of the Dead and the Evil Dead trilogy.
Playing to his strengths, Van Lente wisely chose Aaron Stack (aka X-51 the Machine Man) as the protagonist for this tale. When the zombies manage to invade the Marvel universe, Stack, a robot who hates “fleshies” and just wants to relax with some beer, is chosen by Charles Little Sky, the head of A.R.M.O.R. (Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operational Response Agency), to travel into the zombie dimension and find an uninfected human whose blood is necessary to produce a cure.
While Stack initially refuses, when he learns that Jocasta, a fellow robot and former love interest of Stack’s, will be his partner, he has no choice but to cross dimensions, find a cure, take on a cabal of zombified villains, and try to make it home in time for some booze and “sweet, sweet robot love.” But Stack and Jocasta need to be careful. Although they can’t be infected, the zombies are much smarter than they think, and it turns out that the zombies are not only equipped to handle their arrival, but they planned for it as well. Stack will have to employ all his robot toys—which include machine guns, chainsaws, and flamethrowers—if he plans on getting out alive.
Adding his talents to the series is fellow Marvel Zombies newcomer Kevin “Kev” Walker. While some may miss the art of the undeniably talented Sean Phillips from Marvel Zombies and Marvel Zombies 2, Walker shows that he’s up to the task of simultaneously awing and repulsing his readers with depictions of dismembered corpses, intestines being gleefully devoured, and the requisite zombie headshot. One scene in particular involving a zombified Kingpin made my stomach turn…and I loved it. Like Van Lente, Walker proves that he’s both a capable and welcome addition to the series.
In a fashion symbolic of zombies themselves, Van Lente and Walker manage to take something dead and breathe new life into it (okay, the comic isn’t going to eat your brains, but you see what I’m getting at). For any Marvel Zombies fan who feels that the series has fallen to the wayside—or if you’re new to the franchise—I strongly urge that you check out Van Lente and Walker’s addition the series (and its follow-up, Marvel Zombies 4, due to be released in paperback in 2010). Funny, gruesome, and always entertaining, Marvel Zombies 3 is great read for comic book and zombie fans alike.
Reviewed by Stephen Giordano on July 6, 2012
Marvel Zombies 3