After the sterling shockfest that was Robert Kirkman’s original Marvel Zombies mini-series, the raggedy undead remains of the Marvel superheroes seem to have been popping up everywhere. From an expansive t-shirt range, through a three-issue story arc in Black Panther, to a cross-over with the Army of Darkness comics, you couldn’t walk into a comic shop in 2007 without being bombarded by those trademarked spiky teeth and empty eyes. This made money so Marvel have just gone hog-wild with it. We’ve had a Marvel Zombies Cover Art hardback, a one-shot factoid book about their origins, and now half the titles in the MU have been released (gratuitously) with ‘zombie variant’ covers in October! This does make for some cool art, but one can’t help but feel it’s overkill and will hype up this first issue of the second MZ mini-series to higher levels than it could ever hope to achieve. Let’s face it. Nothing could withstand this level of promotion, so the only way to really enjoy this is to forget about the zombie saturation and just read the damn thing for what it is. A decent little comic book that’s just having fun twisting some of the Universe conventions.
Kirkman knows that the shock has passed. The humour and horror of heroes eating heroes has been spent and he needs to try something different. In #1 of Marvel Zombies 2, the plot flashes forward to forty years on from when the Galactus-fuelled zombies left Earth. A grey-haired Black Panther is King of what little remains of humanity and is trying desperately to keep a grip on the whole thing. Rebel groups – cults devoted to the worship of Magneto (who, you’ll remember, martyred himself in the first series) – threaten to overthrow him. Meanwhile, the undead Wasp has discovered that if zombies go long enough without feeding on human flesh, the hunger dissipates and they can be turned into upstanding citizens once more. Could this be the key to saving (what’s left) of the world? We’d better find out fast, as the cosmic zombies, having eaten their way through half the galaxy, are Earth-bound once more and time is running out!
The script’s pretty funny and inventive, although its focus on the survivors invites unwelcome parallels with Kirkman’s otherwise incomparable zombie opus, The Walking Dead, with which this could never hope to compete. Still, the Marvel Zombies have never really been much more than a bit of fluff and, as fluff goes, you could do way worse than this. Sean Phillips’s art is nifty, the story zips along and at least Kirkman didn’t choose the option of just another five issues of random cannibalism. He’s smart enough to know that the joke’s worn thin, so kudos for at least trying something new with the plotting and making it work thus far. It’s too early to really comment further, as there’s not enough here in one issue, but I’m relieved this wasn’t a turkey and really looking forward to the rest of the mini. There’s some (after)life in the ol’ dog yet.