Editor's Note: Marvel Zombies 3 #2 arrives in stores tomorrow, November 5.
We've reached the halfway mark with the new Marvel Zombies mini, and I have to say, this is my favorite so far. The original series was mostly about shock and gore--which, for a zombie story, is almost always the way to go--and had a distinctively dark sense of humor. This isn't unheard of in zombies texts, but it is hard to pull off effectively. Well, Kirkman managed to make it sick fun from start to finish. His return to the subject wasn't quite as humorous and ultimately became forced and kind of dull. I, like many readers, figured that the Marvel Zombies had run their course; that all one could do and say with them had pretty much been done and said.
Ah, what some fresh meat can do.
Fred Van Lente and Kev Walker have found a way to make the zombie-verse interesting and disturbingly fresh. Walker's art isn't as vividly disgusting as Philips' original work, but it has a raw quality that easily fits into the established Zombie House Style. And when the gore erupts, as in the two page spread of the zombie Inhumans feeding, it is as sick and twisted as just about anything out there.
Van Lente keeps the humor, but rather than being situational, as it mostly was with Kirkman, the laughs come from the personalities of the characters involved. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have Machine Man as your main character. Since Warren Ellis re-envisioned Aaron Stack as a beer-swilling, human-hating, all-around malcontent, he's become one of the most entertaining characters in comics. Plunge him into a world where he can maim and mutilate all the "humans" he can get his robotic hands on (and in), and as he says this issue, he's in "robot heaven!"
But Van Lente doesn't just wallow in creative misanthropy. By pairing Stack with his former love, Jocasta, he creates a situation where Stack is actually confronted with who he used to be, who he is now, and who he wants to be. Just to clarify, Van Lente makes Machine Man more than a Bender knock-off, reawakening the sense of heroism he used to have, but with a nicely cynical, believable edge.
So we get some strong character work in a Marvel Zombies series. How about that?
And it's not just on the heroic front. The zombie Earth seems to be mostly barren, with the surviving zombies (those who avoided the attacks of the cosmically powered zombies at the end of the first series), becoming organized. And who better to organize than the Kingpin, eh?
Van Lente gives us a zombie Kingpin with motivations and characterization that is entirely fitting with his most classic representations in the regular MU. There's even a very clever appearance by a zombified character from Spider-Man's past, serving a role that, surprisingly, seems like a natural choice for this story. I won't spoil it, but let's just say that he's perfectly suited to finding a new food source for the surviving zombie hordes.
There's also a creative use of Marvel's winged and bird-themed characters that is a perfectly natural fit for the Marvel Zombie milieu.
While we don't get any scenes back in the regular MU this issue, there is a mention of the spy in A.R.M.O.R.'s ranks and we should be seeing more of that storyline next issue. One of the best things about making this a four-issue series rather than a six-issue one is that the pacing is brisk. There's no filler here. The story moves quickly and effectively with nary a misstep.
In fact, to be quite honest, there wasn't a single thing that let me down this issue. Sure, the art could go a little further with the gore, or maybe push the expressionistic boundaries that the previous series did, but it still holds up. And the story is by far the best of the three series so far. We have strong characters, excellent characterizations, a fresh twist on the theme, and fast, entertaining pacing and dialogue. Who could ask for anything more?
What did you think of this book?
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