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Marvel Zombies 5 #1

Posted: Tuesday, April 6, 2010
By: Shawn Hill

Fred Van Lente
Kano, Tom Palmer (i)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Marvel Zombies 5 #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, April 7.

"The Dead and the Quick"

Plot: It's cowboys. And zombies. And legacy Marvel heroes and villains. A cowboys/zombies/superheroes monster mash? That's more like it!

Comments: Lente has found yet another way to keep this franchise interesting. I'm pretty impressed by his canniness. First, he situates the horror amongst Marvel's horror characters (kind of a natural fit, and more fun than seeing Wasp's head talking from a mechanical body for me), and puts the zombie fighting where it always belonged: in the hands of robots like Machine Man and Jocasta, who could care less about the eaters of the fleshy ones than they do about the fleshy ones themselves.

Yes, Ellis's scene-stealing retake on Machine Man (as a very annoyed, loutish and alcoholic Data, more or less) from Nextwave continues to live on, doing good and complaining about it all through the Marvel multiverse as they track the ever-evolving migration of the zombie cloud. In this issue he's confined to a cameo, albeit gifted with a very minute friend, who shows up to save the day before cluing us in to what this sequel is going to be all about.

More on that later. In this installment, the dead of variant Earth-483 are rising, and they all know how to shoot, if only recalled to it dimly as, rather than the sentient (and tiresomely talky) zombies we've seen in other sequels, these are more of the "Romero" variety: shambling husks who are hungry but mostly disorganized.

The main character is a young half-Native girl named Jackie, who wants her father the Hurricane ("fastest outlaw in the west") to sign up with an Arno Stark's traveling Wild West Show, because he has an electric way with a lightning-fast handgun. If only he can stop drinking long enough to help her make something of her life. Not only does he flat-out refuse, he punches Stark in the face.

There's a lot of backstory, including magickal gifts of power from medicine men and temperance societies who are intolerant of more than drink, but little of it matters when the dead start digging their way out of the earth. Kano does rather clean and spritely looking zombies, but he gets all the Western gear right, and especially pays the attention needed by the story to firearms. Palmer's expressive inks as always enhance the mood and help evoke the grittiness of the world stuck in the Wild West.

This homage to Marvel's Western territory is mighty fine, all to the good, because that's the plan for this volume of zombie tales: Van Lente is going to inflict the plague on a different high-concept corner of Marvel each issue, and next issue it's apparently Mars. Really clever stuff, but not without the hints of pathos and drama that Van Lente has worked into all his contributions to the Zombie family.

I won't reveal Machine Man's partner, but he has another new teammate by issue's end, and we're well on our way to another wild ride.







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