Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Comic Book Week: "Marvel Zombies"

The fascination with zombies from the early 1980s hasn’t faded at all and as the CGI movie technology progresses so do the means to make zombies scarier. Zombie movies have flooded the big screen ranging from the serious “Diary of the Dead” and “Resident Evil” to the comedies “Dance of the Dead” and “Shaun of the Dead” and the what-were-they-thinking titles like “Zombie Strippers” and “Strippers vs. Zombies”.

The wide interest towards the living dead has caught with Marvel and the result is the Marvel Zombies world launched from 2005 with various limited series, covering various time strips of the zombie contamination and the apocalyptic consequences. Since the overall strip of time concerning the events has been cut into four miniseries, I will give the content in a nutshell. Chronologically speaking, the events begin with the crossover “Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness” as Ash Williams from the series Army of Darkness arrives from a different dimension to prevent the spread of zombie plague. He ultimately fails. Then follow “Marvel Zombies: Dead Days” basically marking the first hours of the contamination and the last attempts of the human resistance. Also a failure.

However these series are prequels to the originally published in 2005 Marvel Zombies volume 1, which pretty much presents the world as infested with superhuman zombies as they fight for the very last humans. Their new source of food comes as Galactus decides to consume Earth and in all round battle the zombies feast on his flesh only to gain intergalactic traveling powers, with which they set off to satisfy their hunger for flesh. Volume 2 posted 2006-2007 picks up the story forty to fifty years after the zombies have left Earth. Whatever survived on Asteroid M have returned to settle the ruins of New York, but as luck would have it the cosmic zombies return and battle for survival starts again. This time however the zombies fight among each other, because a small fraction have lost their hunger for flesh and act rationally, trying to repent for their atrocities. The end is bad for the zombies, even the good ones.

The popularity in the series lies within many factors. Psychologically speaking there exist a primal need to feel scared beyond the boundaries of the mind. The more scared you feel, the more alive you fear. It’s pure sadomasochism, but it has been successfully applied in the rocketing the horror genre to the nine circles of hell. As technology progresses and CGI can make our worst fears possible, our imaginations become more and more colorful. People want blood, gore, death and violence in high definition and Marvel Zombies presents the perfect opportunity for all the grown fans to enjoy a primal fantasy. Hero against hero, stripped from all honor in a cannibalistic lust to eat and convert and then kill so that more could be available. The mature content is really liberating for fans, who have waited for their heroes to drop the chivalry code and get dirty.

Tightly connected to that is the Closet Villain Syndrome. The idea of such symbols of human hope and goodness in the world, even if fictitious, to be double agents, go berserk like Wolverine, become possessed like Jean Grey becoming Dark Phoenix and Peter Parker becoming Venom for awhile or simply melt down like the Scarlet Witch in the House of M; excites the audience and fans. Bringing in a disease that equalizes all of their moral features and brings them down to a bestial level is the perfect solution. The experience is full, when the reader meets the psychic torment of the heroes once their hunger subsides for a short period and they reflect on the people they have killed, when their purpose is to preserve. Quite controversial and heartbreaking.

The creative team of writer Robert Kirkman and artists Sean Phillips and Artur Suydman provide you all of that mixed with quirky zombie punch lines to lighten up the mood and the most detailed art to go along. The art is superb in terms of being really eerie and blood stopping, which works perfectly for the topic at hand. The covers for each issue are done by Arthur Suydman. My personal favorites have been added to the review.

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