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From A Library: Marvel Zombies

Marvel Zombies (#1–5) by Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips

Let’s talk about one of those many library books I’ve been reading while I haven’t been blogging.

There are some story concepts that just don’t interest me – horror, continuity porn, superheroes stopping bank robbers – and to that list I add zombies. I don’t mind zombies being in stories (I love Shaun of the Dead, for example) but I won’t go out of my way to read something about zombies. My loss, perhaps, but I can’t see the fascination.

Which was why I didn’t read Marvel Zombies when it came out. A spin-off from a Mark Millar Ultimate Fantastic Four story? Really? Yes, I enjoy Kirkman’s Invincible, and Phillips is a very talented artist, but why would anyone read this? And then it started selling out and being reprinted? What the hell was going on? What was it about this idea that was making people crazy for zombies? I thought I would never be able to find out.

Until my fabulous library obtained a copy of the hardcover collection so I could see for myself. (I love my library, by the way – take a look at all the books I have been able to read because they were stocked in my local library.)

The story continues from the Millar tale – Magneto is alive in the Marvel universe where a zombie virus has infected the superhuman community (it seems to be a little different to the zombie concept, with people being fairly normal except when they hunger for human flesh, and the wounds they suffer seem to not really affect them – losing a leg [Spider-Man], losing an arm [Luke Cage], losing the lower half of the body [Iron Man] or just being a head [The Wasp] – but this is a Marvel comic, so I guess we roll with it). All the zombies want to do is eat and there is very little food left. So they are quite happy when they see the Silver Surfer arrive on their planet …

Even though I can’t get my brain around the Hulk being able to bite the Surfer’s head off, thus allowing them to eat him and, by doing so, gain a portion of his power cosmic, which in turn lets them destroy Galactus (with the aid of an amplifier), the story follows through on its own logic and is a straight-forward tale. The choice of Galactus is obvious – he hungers for planets, zombies hunger for flesh – and it allows for a siding towards the zombies (even though they, y’know, eat people). Philips draws in his dark but clean style, so that there is never any doubt as to what is going on and who is doing what to whom. Kirkman infuses some humour into it (the Red Skull being happy after scooping Colonel America’s brains from his head – ‘It was worth it, just for that’ – before being killed) but there is only so many laughs you can get out of Marvel superheroes eating human flesh.

But I still don’t get it. I don’t understand why this was such a big hit and why it warranted a sequel mini-series. Is it the gore? Is it the clean-cut heroes as flesh-eating zombies, still in their costumes? Am I that out of touch? I hope not. If anyone can explain it to me, please leave a comment detailing all the things I am missing out on. I’d be very grateful.

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