We have always associated zombies with faceless men, women and children from various stations in life. The housekeeper zombie, the businessman zombie, the police zombie, the little girl zombie…
The list goes on and on. In zombiehood, the supreme identity or the most important register will always be the fact that you are a zombie. But what if in one narrative, that changes completely? This is what Marvel did in 2009 with Marvel Zombies, a five-part series about another dimension where all the most respectable and easily recognizable heroes in the Marvel Universe were turned into, you guessed it – zombies!
The story begins with Magneto running away from a most uncommon horde that included Spiderman and Captain America (complete with the shield). Apparently, Magneto was trapped in the planet and was the only (supposed) healthy mutant remaining. This was made clear when the horde that was chasing after him referred to him as “human mutant” or “mutant.”
This distinguished the dimension further because the heroes in this dimension no longer saw each other as mutants but as zombies. The first chase ensues, where ¾ of the battle scenes in favor of Magneto. Then everything just goes downhill. After Magneto brains Colonel America and causes half of Spidey’s leg to fall off, Magneto eventually succumbs to a sudden bite and the horde goes down to feast. Even the Hulk was in on the feast!
Of course, any respectable narrative would show the aftermath of such a feast. The type of zombie disease that affected the Marvel heroes gave them an uncontrollable compulsion to eat human flesh (or human mutant flesh). That’s it.
They were all hungry beyond redemption but they couldn’t eat each other because they apparently tasted horrible. From the viewpoint of someone studying zombie disease (or any kind of disease) this made a lot of sense. Those infected by the zombie disease would become repulsive to other carriers because the disease won’t spread if the infected kept biting and eating each other.
The entire thematic of the Marvel zombie horde revolved around eating and consuming. This is pure consumption mania: they eat because their brains tell them to and not because their bodies needed any nourishment. Surprisingly, the zombie heroes were all very lucid especially after they had a taste of Magneto.
Their human emotions surfaced almost immediately. Bruce Banner (the Hulk) was nervous that parts of his meal (including an entire bone) was poking out of his gut. The thigh bone eventually did punch through Banner’s flimsy zombie skin. Spiderman on the other hand, broke his trance and began sobbing about those that he had eaten when the zombie disease began taking over. There is a reference about “mind clouding” which gives me the idea that the zombie disease in this dimension wears off after a “fix,” much like the nagging sensation to take an illicit substance also wears off after a dose of it has been administered. In this light, human flesh becomes the fix and there is short supply of it, so everyone is ravenous and angry all the time.
Since the mania to consume was too high, the writers had to match it with something even bigger and more destructive: Galactus. The Silver Surfer emerged in the story and informed the hero horde that Galactus the planet consumer was coming. Of course, Galactus is Galactus. The guy eats whole planets for crying out loud. A big battle ensues and eventually, it appeared that the zombie horde was finally wiped out until the very end of Issue 5 when they reappeared in another planet in space suits!
All in all, Marvel Zombies was a fun read because despite the fact that the heroes were ravenous for human flesh and were generally just falling all over the place because they were decomposing, the dialogue was still fairly witty and the personalities of the alter-heroes (since we’re talking about another dimension) were preserved.
While I laughed at how Thor addressed Magneto before he was slaughtered (in Old English) the story is laudable and is definitely a read if you want to go back a few years in the Marvel timeline. And while Marvel Zombies isn’t part of the main timeline of the Marvel Universe, it’s still something to remember because the original pack of zombies survived. I wonder when they’d appear again?