Friday, April 07, 2006

What do we want? Braaainsss. When do we want them? Braainnss.

You hear your heart beating loudly as you run down the dark alleyway. Each footstep seems to thunder in your head, and you splash noisily through the shallow puddles.

It started hours ago, and since that time, the freaks have been devouring everyone they find. At first their attacks were restricted to men and women on the street, but within an hour they began invading homes, apartments and offices.

You watched as the monster with metal claws tore apart and ate your sister. Mercifully, you were spared seeing what happened to your parents, but you know that their screams will haunt you for the remainder of your life. For however long that may be.

You fled the apartment, but you know you are being followed. Even if you evade the creature chasing you, how long will it be before another one finds you?

You live in a world of marvels. These were supposed to be the ones who would protect you when the monsters came, like they always had before. But what can humanity do when the protectors become the thing to fear?

Suddenly, you fall to the ground, face first. Your hands reach out to catch yourself, and you scrape them against the rough surface, tearing the flesh of your palms. You look back to see what made you trip, and have a moment to note that there is a long silken line attached to your heel. Then you find yourself flying through the air, back the way you came, yanked by the web on your foot. A hand capable of tearing through steel catches you by the throat, and you stare in horror at the sight in front of your eyes.

The hand which grabs you is wearing a red glove, with a distinctive pattern of webbing stitched across it. The pattern continues up the arm, and you find yourself staring at an all-too familiar red and blue costume, with a spider-pattern on the chest. The costume has been ripped in places, and you can see the damaged and decaying flesh through the holes in the fabric. The smell of decay overwhelms you as you struggle, futilely to free yourself from the monster's grip. Your eyes go up, and the mirrored white lenses of the mask betray no emotion, but the bottom of the mask has been torn away, revealing a maw of yellowed and decaying teeth.

A flash of movement and then pain overtakes you as the one-time hero rips away your throat and part of your upper chest with a vicious bite. Before the world goes black, your last thought is that this is no longer the world of Marvel Heroes. This is the world of Marvel Zombies.

Heh. Ok, that was self-indulgent. But dang, it was fun.

We first met this universe in the Crossover storyline from Ultimate Fantastic Four. After months of being teased with the idea that Ultimate Reed would meet his 616 counterpart, we were instead thrown into a nightmare world where the Sentry inflicted a zombifying plague, infecting the superhumans who then consumed most of humanity. With the assistance of Magneto, Reed managed to escape this world, although he brought the zombie Fantastic Four with him, back to his reality. Those zombies remain there, confined for now, to be dealt with eventually.

But the idea had been planted, the fans wanted more, and so Marvel created the Marvel Zombies mini-series. And I loved it. Absolutely loved it. It wasn't always the best written series, it was rife with inconsistencies, and the places where it differed from the 616 continuity were confusing without adding meaning to the story. But it was fun.

Should the zombies have been able to actually eat the Silver Surfer or Galactus? Of course not. They're creatures of energy, and Galactus doesn't even really exist as a giant humanoid, that's simply how our minds can conceive of him. But who cares?

The Marvel Zombies book represented a chance to cut loose and have some fun, and that's something we need more of in our comic books. We need to see moments where the Hulk can bellow "Hulk is hungriest one there is!" We can all be amused at the idea that when the Hulk returns to being Banner that the food the Hulk eats will burst through Banner's stomach. We can laugh as Peter Parker whines about eating his Aunt and wife and the other heroes tell him to shut it. There are moments of poignancy as well. The final confrontation between Parker and Brock is a surprisingly tender moment in the midst of the mayhem.

And there's a fun possibility I see at the end. In the final pages of Issue 5, when the Power Cosmic enabled zombies become Galactus, we see a Galactus who is made of multiple beings, and a Galactus whose hunger we understand. This is a Galactus whose relentless hunger is painted in terms that any fan of any zombie movie can comprehend.

Zombies are terrifying because they are never sated in their hunger, nothing matters to them but their hunger, and they will not stop. Ever. This Galactus is a nice transition from the Galactus familiar to readers of Marvel comics to the version of Gah Lak Tus who is coming for the Ultimate Universe. Reed is developing a weapon to use against Gah Lak Tus in Ultimate Extinction, and perhaps this will help him defeat the zombie Fantastic Four who are still within the Baxter Building.

One part of the Marvel Zombiverse story still lays before us, back in the pages of Ultimate Fantastic Four. I can't wait. After all, what better image is there than a zombified Reed Richards triumphantly gloating over his young counterpart, reaching for the head with impossibly elongated fingers as it groans out "Braaains"?

The heroes will win, of course. But it will be wonderful watching the horror until that moment arrives.

4 Comments:

Anonymous os said...

Gah! So many stealth references to stuff in the Ultimate universe I haven't read yet!

4:38 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Hey, Crossover has been collected into a trade already. :)

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

I love the covers they've been turning out for this series.

1:01 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Oh yeah, the covers were one of the best parts of the series. I also appreciate the fact that with each reprint issue they did a "zombie version" of a different classic cover, rather just reprint.

I hope that when they collect the Marvel Zombie story into a trade that they include all of the covers (including the variants) in the back.

8:54 AM  

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