Shiny Shelf

Marvel Zombies #1

By Mark Clapham on 10 December 2005

A searing indictment of modern society, ‘Marvel Zombies’ deconstructs the superhero archetype in a way which is starkly revealing about ambiguous contemporary ideas of heroism.

No, not really. This isn’t a Marvel version of a Romero movie, or even of writer Robert Kirkman’s own serious-minded indie zombie comic ‘The Walking Dead’. Instead, as the punning title indicates – ‘Marvel Zombies’ being a nickname for readers who uncritically consume the company’s entire output – this is very much a comedic combination of the zombie and superhero genres. A black, gross-out comedy in fact, more like Dan O’Bannon’s interpretation of the living dead than George A. Romero’s.

High concept? It’s the Marvel characters in an alternate universe where they’re zombies. That’s about it. Spinning out of an ‘Ultimate Fantastic Four’ arc I haven’t read for sound Millar-related reasons, ‘MZ’ starts with Magneto the sole Marvel character left human. A character that ruthlessly controls metal against an army of super powered undead is a good recipe for gory carnage, and so it proves.

Kirkman’s script is full of grotesque implications, and the book only avoids a mature rating thanks to the able, ink heavy artwork of Sean Phillips, who makes the book horrible without being graphic. Phillips can do so much with a few lines and hefty blanks that a series of unrevealing panels of flesh tearing are far more effective than a more detailed artist’s gorefest.

‘Watchmen’ this is not, but it is a level of subversion of Marvel’s mainstream characters you wouldn’t expect to be allowed: alternate universe superhero stories usually protect the integrity of each source character, and don’t, say, have Peter Parker talk about eating Aunt May.

The easily offended, the squeamish or readers who take these characters religiously seriously will wish to stay away. Those who want to see, say, Captain America walking around carrying half his brain in his hand, should run out and grab a copy. Good stupid fun.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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