Sean Phillips, Greg Land, Mitch Brainteaser & Francis Portela
Bridging the original Marvel Zombies mini-series and its sequel is this book, which collects various material involving the zombies, including the one-shot Dead Days that it is named after, which tells of events that led to the situation at the beginning of Marvel Zombies. Also collected under this cover are issues of Ultimate Fantastic Four (#21-23 and #30-32) and Black Panther (# 28-30) that ventured into the territory of the Marvel Zombies.
The one-shot Marvel Zombies: Dead Days doesn’t so much explain where the zombie virus comes from as illustrates how it spread over Earth, infecting the superhero population, beginning with The Avengers who were first at the scene of the “incident,” which was never fully explained. Magento was the one to let loose the virus onto the populace, unaware that it would affect mutants as well as humans, but how he stumbled upon the virus, and where it originated, is yet shrouded in mystery. He attempts to make up for his mistake by gathering as many survivors as he can find, mutant or otherwise, to return with to Asteroid M to give Earth a chance of surviving the plague. His attempts are further explored in Ultimate Fantastic Four, where he is seen harboring a handful of humans as he takes in Ultimate Reed Richards and makes an unlikely sacrifice to see to Reed's safe return to the Ultimate Universe with the survivors he’d gathered.
The zombie versions of the Fantastic Four are still quite sharp. Reed actually infects his team with the virus, since, as a scientist, he views the zombies as a sort of evolution, since they are more efficient beings than humans themselves. A little farfetched, but I’ll assume that this version of Reed is a little off his rocker. Ultimately, Zombie Reed lures Ultimate Reed into the zombies' parallel Earth, meanwhile escaping the Zombie Universe themselves, intending to infect the new Earth. Fortunately, Sue, Johnny and Ben are waiting at the other end of the teleporter and are able to contain them. When Ultimate Reed returns home, he builds a new holding pen that effectively keeps their zombie doppelgangers prisoner until issue 30, when the Four leave for Latveria to confront Doctor Doom. In their absence, Zombie Reed, who’s been goading them for awhile about knowing how to escape their prison, plays out a trick. A pretty ingenious trick. Zombie Reed convinces the guards that he’s built a teleportation device out of a pen and the food that they receive, and that they have decided that Central Park is to be the point of initial infestation. So, as the guards watch on, the Four hold hands and disappear. Of course, this isn’t due to a bogus transporter - it’s Sue using her powers of invisibility, and before long they have eaten their way through many of the guards and scientists, and while they are confined to the upper levels of the Baxter Building, they have access to the portal to the Zombie Universe, where they intend to let their friends through and ultimately, break loose. This is all averted, of course, due to another unlikely sacrifice on the part of Doctor Doom. Great story overall. I wasn’t expecting much from the Ultimate Fantastic Four stories, but it was pretty damn entertaining. My only complaint is that Greg Land’s art looks way, way too photo-referenced at times. Like the-characters-are-all-posing-without-a-sense-of-movement photo-referenced, Sue actually in a sexy slouch with her jacket hanging off of her shoulder at one point. Pretty bad.
Black Panther sees the zombies who devoured Galactus and became the new “World-Devourers” invading a skrull world where the new Fantastic Four (consisting of The Thing, Human Torch, Black Panther and Storm) have unwittingly teleported to. The Fantastic Four are seen as part of the invasion initially, but the miscommunication is quickly figured out as the skrulls work with them to battle the common enemy. This was the weakest portion of the Marvel Zombies: Dead Days HC overall. The art was better than I’d expected going in, but the story was silly, relying on a random magical teleporter that brings them in and out of danger at a whim, leaving little room for tension, between constant one-after-another quips like Spider-Zombie’s “With great power…comes great hunger!” Not good. Overall, though, this collection was a lot of fun and I’m genuinely looking forward to Marvel Zombies 2. It was nice to see the original creative team of the first Marvel Zombies mini coming back to do the Dead Days one-shot, even if it was a little unnecessary. I’m getting a little tired of zombies, so I’m kind of hoping this new mini-series just wraps the whole thing up, but we’ll see…the sequel might be good enough to keep me salivating for more.