Just when it seems like the Marvel Zombies concept is about as fully milked as it can be, Marvel find some way of squeezing just another drop of juice out. Things aren’t nearly as bad as last year’s “zombies in everything” er, epidemic, but it’s debatable whether there’s any real mileage left in the concept. There’s only one way to find out, though…
Let’s first ignore the metaphysical ramifications of having a property that originated in the Ultimate Universe now crossing over with the Marvel Universe, and get straight on with the story. With the Marvel Zombies joke long played-out, it’s fallen to Fred Van Lente to finally bring the Marvel Zombies to the 616 Universe, the one place that was seemingly safe. With a Zombie Deadpool having somehow turned up in the Florida Everglades via the Nexus of all realities, a secret agency has drafted in everyone’s favourite drunken robot, X-51, to help out.
If ever there was a character that benefited from Warren Ellis, it’s X-51. Originally a ponderous android on a vague quest to be human, X-51 is now a drunken, insane, human-hating narcissist, and as a result, he’s more compelling than he’s been in years. Lente also takes the opportunity to deepen the character slightly by reintroducing Jocasta. It makes total sense, and as a result, the new X-51 goes from being one (very good) walking joke into a 2-dimensional character, perfectly positioned to fight off the coming zombie apocalypse.
In the past, the appeal of Marvel Zombies was their ability to decimate a planet and either kill or infect everyone on it, and the sheer comedic glee of seeing our favourite heroes tearing each other to pieces. It’s something of a major problem that in coming to the “main” Marvel Universe, they won’t be able to do any of things. In Marvel Zombies 3, Lente attempts to prove that the zombies are still a threat by murdering a bunch of nobodies from the backwaters of continuity. It’s as successful as it could’ve hoped to be, but that’s not massively so.The rest of the comic more than makes up for it by ensuring that nothing is played too straight, and if we readers must swap seeing Captain America’s head sliced in half for seeing Zombie Deadpool eat the Conquistador, well, it’s a small price to pay.
After Marvel Zombies 2 spent a lot of time examining the moral problem of being a self-aware, flesh-hungry zombie, Series 3 has taken the formula somewhat back to its roots, positioning the zombies as the villains once again. Perhaps the change in creative team has reinvigorated the concept of Marvel Zombies, because even after the massive overexposure and a lacklustre second series, Marvel Zombies 3 appears, against all odds, to be off to a rather entertaining start.