REVIEW: Marvel Zombies #3 Takes a Bite Out of Fear…And Franklin Richards

Detail Art from Marvel Zombies: Resurrection #3

Marvel Zombies: Resurrection #3 combines fascinating story with just-okay art and uneven character development.

Marvel Zombies: Resurrection #3

Phillip Kennedy Johnson (writer); Leonard Kirt (art); VC’s Travis Lanham (Letters); Inhy-uk Lee (cover); Philip Tan and Jay David Ramos (cover); Rachelle Rosenberg (color); Lenil Francis Yu and Sunny Cho (cover)
Marvel Comics
October 14, 2020

Peter Parker - in his red and black spider-man costume - strains toward a light source in a cold and rainy place, his mouth open and his visor cracked. Below him, a zombified Incredible Hulk has a hand on his shoulder, seeking to drag him down, blood on his teeth, and Wolverine - teeth sharp and claws blood-soaked - clings to his hips.

Marvel and DC have been neck and neck in the comics-based zombie game this year. DC’s first crack at the genre, DCeased, was a big hit that racked up three spin-off series and became one of their top-selling titles in 2019. Marvel was the first major company to combine superheroes and drool-laden shambling – first with their Marvel Zombies series in the ‘00s and now with an unrelated take on the subject, Marvel Zombies: Resurrection. But this plague is entirely different from the one that ravaged the Marvelverse back then.

To catch you up – the infection here originated with what the book calls The Galactus Hive, which formed when the majority of Marvel’s finest heroes traveled to space to examine the corpse of Galactus which was suddenly seen floating on the edge of Earth’s solar system, following a distress signal sent out by Captain Marvel. It turned out that Galactus wasn’t all that dead – and he, the former Carol Danvers, and their minions soon infected The Fantastic Four, the majority of the X-Men, Thor, and many other heroes.

The infected heroes form a suitably creepy, cultlike hivemind, a collective which speaks of absorbing the uninfected into a rotting, blood-soaked, red-eyed “family” via cannibalistic hunger. Using Galactus’ body as a host, they have incubated their fearsome plot and crash it to Earth to promptly spread the plague. Peter Parker, who happened to be back on Earth babysitting Franklin and Valeria Richards, soon became one of the only uninfected heroes left standing. Years have passed, the children have grown and Peter — guarding the Richards siblings with his life — has managed to gain Carol’s Flerken companion Chewie, daywalking vampire Blade, and a reprogramed Sentinel named NANA as his team. But Peter remains haunted by the fact that he couldn’t save his lady love Mary Jane Watson, and is plagued by nightmares of what happened to Franklin under his watch. Worse, with only the hunger a mother could possess for her child’s love infesting her rotting soul, Sue Storm remains a few steps behind their team, seeking to ingratiate the powerful Franklin and Valeria with the Hive.

The psychology of Marvel Zombies: Resurrection is what makes it interesting. While DCeased chooses to go for the emotional and spiritual jugular while showing how hope can guide a person even in the bleakest of situations, Marvel Zombies goes for the mind. Because the infected heroes maintain some form of their own intelligence while still being part of a zombie horde, it’s a death of the spirit as well as the body. While DCeased’s deaths are generally about the individual’s relationship with death, Marvel Zombies’ deaths are about the power of family and community.Comic Panel Art for Marvel Zombies: Resurrection #3 C Marvel Comics October 2020

The apocalypse has transformed Peter Parker into a scarred veteran of trauma, but he hasn’t lost his sense of humor or his capacity for honor and love. He makes a fine focal point for the series, and Kennedy Johnson captures the human warmth that’s caused him to endure as a character.

Johnson doesn’t do as well with the other central character of the narrative — Franklin — who had been bitten by Sue in an attempt to turn her somewhat omnipotent son into part of the Hive. Franklin was rescued from this fate, only to lose his powers and the ability to physically age. He’s frustrated and afraid, but even though he’s grown up since that day mentally, he reads as helpless, just as he did when he was a kid.

Valeria and Blade add a dash of humor and toughness to the story. One of the best things in the narrative is Blade’s friendship with Chewie, and Valeria is allowed to be brilliant and create new and truly interesting weapons. Her hope that she and Franklin can save their family is poignant and a bigger driving force for our sympathetic heroes. NANA’s occasional interjections are amusing, too.

Kirt’s art — which sticks with muted tones and sometimes blocky and indistinct shapes – is sadly where the issue trips up. Sometimes in big splash panels his talent takes flight, but fraught battle scenes and close-ups result in indistinct and muddy visual havoc. This leads to sometimes too-cutesy panels, or ones where Peter looks like a melting oval with curtains of anime tears rushing down his cheeks.

Clearly having a lot of fun is letterer Lanham, whose sharp, edgy, or wavy lettering delineates the words of the possessed from the words of the living. Lanham’s work stands out as fresh and clever and eye-catching.

Marvel Zombies: Resurrection #3 does indeed solve the extraterrestrial puzzle in a clever way that ties into past Marvel history. It’s an ending that will convince readers to pick up the grisly miniseries’ conclusion, in spite of its faults.

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