Sunday, November 11, 2012

World Hunger

I don't know whatever became of Marvel Zombies, which I was once pretty bouncy about. It continued a concept introduced in a three-part Ultimate Fantastic Four story, where Reed Richards makes contact with his counterpart on a parallel Earth. For all appearances, to us this parallel Reed looked like the Reed of the normal Marvel universe--so the first assumption to make was that this would be the first Ultimate meet-up with the original characters.

The other Reed was working with Ultimate-Reed to develop a teleporter which would allow transportation between the two worlds. Ultimate-Reed, being in his early 20s and less experienced than his more mature counterpart, was caught up in the scientific discovery and had no reason to suspect duplicity. But when he arrived on the other Reed's Earth, he found the Baxter Building in near-ruin and then stepped outside to find a decimated world:

As for this world's Reed and the rest of the FF, Ultimate-Reed found a far different group than the family portrait he was shown in his communications:

A necrotized, malevolent Fantastic Four that feasted on the flesh of the living. And they weren't alone. The disease had been brought to their Earth by an infected Sentry--who, immediately upon arrival, began infecting this world's heroes with the virus. In a span of just 24 hours, the entire world's population had been consumed by these hunger-crazed super-beings.

And boy--when Ultimate-Reed appeared, were they happy to see a new meal:

With the help of that world's Magneto (the only super-being to escape infection), as well as his own teammates who had come to rescue him, Ultimate-Reed was able to get back to his own world, destroying the teleporter in the process so that the infected beings from the other Earth wouldn't be able to cross over. The only complication was the hunger-crazed FF, who in the interim used the teleporter to successfully appear on Ultimate-Reed's Earth but were trapped in a containment cell by the Ultimate FF before they could proceed with spreading their virus. It was a narrow brush with near-disaster, as the infected Reed made a point of reminding his captors:

The really interesting thing I find about these "walking dead" versions of the heroes is that there is absolutely no trace of any morals or scruples they would have exhibited before their infection. They'll do whatever it takes to get their next meal, and that's that. The dead Reed we see above is simply evil. He and the FF are totally irredeemable and ruthless--and every word, every action, is a means to one end: satisfying the hunger. Just look at the delightful taunting he carries on with his Ultimate counterpart from his containment cell:

There was another segment with these characters a few issues later, which wrapped up their storyline in Ultimate FF--and from there, Robert Kirkman began the Marvel Zombies title, which spawned three or four subsequent series after that. Kirkman was the natural choice for the writer of the series, given his involvement with The Walking Dead--the comic book, that is, well before it became a TV series. Unfortunately, Kirkman and others took the new series to ridiculous levels. For one thing, imagine Galactus captured and eaten by zombies. (After, if you can believe it, the same thing happening to the Silver Surfer. The Surfer's silvery outer shell has survived the heat of stars and lord knows how many blows from powerful opponents, yet rotting teeth can manage to penetrate it, no problem.) Then imagine those zombies absorbing Galactus' power. Then imagine those zombies leaving Earth and consuming the entire population of the universe.

So eventually, I dropped the book, a major disappointment by that time. The last I knew, one of its stories had taken the series full circle, and put the Sentry's appearance in such a loop of time that the virus would be confined to his arrival on that last world. It was a pretty clever way to end the threat--though it probably should have happened before its underlying story had been dragged out to such a dismal degree.

If you're curious about reading the entire story, check out Ultimate Fantastic Four #s 21-23, with a follow-up in issues 30-31. From there, you can also catch the first few issues of Marvel Zombies, though you may soon form the opinion that this continuation of the concept was dead on arrival.

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