Saturday, October 19, 2013

Avoid Lurching Trick-Or-Treaters


Every now and then, we'll see Marvel dig up (heh heh, "dig up") its old Marvel Zombies concept for either a stand-alone story or a limited run of stories lasting about five issues or so with a new twist on the super-powered flesh eaters. And with zombies all the rage these days, I ask you: what would Halloween be without a few Marvel zombies rearing their decomposed heads?

I suppose any "Marvel zombies" story would have done for the ghoulish holiday, but let's take a look at the one-shot comic that was published in 2012 specifically to get some sales mileage out of commemorate Halloween. With the story of the zombies more or less resolved some time ago, completing the circle of the Sentry's involvement, Marvel was still in a position to publish "untold tales" of the disaster that, in the right creative hands, had the potential to be both compelling and entertaining segments of the bigger picture--and, if they sold well, then why not? Yet this Halloween one-shot would seem to be another missed opportunity in terms of the original concept--because, while the story by Fred Van Lente and Alessandro Vitti makes a decent effort to stand on its own and offer an interesting survivalist take, it doesn't take advantage of the elements of the overall story that this disaster put into play.

Yet, while that's disappointing, it's not a deal-breaker. There are a few things this story breaks ground on that I don't recall seeing before--beginning with a woman and her young son taking refuge in an abandoned house, which Vitti makes clear right off the bat exists on a world that has been devastated by the events the Sentry put in motion:




We learn that this woman is skilled in both tactics and weaponry, and has equipped the old house with monitoring equipment as well as a defense perimeter. We're shown very quickly that the area is rife with the walking dead, an unsettling discovery given the isolation you'd think would go hand-in-hand with the rustic landscape; perhaps the woman does herself no favors by fending off the attackers with land mines and other weapons which would, you'll excuse the expression, wake the dead.

But within the house, we find that the woman is making an effort to bring that isolation indoors, as well, as she tries her best to provide a sense of "normal" life for her son, even under these circumstances. As for how Halloween fits into all this, Van Lente obviously has to work that in fairly early:



The son, hearing the enticing details of a day that embraces community and is filled with costumes and the promise of candy, of course becomes interested in participating in the holiday--which his mother, knowing the impracticality of observing Halloween in the absence of any community to speak of, attempts to defuse. But the boy brings up a fair point:



And so the mother relents, at least in close quarters. She finds Halloween decorations in the basement, as well as a little something for her son:



It seems a curious direction for Van Lente to go in. Given how any surviving humans on this world must feel about the infected super-beings that attacked and consumed humans on sight, I'd think costumed heroes would be the last thing this family would want to be reminded of.

But Van Lente isn't through with setting aside the remaining dangers of this world, still populated with both infected humans and super-beings actively hunting for the last remnants of food. Even with those threats present, the mother decides to fulfill her son's request for candy by leaving him to mind the fort while she makes a run into town for it. Someone please explain to me how that makes any kind of sense, either for the mother's safety or her son's.

Matters are complicated further when the son's kitten runs off, and he gives futile pursuit, leading him into town. He spots a light coming from a school window, and meets what appears to be a creepy caretaker:



The man is really only there to play his part in this story as far as an unexplainable Halloween element, so it's not entirely unexpected when he later disappears. Nor does the boy have time to wonder about it, because a few super-beings have spotted him and sadistically prepare for a long-awaited meal:




Fortunately, the kid's mother shows up and blasts away at them before scooping him up and running toward the school for refuge. It's then that we discover just who this woman happens to be:



Yes, Katherine Pryde, and her son, Peter. Which explains her resourcefulness as well as the sophisticated equipment in their house. Though how odd to see in further scenes that she feels cornered by her pursuers, given that her phasing power could easily keep herself and her son from harm as well as allow them to ditch their attackers. At any rate, they receive some assistance from an unexpected source--the oddball we met earlier, whose identity is also revealed to us:



Mephisto, who arrives at the stroke of midnight, at the moment of Halloween, to contemptuously dispose of Katherine's attackers. It's an interesting development by Van Lente, and his rationale actually makes sense considering the state humanity on this world has fallen into:



When they get back to their house, Peter is in a saddened state, not having had the best introduction to Halloween--though aside from the demands of the theme of this issue, I'd have to question the reason for him to have any introduction to it, at this point. Halloween, a recognition of and indulgence in feasting and remembrance of the dead, seems an odd foundation for any survivor of this apocalypse to build a sense of family on, even bordering on poor taste. Of all the traditions to continue on a dead world. Even Katherine avoids giving her son a direct answer on whether there's any hope for them or the human race:



I'm sure Van Lente means to imply that Katherine is simply trying to spare her son as much hurt as possible, combined with her long history of surviving even the deadliest of dooms providing her with an anything-is-possible outlook. I think that if this story fit more tightly into the "Marvel zombies" world as originally conceived, and we were dealing with a normal human mother and son taking refuge in this house, the writer might have been more fatalistic regarding the family's future. After all, this plague wiped out humanity in the span of 24 hours; the fact that Katherine and Peter have survived is nothing short of a miracle. Realistically, the chances of either of them putting up Halloween decorations next year must be slim to none.

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