Monday, April 19, 2010

Marvel Zombies 5 #1

I guess in a world overrun by zombies there's no such thing as a dead horse, so Marvel can feel free to run this concept right into the ground without facing any accusations of beating one. By this point the Marvel Zombies have devoured every living being on their home planet, several parallel dimensions and a good chunk of outer space. They've swallowed Galactus. They've dined with the Marvel Apes. They've even stared down Ash from Army of Darkness. I wish I were kidding. So what could possibly be next? How about undead outlaws with six shooters and cow-print chaps in the dusty confines of the wild west?

I'd presume Fred Van Lente felt he needed to do something to shake things up a bit, since the original idea has already been stretched so thin. And to be fair, this is hardly the first time the scenery and genre have wildly changed course in the Marvel Zombies drama, so it's hardly unprecedented. It's probably not even the most ridiculous direction we've ever been drug in, but that doesn't make it any less idiotic. This series has proudly lumbered around with a black, blood-drenched tongue planted squarely in its cheek from the very beginning, and goofball comedy certainly isn't out of bounds. Most humor usually requires some sort of seed that's genuinely funny, though, and I just can't find it here. It's soulless, coming off as a desperate publisher asking a desperate writer to throw random bland ideas at the wall and hope against hope that one of them sticks.

Having already run out of first and second-tier heroes to slaughter, reanimate and / or chew up, in this fifth installment Van Lente has moved on to the also-rans. Seen enough of Spidey chowing down on Mary Jane's severed left arm? Then you're almost certainly ready for the fury of the zombie Phantom Rider, or the bottled comedy gold of an undead-huntin' Howard the Duck. The well of bad ideas is deep, my friends, and the bodies of the discarded characters stacked in there could stretch for miles.

Kano does a fair enough job in his first shot as artist for the long-running series. He nails a half-dozen panels over the course of this issue, when his work tightens up and most closely resembles John Romita Junior, and the rest of the time his contributions are merely passable. Kano never really takes over the show or brands the issue with a fresh style of his own, and that lack of true enthusiasm carries over to the reader. When the story is plodding so is the artwork, and when the pace picks up the visuals drag their feet.

Like a major network television station, Marvel is almost never going to let a moneymaking series die, even if there's no obvious direction to take the story. Like many similar titles, it's only a matter of time before the former Marvel Zombies furor fades into a whimper and ultimately disappears completely. This issue is only proof that we're planted firmly on the downward slope of that progression. Skip it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2

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