Or – “Who’s The King, Baby? Whaddaya mean ‘Kirby?’

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There are some concepts that are just flat-out too cool to be ignored. The original premise of “Marvel Zombies,” to be honest, is NOT one of them. It sounds like Marvel just cashing in on the usual crazes. “Walking Dead” sells for Image, so we get the writer of that to bang out a one-off series featuring zombie versions of Marvel heroes. What they DIDN’T count on was the off-kilter humor of Kirkman, and the way that he translated his long-time love of Marvel’s finest into beautiful character moments, distilling the essence of each of the old-school fave-raves and then extrapolating what each of them would do when cursed with a hunger for human flesh. It takes a certain sick kind of mind to come up with this stuff, but, judging from the sales, there’s a lot of like-minded twistos (myself included) reading comics. Take a phenomenon like that, combine it with another off-kilter cult idea, that of the housewares-clerk-turned-Deadite-fighter Ash, and you’ve got the makings of either a massive hit or a huge lawsuit. So which is it?

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Could be either, I suppose. In any case, it’s not something I’d say is for all tastes. Ash (of the Evil Dead trilogy of movies, as well as the ongoing Dynamite “Army of Darkness” miniseries) finds himself unceremoniously dumped back on Earth, landing in a big dumpster. If you don’t know Ashley, here’s the thumbnail: he’s a bit of a dullard, but he’s a capable monster fighter. Through his adventures, he’s shown himself capable of cleverness, even brilliance tactically, but he’s also made maneuvers so boneheaded that even Dan Quayle has questions about his cognitive faculties. Possessed of great bravado, a quick wit for one-liners, and an eye for the ladies, Ash’s hand was possessed and removed in battle, and has been replaced with (alternately) a mystical chainmail hand, or a much more dramatic chainsaw attachment, and, most importantly, since he’s played by Bruce Campbell, Ash is what our young internet community might dub “Teh Aw3s0m3!” Climbing out of the trash, Ash realizes that he’s not dead, as he expected to be. “I’m pretty sure Heaven would have less garbage. And, sure, maybe it SMELLS like hell, but I don’t see any devil. At least…”

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Heh. That’s pretty funny, actually. Ash watches the battle for a minute, trying to figure out who is the villain here. Given a choice between a man dressed as Beelzebub and a man using an implement of destruction as an artificial appendage, Ash decides to go with his gut (while attaching his own artificial appendage of destruction.) Before he can get involved with the battle, though, he’s accosted by the living force of the Necronomicon, looking like nothing so much as a crazy homeless woman. ‘Neckie has a bit of prophecy that Ash might do well to heed: “This world will die and an army of the dead will rise!” Ash retorts in true Williams fashion, with a fist inna face, and guns his chainsaw for the… well, not exactly “kill,” as Necronomicon isn’t alive in the traditional sense. Let’s just say, “for the win.” Unfortunately, this catches the eye of the REAL good guy, one Mr. Murdock.

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Presuming that the guy in the Satan suit is the villain really isn’t that bad a supposition, when you think about it, but this is Marvel Comics, where we do things differently. Unfortunately for DD, Thunderball isn’t above a shot from behind, smacking Daredevil down so hard that he may actually be dead (though not for long, if so). Ash just accepts his thanks, and smugly says he’s doing his part to save the day. Roughly ten seconds later, he finds a newspaper, and sees that Thunderball is an escaped felon. Oopsie! The paper also mentions “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and Ash figures it can’t help to go straight to the source to ask for help. He finds Avengers Mansion, but when the security system asks for his name and the nature of his business, he… shoots it. Bad idea, Ashley… BAD idea. Misters Blake, Cage, and Barton (as well as the rest of this world’s Avengers) aren’t happy with this seeming attack.

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In a moment that can’t bode well, Thor destroys Ash’s “boom-stick,” and the team decides he’s three shades of bat$#!+ crazy, so the Scarlet Witch teleports him away to the duck pond in Central Park. From that vantage point, a now-enraged Ash can clearly see the coming storm, literally. Black clouds and lightning fill the skies, and he remembers suddenly what happened before he arrived here. Seemingly dead, he found himself at the Pearly Gates, but didn’t want to give up his chainsaw and shotgun. Ash remembers seeing SOMETHING, and suddenly panicks, running through the streets in a very un-Ash fashion screaming that the world is going to end! Rushing around and crying havoc catches the eye of the Avengers again, who engage him warily. Spider-Man asks this world’s Colonel America if there’s anything he can do to help, and Colonel A can think of one thing…

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Heh. The dialogue is pretty nice between Spidey and Ash, actually, as Peter, ever curious, asks what Ash is ranting about. He tells him of the things he saw in the afterlife, of a glowing man who arrived and started killing everything, destroying angels, eating people, and punching Ash so hard that it actually knocked him BACK TO LIFE! Spidey plays along with the seeming wacko, going so far as to ask, “What’d you say the guy that did this looked like again?”

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I’ve always said that Sentry is the worst thing that happened to the Marvel Universe, and somebody has finally proven me right. He cuts through the Avengers like Sherman through Georgia, leaving them all dead (but still aware) in his wake, spreading whatever horrifying Romero-plague he has in a golden swath of horror. The Avengers, as heroic as they are, have no defense against something of this power and magnitude, and though they try to resist… we all know where this is going. It IS a prequel, after all.

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God, that Black Widow scene is disturbing. And, just that quickly, it’s over. The world’s mightiest heroes are now a part of the problem, and it’s just going to get that much worse as we go. Remember the horror of Magneto’s words, when asked by the Fantastic Four how long it took for the zombie heroes to eliminate nearly all the humans on Earth: “Three days.”

Spider-Man witnesses Hawkeye impaling and eating a human (a shot that I couldn’t bring myself to include here, as it’s just TOO graphic and disgusting), and swings in to try and save innocent bystanders. Ash, for his part, thinks maybe swinging AWAY would be a better idea, but Peter Parker is a hero, and wants to put his friends back to normal and save the day. “Back to normal?” snorts Ash. “I hate to break it to you, chief, but you got a screw loose if you thinkg they’re getting back to normal. Of course, the entire notion of have a “loose screw” is probably lost on a guy who swings around dressed as a spider.” Heh. Good point, Ash… Ash mentions that the only thing that might help them is this world’s version of the Necronomicon, and Spidey changes direction, heading, presumably, for the Sanctum of Doctor Strange. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one who travels the rooftops…

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I don’t know why the image of a zombie Cap– Er, Colonel America doesn’t bother me after his death left me so moved, but I think I’ll chalk it up to the fine line we call “suspension of disbelief.” The Marvel Zombies universe is so far beyond the line of good taste and believability that you’re able to just accept it as a dark comedy farce, presume that ever’body’s gonna $!@$in’ snuff it, and have some fun. Ash gets dropped from two stories up, but thankfully, the webbing cushions his impact. Unfortunately, it also leaves him wrapped up tight, in a dark alley, where you meet all sorts of interesting dead people who want to eat you.

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I have to say, I miss disco-shirt-and-chain-belt Luke Cage. Why doesn’t somebody bring that costume back, huh? It’s no more silly than Ms. Marvel’s “Lightning Stripper” suit or Wonder Man’s field jacket, or even Cap’s chainmail and winghead. Nothing says Power Man like a tiara and a shirt open to the navel, dangit!

This is a fast, fun ride, and the presence of Ash in the Marvel Universe works better than I thought. He’s seen enough to not be shaken by goons in funny suits, especially when there seem to be more Deadites needing to be blowed up real good. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the gore and dark humor to everyone, but if you enjoyed Marvel Zombies, if you’re a fan of Ash, or if you think (as I do) that “Night of The Living Dead” is one of America’s seminal pieces of perfect film-making, then this may be the book for you. I read the initial Marvel Zombies limited series with a face of horror, not believing the things they were getting away with, and that continues here. We know what’s going to happen next, this series is designed to show us how it got as bad as it did. Ash is doomed to fail, but the fun will come in seeing HOW he fails, and if he gets out okay. Hint: I think there’s another movie in the works for him. Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness rates a flesh-eating 3.5 stars, as the art is awesome, the dialogue arch and funny, and the images are shocking enough to freak me out. Just don’t read it if you’re susceptible to nightmares…

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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