Serial Consumer celebrates and interrogates Evan’s relationship to franchised media and his addiction to purchasing its licensed products.

Marvel Zombies was the story that introduced me to torrenting comics illegally back in 2005. This isn’t an essay in favor of torrenting comics, which I no longer really do because I can afford to buy the ones I want to read and also don’t care that much about monthly comics. That miniseries was so good, though, that I couldn’t wait for someone to drive me to my comics store on a weekend to buy the last issue, which featured a zombified Galactus. I mean, holy shit.

Back then, the 2000s zombie craze was still in its infancy: Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake and Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead did good work in 2004 while Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead was still a relatively unknown independent comic just entering its prison-story phase and The Zombie Survival Guide (the pre-World War Z book from Max Brooks) was just nearing release. Zombies were becoming popular again. Mark Millar, who was writing a 12-issue run on Ultimate Fantastic Four at the time, introduced the zombies during his initial story on that series.

The twist — that there was a zombie universe — was so popular that Marvel enlisted Kirkman to write a full story about them. Eventually, the zombies spun off into multiple miniseries I didn’t bother reading (besides the crossover with Ash from Evil Dead), but that first miniseries was awesome and felt fresh. Art by Sean Phillips (who hadn’t yet been able to split off from corporate comics to do his own thing with Ed Brubaker) didn’t hurt.

That first miniseries is so graphic, cruel and insane that it still bothers me to reread it. Characters are dismembered with regularity. The zombie superheroes have all their abilities, which makes them incredibly deadly. It’s all so damn sad.

I was glad that this most recent episode of What If…? managed to capture that wanton cruelty and depravity. It’s a real blast.

The story spawns from Ant-Man & the Wasp, which was not what I anticipated. It’s similar to episodes three and four in that the actual inciting incident isn’t really a “What if” in the classical sense; there’s not a “What If this moment happened differently?” Rather, it’s a more general “What if there were zombies,” and the actual storytelling moment is arbitrarily chosen to reach the desired dramatic scenario. I don’t really like the fact that this show relies on concept first, and actual questions second. It feels like a conceptual cheat.

But the zombie stuff is a lot of fun. A ragtag group of survivors faces off against their super-powered undead friends. Different characters fill classic zombie roles — mad scientist, hardened soldier, hopeful survivor. It only becomes more and more upsetting as the episode progresses and certain characters are pushed to their breaking points. As a riff on zombie films, it’s pretty much perfect.

Despite my quibbles with the series, I’m enjoying it immensely.

What I Bought

Didn’t buy anything this week.

What I’d Buy

I will buy any 6-inch zombies they release, starting with the Zombie Cap set for release this December.