Elsa Bloodstone faces all types of undead creatures as she and the mysterious girl she’s protecting make their way across Battleworld’s Deadlands in “Marvel Zombies” #2, but it’s a different kind of dead monster that truly haunts her. No, her father Ulysses Bloodstone wasn’t a monster in the literal sense, but she certainly remembers him as one as her current situation brings forth plenty of unpleasant memories. Writer Simon Spurrier uses this dynamic to forge a bond between Elsa and her unnamed companion, and artist Kev Walker makes it mean something by way of his horrific, rotting undead creations as well as his tough, heroic, yet approachable interpretation of Elsa.
Last issue, Spurrier used Elsa’s flashbacks to highlight her upbringing by her demanding and merciless father and, in turn, showed Elsa to have turned out to be an equally hard and callous, if not protective, adult. Here, though, she finds herself conflicted, as her attachment to the young child grows and she finds herself acting against the lessons imparted to her when she herself was younger. Despite the pervasive memories of her father telling her to remain unattached, her character experiences growth as she begins to question what she’s believed.
Spurrier’s characterization is largely what drives the issue and, though it’s enough, he still throws in a couple of other surprises to keep the story fresh. The first is more subtle, fooling readers as much as it does Elsa, and the second comes on the final page and is a pure fanboy delight. Throughout, Spurrier also keeps the dialogue punchy and engaging, particularly Elsa’s, although other characters get a clever quip or two in as well. Ulysses’ own lines, conversely, are harsh and cruel and border on outright mean-spirited, although Spurrier somewhat throttles back on the senior Bloodstone’s demeanor at one point.
It takes a few pages to get into the vibe of Spurrier’s script, but Walker is able to grab readers immediately, as Elsa finds herself taking apart an incapacitated zombie version of M.O.D.O.K., or — as Spurrier indirectly but cleverly calls this one — M.O.D.O.C., an acronym readers deserve to check out for themselves. Walker’s take on this monstrous incarnation is pleasingly disgusting, looking like it was struck by a semi and left lying on the freeway for a week or two. All of the zombified villains in Walker’s Deadlands look appropriately moribund and genuinely nightmarish, and the colors from Guru-eFX aren’t all dark and moody like one might expect in such an environment; the usage of medium blue tones for most of the backgrounds might seem surprising but actually give the book enough light to allow Walker’s detail to be fully apparent.
“Marvel Zombies” #2 works as a well-characterized and skillfully illustrated comic with an engaging story and moments of genuine surprise. Readers who pick this up unaware of what came before or the bigger tapestry of “Secret Wars” will still find a nicely constructed issue.