Following two tremendously popular (perhaps even shockingly so) miniseries, a best-selling one-shot, a crossover with "Army of Darkness," and inspiring more themed variant covers than any comics trend since the monkey, the Marvel Zombies are back for a third round of death, decay and ultra-violence, and this time they're munching their way straight into the Marvel Universe proper -- and in continuity.
Beginning in October, the four-issue miniseries "Marvel Zombies 3" comes courtesy of writer Fred Van Lente ("The Incredible Hercules") and Kev Walker ("Annihilation: Nova"), who've taken it as a personal challenge to out-gore, out-shock and out-gross-out previous zombie masters Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips. CBR News spoke with Van Lente and assistant editor Lauren Sankovitch to learn what the new team has in store, and just how unspeakably horrible it will be (but in a good way!)
"Lock the doors to Avengers Tower! Board up the Baxter Building!" Fred Van Lente told CBR News. "The Marvel Zombies are invading the Marvel Universe! And it requires an unlikely duo of heroes to journey into the Zombieverse on a desperate mission to save the 616."
Indeed, "MZ3" is a new take on the now-classic Marvel Zombies formula. Instead of taking place in the so-called Zombieverse, "Marvel Zombies 3" sees one of the Marvel Zombies stumbling into the Marvel Universe -- sometimes called 616 -- through the Nexus of All Realities, located in Man-Thing's swamp. "[The zombie] takes a pretty sizable 'bite' out of the Florida Initiative team," Van Lente said. "This begins the spread of the zombie virus through the Marvel Universe, and so the top-secret sister agency of S.H.I.E.L.D. and S.W.O.R.D. that deals with extradimensional matters -- the Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operational Response agency -- yes, A.R.M.O.R., has to send Initiative recruits into the Marvel Universe in search of a cure."
Perhaps more shocking than any grotesque anatomy or brain-eating violence, "Marvel Zombies 3" is set in current Marvel continuity. "While we will be spending time in the Zombieverse, we have come to know and love, writer Fred Van Lente has crafted a creepy action tale on two frontsthat not only gives us our flesh-eating fix but has clever continuity consequences as well!" confirmed assistant editor Lauren Sankovitch.
"[The miniseries] will have serious ramifications for the Marvel Universe moving forward," Van Lente said. "And for one Marvel hero in particular."
"Still hungering for a clue?" Sankovitch teased. "Let's just say that 'Merc with a Mouth' will gain a whole new meaning!"
Marvel Zombies fans have seen virtually countless heroes and villains succumb to the effects of the zombie virus, many of whom go on to meet particularly graphic demises. Surely, Marvel is running out of characters who've yet to be killed or zombiefied?
"Have you seen every single one of the denizens of the Marvel Zombieverse?" Sankovitch said. "We may have made mince-meat of a giant-sized bite of our Zombie-fied heroes but the one thing we do know about that rotten virus is that it's rarely down for the count. "
Van Lente agreed, adding, "Now we have the whole Marvel Universe to zombify!"
"Marvel Zombies 3" will focus on a different group of zombies than Kirkman and Phillips' books. "This is partly because 'MZ3' is set in a very specific period of 'MZ' continuity," Van Lente explained. "For fear of giving away too much, I'm going to tell you when, exactly. But let's just say the pursuit of sweet, sweet human flesh makes for some odd allies."
Like what seems to be every other human being who's walked into a comics store in the last few years, Fred Van Lente is a big fan of the Marvel Zombies publishing phenomenon. "Robert and Sean did a great job pushing the envelope in terms of shock and gore in the previous ['Marvel Zombies' books], and I have taken it as a personal challenge to go even further," said the writer. "The comparison I make to everyone is that 'MZ3' is to 'MZ1' and 'M2' what James Cameron's 'Aliens' is to the original 'Alien.' We're taking the same concepts, continuity and characters and just running in another direction. I want people to care about the heroes (er... the protagonists, that is, not the costumed super-zombie), and root for them not to get eaten. I want people to be afraid of turning the page next to see what new horrific development might assault their senses!
"In short, I'm doing my damnedest to make 'MZ3' a genuinely creepy, scary, high-octane, action-packed horror comic. An in-continuity, genuinely creepy, scary, high-octane, action-packed horror comic. The opening seen of ['Marvel Zombies 3'] #1 is probably the single most grotesque sequence I've ever put in a comic. And I love it."
Illustrating "Marvel Zombies 3" is Kev Walker. "He did a great job on 'Annihilation: Nova' and I look forward to how draws mind-numbing gore and violence," Van Lente said.
Marvel Zombies has of course been a big success for Marvel Comics, with the hardcover editions routinely selling out and going into multiple printings. Yet there have only been two miniseries and a single one-shot bearing the "Marvel Zombies" name. "I think Marvel took the wise course of not overdoing it," Van Lente said. "Marvel Zombies is not something that lends itself, say, to an ongoing series, for example, although that would probably sell pretty well-- at first."
"Keep 'em hungry for more," said Lauren Sankovitch of Marvel's philosophy for keeping the franchise, er, fresh. "By carefully working with nothing but the freshest and meatiest ingredients, we ensure that the quality (not quantity!) our loyal readers crave is always of the highest degree."
"Marvel Zombies 3" #1 is set to go on sale in October from Marvel Comics.
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