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June 1, 2008 - It's a Marvel Zombie nation, and we're just living in it. Since those lovable zombies debuted in the pages of Ultimate Fantastic Four, they've gone on to become the type of pop culture phenomenon most comic book properties could only dream of. T-shirts, action figures, and hardcovers galore helped drive the Marvel Zombie fad.
After three mini-series and various other spinoffs, many assumed the Zombies were on their last, rotting leg. By the end of Marvel Zombies 2 the entire universe had been all but completely devoured. Where do they go from there?
Straight to the heart of the Marvel Universe, apparently. Writer Fred van Lente and artist Kev Walker are hard at work on the latest sequel, Marvel Zombies 3. This story sees the zombies invade the classic Marvel Earth we all know and love. Given how rapidly life on Zombie Earth fell apart, this can only mean bad things for our heroes.
We talked with Van Lente himself to get the scoop on all things zombie. Did you know Zombie Ghost Rider likes his flesh well done? Neither did we.
IGN Comics: First things first - who's on board for the creative team? How long will this mini-series last?
Fred Van Lente: Four issues! Starting in October, just in time for Halloween. Me writing, Kev Walker (Annihlation: Nova) on art.
IGN Comics: At this point, with two main series released and the Army of Darkness crossover, we're curious where things can go from here. No doubt fans are wondering the same thing as well. Was a third series always a given or was it difficult to find where things could continue?
Van Lente: You know what they say. You can't keep a good zombie down -- He just keeps getting back up again and groping for your brains.
I can tell you where the Marvel Zombies will continue -- right into the Marvel Universe itself! That's right, the flesh-eating fiends have blundered into the MU from the Man-Thing's Nexus of All-Realities and unleashed the undead plague into the world of Initiative, Secret Invasion, and all the rest.
You got it, this is an *in-continuity* series, with major ramifications for at least one MU hero -- one of my all-time Kirby favorites -- as the Initiative is forced to put together an unlikely crew of heroes together for a desperate mission into the Zombieverse to find the one thing that can save the MU from a total takeover by the undead!
IGN Comics: Will Cortez continue to serve as the primary villain figure?
Van Lente: No, New Wakanda doesn't factor into MZ3 at all.
IGN Comics: To what degree will the cast of characters change? Can we expect another shift to the future?
Van Lente: This series takes place during a very specific time period in "Zombie Continuity", but I think it gives too much away to tell you when, exactly. Rest assured all will be clear. I devoured MZ1, MZ2 and Dead Days to choose when we should best locate our tale.
IGN Comics: Are there any remaining Marvel characters that stand a chance of being zombified?
Van Lente: I think they're all zombified in the Zombieverse, right? Hence the name. We will definitely be focusing in this third installment on zombies that we haven't spent much time with before-- I'm talking heroes and villains. In issue #1, for example, we give the phrase "Merc with a Mouth" a whole new (and highly disturbing) meaning.
One of the nice things about Zombie Ghost Rider, for example, is that he flame-broils his meat as he brings it toward his mouth, thanks to the flames around his skull. You see, these are the kind of details previous series just didn't have the time touch on.
IGN Comics: It seems like the human and zombie populations have dwindled to a point of no return - will that be a central point of this upcoming series?
Van Lente: Yes. *The* central point, in fact. zombies' never-ending quest for a source of food is what leads them to the Marvel Universe in the first place.
Although one Zombified Marvel villain in particular has hit upon a novel way to produce nearly limitless food for his zombie hordes-- Through technology left over from one of the most controversial Marvel storylines of all time, thus leading to the single most grotesque scene I've ever set down in a comic. (How's that for a tease?)
Wait, no, actually the single most grotesque scene I've ever set down in a comic is the opening scene to MZ3 #1.
Let's just say the Florida Initiative team has a very, very, very bad day. Pity the Sunshine State. Pity them.
IGN Comics: Will there be any more hopping between universes?
Van Lente: Not only will there be more hopping between universes, in MZ3 we introduce the sister agency to S.W.O.R.D. and S.H.I.E.L.D., whose whole purpose is to fend off extradimensional threats -- They're the Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operation Response agency.
Yup, that's right. We've got S.W.O.R.D., S.H.I.E.L.D., and now A.R.M.O.R., which is headed up by a very appropriate 1990's MU character I was thwarted from using in MODOK's 11 (although -- little trivia for you M11 fans -- you can still see him in silhouette on Eric Powell's cover to M11 #1), and there are some other familiar Registered faces working for this agency as well. I smell spin-off!
Wait, no. That's rotting flesh.
IGN Comics: The plague that caused the zombie infestation is still a bit of a mystery. Will we learn its origin this time around?
Van Lente: The origin? No. But the science behind the zombie plague is the driving force behind the story -- Namely, a desperate attempt to create a vaccine, which requires a fear-fraught journey into the Zombieverse itself! MZ3 is much more of a paramilitary action-horror adventure in the Aliens mode than its predecessors, a desperate race against the clock to save the MU before it's completely overrun by the plague.
IGN Comics: Will we see any more of The Sentry, who was responsible for starting the infection?
Van Lente: The Sentry was only responsible for starting the infection in the "Zombieverse", of course. The zombies -- as Robert set up in Dead Days -- feel they have a mission "to spread the gospel," as they say, and so they actively seek out other dimensions to infect. They also prefer to infect superhumans as a more efficient means of spreading itself through the general population. This raises the possibility that the zombie virus is, itself, to some degree sentient.
All these concepts fuel the balls-to-the-wall high-octane gore-fest that is Marvel Zombies 3. You see, we're not just all blood and dismembered body parts. You may respect us for our brains, too.
Our delicious, delicious brains.
IGN Comics: It seems like the Marvel Zombies concept appeals to a much more casual comic book reader than other series might. Does Marvel find the typical Zombies reader to be remarkably different from the typical comic book reader?
Van Lante: No, they're basically same. Except for the brain-eating.
IGN Comics: Does the announcement of Marvel Apes mean that the run of Marvel Zombies is coming to an end? Can apes and zombies co-exist???
Van Lente: Hmmm... Undead cannibalistic super humans... Poo-flinging primates in costumes...
I know where I'd place *my* bet...