Marvel Zombies: Backstory & Retrospective

Hungry, Hungry Heroes

[Ultimate Reed Richards has been invited to another universe and entered a post-apocalyptic New York.]
Reed:My God. What happened here?
[The Fantastic Four emerge from fog]
Zombie Reed:Ever get the feeling you’ve been had?

Ultimate Fantastic Four #21

You creep through the sewers, a bag of food and medical supplies clutched to your side. The infected nearly saw you and you had to kill one, but you gave the remaining monster the slip. You reach a dead end and knock on a wall. It opens, revealing a chamber and several other survivors. You set the supplies down as the wall closes behind you. The survivors don’t have much, but at least you’re all still alive.

The chamber shakes as something hits the wall. Everyone aims at the wall. You were followed. A green fist smashes through and tears an opening. The survivors open fire on the infected, but it does nothing. A star-spangled shield blocks the bullets. Adamantium claws tear through survivors while the jade giant eats them whole. You grab a nearby child and run for your life.

Your lungs burn when you stop and clutch the child close. Fear overwhelms his features as he points at a bite mark on your wrist. You hadn’t noticed. You’re tired, and scared, and so…very…hungry! Your teeth tear into the boy’s throat. It isn’t long before he’s gone. You leave without a second look. You know where a few more survivor camps are, and like hell you’re sharing with the other zombies.

Marvel Zombies was a popular storyline in the Aughts. Horror and comedy mixed together to tell the story of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes becoming Earth’s Hungriest Corpses. So what was it? How did this nightmare start? Can anyone or anything stop the Marvel Zombies? Let’s find out. It’s time to spread the Gospel.

A Meal to Die For: The Marvel Zombies Backstory

[Zombies have surrounded an uninfected Magneto]
Captain America:I know you’re not looking forward to being devoured, but I give you my word: if you surrender, I’ll make sure you die painlessly first.
Wolverine:Screw that! I want to hear this one squeal! The fight is half the fun. I’ve been waiting for this.
Daredevil:Just submit. We can see you’re about to pass out. You’re a wreck… this is only gonna end badly. Why put yourself through one last struggle?
Magneto:There’s plenty of fight still left in me.

Marvel Zombies #1

The Marvel Zombies debuted in Ultimate Fantastic Four #21 in 2005. They were created by Greg Land and The Walking Dead’s Rob Kirkman. The first issue was disguised as a crossover between Marvel’s Ultimate imprint and the main universe to hide the twist ending. Fun Fact: Patient Zero was meant to be an infected Superman, but he was recolored to avoid a lawsuit.

A portal appeared in the sky over New York City. The Avengers investigated and found The Sentry, badly wounded and feral. He tore through their ranks, infecting them with a virus that zombified the heroes and forced them to eat others to sate their hunger and pain. Readers later learned that the virus, called The Hunger Gospel, is sentient and purposely targeted superpowered hosts.

The Avengers went on a rampage, easily infecting allies and enemies who weren’t prepared for their brutal tactics. Quicksilver’s infection was the turning point, as the World’s Fastest Man spread the Gospel worldwide. Within days, most of the population had been devoured. The only survivors were Magneto’s Acolytes, a crippled Black Panther, and remnants of Wakanda.

The Marvel Zombies turned on each other as food became scarce. The Fantastic Four began work on a dimensional portal while the other heroes hunted the newly arrived Silver Surfer. The Avengers and Spider-Man ate the Surfer, gaining his cosmic power in the process. They turned that power against Galactus and consumed the Devourer of Worlds. Absorbing his power transformed the Zombies into a new Galactus, allowing them to leave Earth in search of more victims.

The Infinity Buffet: The Marvel Zombie’s History

Giant Man: [at the end of the universe] “Wow. I can’t believe we ate the whole thing.”

Marvel Zombies 2

The Galacti spread through the universe like a wildfire and eventually ate almost everyone. Giant Man remembered the Fantastic Four had been working on dimensional travel and convinced the others to return to Earth. 

On Earth, tensions mounted between an aging Black Panther and the Acolytes’ leader. The Wasp and Hawkeye discovered that a zombie’s hunger fades over time. In space, a guilt-ridden Spider-Man also began to notice his fading hunger.

The Acolytes tried to assassinate Black Panther, necessitating his transformation into a zombie. The Galacti arrived on Earth, but Spider-Man and Luke Cage turned on them to protect the remaining humans. The good zombies held out long enough for the others to realize that their hunger had faded. Unfortunately the Acolyte leader used a dimensional portal to send the Marvel Zombies to another universe.

Despite Spider-Man’s best efforts, The Hunger Gospel destroyed this Earth as well. Spidey gathered a team of zombie Avengers to battle the seven remaining evil zombies, who certainly weren’t supposed to represent the Justice League. The Avengers released a bio-weapon that killed everyone but The Sentry. The Watcher opened a portal to the first Earth and trapped the Hunger Gospel in a time loop. Those two worlds are doomed, but the rest of the multiverse was saved. Or was it?

The Multiverse of Munchies: Marvel Zombies’ Modern Stories

Machine Man:Greetings, rotting fleshy ones. I have been programmed to eviscerate your repulsive squishy organic bits and chew gum. And I hate gum.

Marvel Zombies 3

Most of the Hunger Gospel was trapped in the time loop, but small branches kept reaching out to other universes. The Marvel Zombies attempted to invade the Age of Ultron universe and the Marvel Apes world, but both attempts were repelled. There was also a crossover prequel with The Evil Dead, starring Bruce Cambell’s Ash Williams character.

Marvel’s main universe encountered the Hunger Gospel when the zombified Kingpin and Doctor Strange plotted to invade. Their scouts were destroyed by S.W.O.R.D. and the android Machine Man destroyed the portal. The worlds were cut off, but Deadpool’s zombified head and a sample of the Hunger Gospel remained.

Mystic villains led by The Hood planned to use the Virus to conquer the world for their patron, Dormammu. In response, Morbius reformed the Midnight Sons to destroy every trace of the virus. They mostly succeeded, but Headpool survived and became Deadpool’s sidekick for a while.

During a recent storyline in Thor, the titular hero saw a vision of the future. Thanos stood on a desolate Earth, with an army of zombies at his beck and call and an Infinity Stone-laden Mjolnir in hand. The message was clear. At some point, The Hunger Gospel will arrive in the main Marvel Universe. A final battle between the Marvel Heroes and the Marvel Zombies looms ever closer.

Appearances in Other Media

Marvel’s What If? – “What If… Zombies?!”
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Marvel Zombies: The Series – Upcoming

Didya Get All That?

The world’s greatest heroes become its destroyers.

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