by Etienne Paul, CMRO Editor
Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies
Issue #1 (BattleWorld)
Written by James Robinson with Art by Steve Pugh and Jim Charalampidis
Have I ever mentioned that I hate zombies? I’m sure I have, but in case I haven’t here is my explanation. Firstly I really do not like the visual quality of zombies, or more to the point, their lack of quality. In fact zombies in comics is my utter anathema because whenever they exist I want to art to be ‘bad’ while at the same time utterly hating it. When I say ‘bad’ what I mean is ‘imprecise’ which to me is pretty much the same thing. I know that art is subjective, but for me the word ‘impressionist’ basically means ‘cannot be bothered to finish it.’
I say that mostly tongue in cheek because some of the really astonishing impressionists work has an effect on me, but given a choice between owning a Monet or comic page drawn by Cassaday, I’d take the latter in a heart beat.* So that is the balancing act, I hate the look of zombies so I prefer them to be blurred and imprecise, but that in turn ruins the rest of the comic for me. So Mr. Pugh manages to turn in quite a triumph in that the art in the book is pretty astonishing, but equally nondescript when it comes to the zombies themselves, quite a feat to pull that off I have to admit.
So then comes my second problem with zombies (you didn’t think it was going to be that easy did you?) and that is hope. For me an important part of a story is knowing and seeing that the characters have hope. One of my other pet hates in stories is time travel, and not just any old time travel, but the ones where they are trapped in the past or future and have no clear way back. That feeling of claustrophobia, trapped in the story, is exactly how I feel as a reader in a zombie book with no hope and hoards of the undead closing in all around.
So while this book manages to survive my first ‘test’ of a zombie book, it more than fails the second one and not just because of the zombies. The Ultron robots are just as much ‘zombies’ as the shambling rotting mounds are, you cannot reason with them, they are around in unstoppable masses and are even more relentless. When the 1872 Hank Pym is quietly and without fuss deposited over the wall for crimes against Doom, I felt that hideous loss of hope that come from a simple innocent man being lost in the teeming masses of zombies.
To be honest, the fact that the book ‘terrifies’ me in the way it does pretty much proves it is working exactly as intended. I chose to put this on the review list because I wanted to forced myself to look at this sort of title properly, rather than skim read it as fast as possible and get onto something I liked better. In one way it had the desired effect, I looked at this issue more rationally than I would do normally, and to one extent I really appreciated the book for what it brought. However on the other hand I simply hated it as much as I can hate pixels on a screen.
I you are predisposed to like zombie films/books then the chances are pretty good that you will really like this series. If however you are like me and cannot stand them, then this will do little to change your mind and if it is ok with everyone I will go back to my comfortable chair and continue to skim read the rest of the series.
* Except for the financial value, obviously I’d take the former, sell it and buy myself a nice mansion to live in, but it would be decorated with Cassadays art!