Marvel's "What If... Zombies?!" Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Marvel's "What If... Zombies?!" Review

Alexander Wallace wants brains.
There’s something about the undead (at least the form pilfered from Haitian mythology) that keeps gnawing at people. The idea of the dead rising to destroy us all is something the general public keeps wanting to sink its teeth into. Even the Marvel Cinematic, the undisputed juggernaut of twenty-first century popular culture, had indulged in the fifth episode of What If…? Perhaps in acknowledgment of how odd this is, the title of the episode ends not only in a question mark, but also an exclamation point.

Derived from the Marvel Zombies comic series, this episode starts with Hank Pym’s rescue of Janet Van Dyne being complicated by a quantum virus that turns her into a zombie. The virus spirals out of control, and soon much of the Earth has succumbed to the zombie plague. Most shockingly, this includes the Avengers. The concept is a sound one, as silly as a ‘quantum virus’ is from a hard science fiction perspective (but the MCU was always pretty pulpy), but it very much fits the tone of the franchise.

Much of the story is a journey through a godforsaken wasteland that used to be America but is now not much of anything other than hordes of hungry zombies. The characters are mostly those from the second and third phases of the franchise; Spider-Man, Hope Van Dyne, Sharon Carter, Happy Hogan, Okoye, and T’Challa all play major roles. Some of the funniest moments in the episode (like all episodes of the series, fairly brief) are Spider-Man’s homemade videos about dealing with the apocalypse, starring many other characters in somewhat frustrated secondary roles.

The episode moves on to meeting other characters, which I will not name, but make up the best part of the story. These two characters, who are recently familiar due to a Disney+ show, are walking emblems of what people will do to maintain a semblance of comfort and normalcy in the light of something that destroys normalcy, something that will be familiar to anyone who lived through 2020.

Otherwise, though, I found the episode to be a bit lacking. The character work wasn’t quite as good as some of the other episodes, and I didn’t think that there was quite the thematic grounding that the best of the series had. The highest points of the episode are twofold: the two characters I previously referred to, and Hope Van Dyne’s arc.

Overall, What If... Zombies?! was good, as the series tends to be, but didn’t quite meet expectations. It’s still worth watching if you're into the series, and it’s by all means well made in a technical sense. One just wishes it had a bit more meat on its narrative bones.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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