Marvel Zombies Supreme #1 by Frank Marraffino and Fernando Blanco

Marvel Zombies Supreme

Writer: Frank Marraffino

Penciler: Fernando Blanco

Inker: Michael Jason Paz

Colorist: Chris Chuckry

Cover: Michael Komarck, Arthur Suydam

I’ll have to put aside my own personal dislikes of zombies for a moment since I’m the type of person who tried to play the first Resident Evil video game with the lights off and got freaked out by the all-too-human whispers and groans, so I’ll  just enjoy it for what it is: the artwork overall for this book is really wonderful and yet what one might expect from a zombie themed book: scientists, special ops, some back story, the muted palette, sharp shadows, and gore.

One of the great things about this book is that you can tell the designers of the layout (and the artists) had fun with it. They utilized the layout of the fractured frames to activate not only the overarching story being told and the suspense and gore, but are directing the readers’ gaze and connection with what’s going on, as well as properly emphasizing foreshadow.  I kind of wish they used this more to push the boundary of the unnerving quality they have on reading the story.

On page six is where this articulation begins with the decent of the team into the complex which is mirrored by the same set of frames below by an ominous speedster character. This is followed up wonderfully with a disorientating forty-five degree tilt of three frames giving us a better sense of the urgency of the charging, white-eyed lunatic. However, there is a lighting issue as the top frame shows a pool of blood seemingly lit by a spotlight, anchoring our attention and at the same time drawing attention to the fact that: 1) aren’t the lights in a semi-shut down military installation dimmer and on some kind of emergency protocol and, 2) the light in the background, within its own space, is not only outshone by the spotlight but apparently the room farther back is also suspiciously lit by the same light. But then there could be a ceiling light right above the pool of blood. I feel both that this minor issue isn’t worth pining over and that it ultimately acts as an action anchor and foreshadowing device.

Also what’s a lot of fun about this book is that you really get immersed and appreciate the artwork throughout the book; the heavy line work and scruffy dashes combined with vibrant yet muted reds, blues, yellows, lavenders really force their own kind of contrast rather than just leaving it up to the action or perspective. The artwork sort of reminds one of some twisted pop-art combined with graffiti-like flourishes, like on page 14, 15, and other candied highlights like Nuke’s cameo hovering somewhere in the radioactive depths of the compound or the bullet explosions on Hyperion or the Whizzer’s lightning bolts.  I don’t want to have to point to the section that gives you the back story of this undead Squadron Supreme to illustrate my point because it’s really self evident throughout.

The use of translucency and opacity are other useful tactics to communicate to the reader past events or haunting events happening outside the character’s immediate knowledge. In a funny way this is offset by the moments of red and orange backlit frames that really pop out at the reader. Perhaps another good point is the use of color in communicating emotion or to set a mood. I think it’s pretty well known that people–especially marketing departments– use choice colors all the time to get us to buy things and artists have been using them for a while to impress upon the reader heightened states of violence, anger, or calm. There is a whole variety of levels of color saturation, translucency, and shifts in the dominant palette choices as you get further and further into the book. In one part it’s as subtle as on page 21 where the top two frames are purple/blue dominant and the bottom two are green/yellow dominant.

It’s interesting side note, that if you flip between pages 22 and 23 you notice that Hyperion looks like he’s jumping off of the large questionable cosmic looking device into the lava pit. Also interesting, as a sort of follow up from my other review of Giant-Sized Atom, is the scratching used on the floor on page 23 but also in select parts throughout the book. This is an example when it’s done responsibly: the artists treat the shadows as translucent and not solid shapes and since it’s not overdone you can get a sense of depth, wear, and texture—or rather you can split up or recognize that objects feel different visually and associate that with personal experiences and get the satisfaction that the characters (and story) you love are being treated well by those illustrating them enough so that they also care for the world they inhabit.