After one bright initial episode, and a second one that was a lot of fun, Marvel’s What If…? has gotten steadily darker. I’ve commented before that I wonder if the writers are in a contest to see who can come up with the most depressing storyline. Well, you just know things aren’t going to go great when next up is “What If…Zombies?” This is an adaptation of the Marvel Zombies comic, a tale of an alternate Earth that appeared in print various times.
In this world, Bruce Banner gets sent back to Earth as seen in Infinity War to warn of Thanos coming, but when he crashes into the Sanctum, there’s no one there. He wanders out into mostly deserted city streets, sees Thanos’ Ebony Maw appear, as in the movie as well, and, also familiarly, Hulk refuses to come out. Then, things change. As the title suggests, a zombie plague has hit Earth, many familiar faces have fallen. Unusually, those infected remember some of their special skills and fighting abilities. Banner, horrified, alone, and powerless, looks like he’s going to die any second now but gets saved by one of the few surviving heroes.
Meeting a resistance of greater and lesser players from the MCU (and far too few of them), Banner (and us) gets told what has happened, how the plague started, and how so many powerful heroes fell to it. The survivors range from the well-known (Spider-Man) to the fairly obscure (Kurt, the Russian computer hacker from the Ant-Man and the Wasp movies, played by David Dastmalchian, who was also recently Polka-Dot Man in Suicide Squad). With a homemade instructional video and a nod to Joss Weadon’s production company, we see the state of the world and get some surprising jokes. I won’t say what kicked off this vicious plague, but one particular family has now derailed the MCU twice from what is “supposed” to happen.
The surviving characters get a lead on a possible cure, and set out for Ft. Lehigh, New Jersey, a place that played a key part in the origin of Captain America, and seen in the Winter Soldier Movie. They have to improvise transportation, and lose some of their number when they’re attacked by a horde of mindless zombies and a few fallen heroes. On the way there, more fights occur, including more former heroes attacking and one survivor gaining control of a famous weapon. We also get the classic trope of someone being injured and knowing they’re going to turn. That one sacrifices themself to get the others where they were heading.
Here they find a real mixed bag of a sanctuary, a survivor, but also a traitor to the human race and a very dangerous enemy. Through a combination of combat and reasoning, the group loses more members but manages to get away. They have some hope, are heading for a known safe spot, and there’s at least a glimmer of hope. Until the last scene, and we see what they’re heading for, and the Watcher declares the end of this universe near. From what we saw, I’d believe it.
What I liked: I’m very impressed by the percentage of the movie stars who come back to recreate their roles for this series. Despite a dark bent to the story, there were some moments of great humor. I’m entertained by the sort of crossover that occurred with one character/actor in this story. There were some possible survivors from this one, and some faint hope for a good outcome. We also didn’t see or hear about a few characters, so some of them may have survived at least as far as this story went.
What I didn’t: Maybe the Watcher has some kind of undiagnosed depression, and only looks in on dark worlds? I really wish they’d get back to the lighter tone of the first few episodes. I’m not sure why, unlike almost every version of a zombie I’ve ever seen, these retrained so many skills, and I don’t get how a few of the heroes fell.
For all the bits I didn’t care for, there was some great work in this one. I haven’t read the Marvel Zombies comics; they just didn’t appeal to me for whatever reason, but I’m told this is a decent adaptation. I’ll give this a 4 out of 5. At this rate, I’m wondering if the season finale is going to be a supernova that destroys the Earth, and season two is just bits of ash floating around with remnants of costumes we recognize.