If you know me, then chances are you’ll know about my borderline obsession with Nextwave. And that I’m a sucker for zombie stories, and by extension Marvel Zombies. When the announcement of a Secret Wars Marvel Zombies starring Nextwave standout (in a cast of standouts) Elsa Bloodstone dropped a few months back, I /freaked/. Written by Si Spurrier (X-Men Legacy, X-Club) and drawn by Kev Walker (Marvel Zombies 3-4, Avengers Academy) with colors by Frank D’Armata (Invincible Iron Man, Captain America), this all-star team absolutely doesn’t help with me being so excited. I’m a big fan of all the people involved, and boy, did they deliver.
The underlying premise is as simple as it gets. Elsa Bloodstone, a soldier of The Shield protecting the rest of Battleworld from the zombies and other uglies inhabiting the southern territories. A slight mishap with a teleporting zombie landed her way deep into the Deadlands, and she inexplicably encounters a kid when she landed. And so, the two journey to find a way home, out of the zombie-filled wasteland that is the Deadlands.
With the very simplistic and straightforward premise, you’d think this’ll be a straight popcorn comic filled with Miss Bloodstone kicking zombie heads until they explode while slinging lots and lots of snark. Don’t get me wrong, the book has that in spades, but it’s by no means the center of the story. I feel that the focus here is an exploration of Elsa’s past, her childhood training with her father the immortal hardass and Fabio lookalike Ulysses Bloodstone, unwillingly drudged up during her trip with the kid she dubs “Shuttup” shortly into their journey.
Her past has been hinted at in Nextwave and some resentment for her father was shown in other books, but never fully explored this deep before. On the surface, Elsa Bloodstone the ever-confident and unflappable snark-slinging monster-slaughterer is interesting.
Dig further into her character, you’ll find a girl that’s been molded by her father into a weapon and hates him for it, yet he still has his influence deep in her psyche even when he’s long since dead. This, to me, is one of the most interesting aspects of her character that makes her one of my favorites, and I hope Spurrier keeps digging more into this as the series goes.
Walker and D’Armata delivers some of their finest work I’ve ever seen here. The shifts in color tone between the early scenes on The Shield, Elsa’s childhood flashbacks, and the Deadlands give each part of the book their own distinct looks. And the zombies…oh god, the zombies. From a single-tentacled zombie Doc-Ock trying to cop a feel at Elsa and getting a joycannon shot in the face for his troubles to a lipless Juggernaut trying to lick Elsa’s head off, are all gold. The sequence on the Shield with a zombified Azazel jumping around and the ensuing fight that resulted in Elsa being dumped unceremoniously in the Deadlands is a definite standout moment. The updates given to Ulysses and Elsa’s look are also winners. Ulysses looks even more like the grizzled, experienced hunter now and is exactly what I imagine when I think of “hardass father”.
While I like Elsa’s old post-Nextwave look, it makes sense for her to look more utilitarian and professional when she’s a ranking officer on The Shield. This new catsuit screams just that, and it still retains her flair by keeping the orange. And Elsa at seven is a poor, little, precious thing with the cutest overalls. Yes, I caught the Space Panda that was on Deathlocket’s shirt back in Arena.
For all the praises I sing, this book isn’t quite without its faults. Despite all the things happening in all 22 pages, the setup takes a bit long, and it could be trimmed a bit. Hardly a complaint for me though, I enjoyed all 22 pages and as they say, it’s about the journey, not the destination. So far, I’ve enjoyed the journey immensely. Another….not quite a fault, but just a little nitpick, is that Elsa’s eyes are green in this, and apparently being a redhead since 7. I can let these slide, though. Elsa’s eyes switch from blue to green in Nextwave and other books rather often, and little Elsa is way too cute to nitpick about.
All in all, this might as well be the best Secret Wars tie-in yet, and it still has a lot of potential. Fingers crossed that this upwards momentum keeps up until the end of the series, and I’m confident that everyone on the team can pull it off. Here’s hoping that this series keeps getting better and better, and more people will fall in love with Elsa Bloodstone like Spurrier (and I) did.
PS: This issue is better enjoyed with a cup of tea. Scones optional, but recommended.