Episode 5 of What If …?, What If … Zombies?, is just like the old AM/PM ad slogan: it’s too much good stuff.
Zombies, The Story
How do you get zombies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the first place? Well, it seems they’ve been in the comics for a good long time. The mini series ran from December 2005 to April 2006 and was written by Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead. In that series, a zombie version of Reed Richards managed to trick his human counterpart into opening a portal to the zombie universe. Not such a good thing, but good Reed managed to contain everything again.
In What If … Zombies!?, The Watcher watches as the events transpire that opened up 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War movie. Bruce Banner’s Hulk form came to Earth to alert the Avengers to the presence of Thanos. But where are the Avengers? Not long after, Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian beam down to deliver those clever lines, “You are about to die at the hand of the children of Thanos. Be thankful, that your meaningless lives …” Zombies version of Tony Stark/Iron Man, Steven Strange/Dr. Strange, and Wong/Wong ambush, throttle (and, well, eat) them.
To quote Benjamin Grimm (who does not appear in this episode), What A Revoltin’ Development.
Ant Man and the Wasp provides the reason that Marvel’s superheroes have become zombies. Hank Pym’s discovered that his wife was a zombie at the end of his journey into the Quantum Realm. Expecting a lovely reunion, she infected Hank instead. Their daughter, Hope, aka: The Wasp, escaped and started a resistance movement. Scott Lang wasn’t so lucky.
None of these details should spoil anything about the episode. It is all about the rapid fire fighting sequences as the remaining good guys try to stay alive. Along with a few surprise twists at the end.
There are lots and lots of zombies in this episode of What If …? If this were live action, it might just make one squeamish. However, the animation comes across looking gross, but in a cartoonish sense. What really works in the episode is the fact that all the Avengers retain their powers once they’ve become zombies. Cap wields his shield, while flecks of phlegm exit his distended jaw. Tony Stark blows stuff up with his repulsors. Falcon flies with greater precision than he should. Dr. Strange continues to do Strange things, maybe even better than when he wasn’t a zombie. You get the picture.
This makes the action really fun to watch. And there is a whole lot of action going on. As with all things good in zombie movies, there is set piece action, hero against hero, and then there is a whole lot of zombies getting mowed down en masse, like so much cordwood. The variety of action is almost staggering for a show that is roughly 30 minutes in length. That is the general mantra of this show – give the people a heaping helping of what they want. And it works, too … very well.
The 3D makeup artists worked overtime to deliver on the premise of zombies. Each of the characters remains framed as their original facial structure dictates. The artists then liberally apply zombie decay. When characters reappear, they are spectacularly unsettling – Yuk!
All zombie shows need humor. Zombies by themselves are evil in a stoic way. In the comic book version of this storyline, the super zombies can still talk to a degree, but in the show – not so much. So it’s up to the living to deliver humorous asides and witty punch lines.
Zombies In Action
The animators for the What If …? series simply have the whole animation thing down pat. And in this episode, it’s down pat in spades. The show starts with Bruce Banner being attacked and saved again and again. The fighting is well delineated and super crisp. The initial battle between Thanos’ henchmen and the Zomb-engers is stunningly complex and extremely satisfying. It sets the stage for everything that follows. At no time does the visual look of the series seem too fast to absorb, yet the pace is extremely driven. As has been said in the past, don’t blink or you’ll miss something.
Some vignettes will help to show how diverse this episode is and how it employs great storytelling elements:
- The Cloak of Levitation, previously used by Dr. Strange, is now on its own and is ready to help the good guys out. There is a great moment when Peter Parker dons the cloak while kitted out as Spider-Man. Brilliant … and also, if you remember, significant, because the Cloak of Levitation has to choose the wearer, not the other way around.
- Peter Parker, possibly because of his past work at the Daily Bugle, shares a zombie training video that is meant to help people like Bruce Banner to escape becoming one of them. It is lightning quick and extremely funny.
- Both Peter Parker and T’Challa (when we meet him later in the episode) help ground the story and interject a much needed moral compass to all the zombie action. They help to steady the seriously rocking boat even in the worst weather.
- Good guy Happy Hogan delivers in this show. He provides some self-deprecating humor in Peter Parker’s training video and is ridiculed by Sharon Carter because he yells, “blam!” every time he fires the repulsor glove that he reclaimed from Tony Stark, his former boss.
Cue The Voiceover Homages
Because this episode focuses on zombies, you might think it give a pass to the voice acting, but you’d be wrong. This episode features a long list of some of the best MCU characters as humans. For various reasons, some of the actors who stepped up in earlier shows did not for this one. It’s possible that Tom Holland couldn’t reprise Peter Parker because of film commitments. Here is a list of the best from this episode: Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner), Paul Bettany (The Vision), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Paul Rudd (Ant Man), and Danai Gurira (Okoye). The last two, Rudd and Gurira, were especially effective, bringing Rudd’s giddy optimism and Gurira’s warrior mentality to the vocals.
New episodes of What If …? air each Wednesday on Disney +. Be there or be very, very square.
Source: YouTube – Marvel What If Episode 5 Zombies TOP 10 Breakdown and Avengers Easter Eggs