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It's all fun and games... 'til they eat your brains.

It started with a flash in the sky, and a ripple through the clouds. The hunger is what brought it here; and feed it did, until the Marvel Heroes were no more. They were replaced by soulless monsters, driven only by an insatiable craving for human flesh.
This is no world of Marvel Heroes.
This is the world of... Marvel Zombies.
Opening blurb, Marvel Zombies

Marvel Zombies in a nutshell — an alien virus known as the "Hunger Gospel" is carried into an Elseworlds version of the Marvel Comics universe by a zombified Sentry has transformed the Marvel superheroes and supervillains into cannibalistic zombies who, by the time we're introduced to them, have already consumed every living thing on their own Earth (in twenty four hours, no less) and so are desperately searching for a new source of food so as to quell the vicious, all-consuming hunger that they feel.

The popular franchise stems from a 2005 arc of Ultimate Fantastic Four, "Crossover", which teased at a meeting between the Ultimate Marvel universe and the mainstream one, through a meeting of the two different versions of the Fantastic Four, only for Ultimate Reed to discover that he'd been tricked by the zombie Reed Richards trying to find a portal to another dimension and, thus, a new food source for the zombies. The arc was popular, resulting in six mini-series and several guest appearances following the exploits of the zombies at time of writing (April 2010). Plus, the zombified Fantastic Four end up becoming the Ultimate version of the Frightful Four.

As it is in another universe and has its own premise, the Marvel Zombies are not considered part of the Ultimate Marvel line, regardless of their editorial origin.

The Marvel Zombies franchise following this Arc consists of:

  • Marvel Zombies: What happened after "Crossover". The Zombies hunt the last few non-infected people in the world (including Magneto and Black Panther) and try to figure out what to do once they've eaten everything — when the Silver Surfer, Herald of Galactus, shows up looking for worlds that his master can consume...
  • Marvel Zombies: Dead Days: One-off prequel showing exactly what happened when the Zombie Sentry showed up, and how the Marvel Zombies world came to be.
  • Marvel Zombies vs. The Army of Darkness: Intercontinuity Crossover with the Evil Dead series; at the same time as Dead Days, Ash Williams finds himself in the Marvel Zombies universe. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Marvel Zombies 2: Set forty years after Marvel Zombies. After realizing they've eaten almost all of the life in the universe, the surviving zombies return to Earth to make another try at building a dimensional portal. There, the descendants of the Black Panther and Magneto's Acolytes have built a tiny settlement in the ruins of New York City, and Fabian Cortez's grandson has plans of his own.
  • Marvel Zombies 3: Set between Marvel Zombies and Marvel Zombies 2. The alternate-reality police organization ARMOR dispatches Aaron Stack, a.k.a. Machine Man, and Jocasta to the Marvel Zombies universe in an attempt to create a vaccine for the zombie disease. What they don't know is that the entire thing is a trick by the zombie version of Michael Morbius, to ensure a new food supply for the zombies left behind on his Earth.
  • Marvel Zombies 4: After Marvel Zombies 3, the Midnight Sons have reformed to stop the spread of the virus and deal with the Zombies once and for all.
  • Marvel Zombies Return: Set after Marvel Zombies 2: The original Marvel Zombies have been teleported out of their original universe into Earth-Z, an untouched universe reflecting different eras of Marvel Comics. Whilst Zombie Spider-Man tries to find a cure or solution for their condition, Zombie Giant Man decides to find new worlds to feed on...
  • Marvel Zombies: Evil Evolution: What happens when the Marvel Zombies meet the Marvel Apes. Set during Dead Days.
  • Marvel Zombies 5: Set after Marvel Zombies 4. Machine Man and Howard the Duck tour the Marvel multiverse searching for various types of zombies to help Morbius's research into a cure.
  • Marvel Zombies Supreme: Jill Harper and her Guardsmen team are sent to investigate a distress call at an isolated Project: Pegasus facility. What they find out is that a renegade biologist has A) cloned the Squadron Supreme and B) accidentally turned the clones into zombies. Notable for not having any overt connections to the "Hunger Gospel" virus, for being the series that brought back the Jack of Hearts, and for the second issue, which is pretty much designed to irritate the hell out of Superman fans.
  • Marvel Zombies Destroy! (2012): In an alternate reality, the Nazis used a zombie plague to win World War II. When ARMOR discovers the Nazis have perfected a warship that can travel between parallel Earths, Howard the Duck and Dum-Dum Dugan assemble a team of Golden Age and World War II heroes to go to the zombie Nazis' Earth and take them out before they can mount an invasion.
  • Marvel Zombies Halloween (2012): Several years after the Hunger Gospel was released, a survivor's young son decides he wants to celebrate Halloween. It doesn't go well.
  • Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies (2015): It's zombie apocalypse vs. robot apocalypse on Battleworld as heroes like Jim Hammond (the original Human Torch), Tigra and others are caught in the middle of a realm where the zombies and Ultron horde square off. Part of the Secret Wars (2015) storyline.
  • Marvel Zombies (2015): Elsa Bloodstone travels the Deadlands, protecting a young ward and dealing with zombies as she goes. Part of the Secret Wars (2015) storyline.
  • Marvel Zombies: Resurrection (2019): The Avengers, Fantastic Four, and X-Men go to investigate the corpse of Galactus at the edge of the solar system, and come back from space changed into "Earth's mightiest predators". Several years later, Spider-Man leads a small group of survivors hoping to find a cure. Initially announced under the name Respawn, it is a reboot of the concept, set in its own continuity and taking heavy cues from its contemporary counterpart DCeased. There is little in the way of humor and the Hunger Gospel is completely absent in favor of an alien contagion known as the Respawned.

The zombies and the Hunger Gospel have appeared in multiple other books as well, as cameos or antagonists. Most notably, the 13-issue series Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth is the story of a time-traveling Deadpool meeting and killing several of the B-list zombies who survived the massacre in the original book. An arc in Reginald Hudlin's run on Black Panther also featured the Zombies.

The term "Marvel Zombies", by the way, stems from an old nickname for devotees of Marvel Comics.

Elements of this comic franchise are incorporated into the fifth episode of the Marvel Cinematic Universe animated anthology series What If…? (2021). An animated adaption is set to air on Disney+ which will continue the story of the What If...? episode. It will be notable as being the first TV-MA program created expressly for the streaming service (which had previous forbade the inclusion of movies and shows with adult content ratings).

Marvel Zombies provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Aborted Arc:
    • In Dead Days, Magneto mentions to Cortez that they "made a deal" with something to bring the Hunger Gospel to Earth, and in so doing, inadvertently doomed the entire planet. Neither he nor Cortez elaborate on this, and later volumes seem to ignore this entirely. Officially, the Zombies and Return universes are stuck in a stable time loop; the plague is initially brought by the infected Sentry, who begins a series of events that end with the last few zombies being sent back in time to the Return universe, which results in the Sentry getting infected...
    • Ultimate Doom was never seen escaping the zombie reality, nor was Ash ever seen escaping the werewolf reality. However, both ended up getting out of their predicaments and continued onward with little explanation as to how either thing happened.
  • Accidental Murder: Subverted, Earth-Z Sandman was running away from Zombie Spider-Man after the latter had brutally killed the other 5 members of the Sinister Six but the Spider-Man of his dimension arrived at the wrong place at the worst possible time. Sandman snaps and gruesomely kills him in a frenzied attack by forcing himself into Spider-Man's mouth and into his body, swelling him up before bursting out of his body.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The zombie virus corrupts everyone it infects, but special mention must go to Hank Pym and Reed Richards, who not only anticipate their infection, but actually come to like what they have become, with Pym admitting that he might still eat people even if he found a cure and Reed deliberately turning his own family (although Reed at least may have the excuse that he went a little insane after the deaths of his children).
  • Alternate History: In the primary universe, before the zombies showed up, Steve Rogers is Colonel America, and at some point in the past, he served a partial term as President of the United States.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • The main Marvel Zombies universe is a strange blend of continuities. The general idea seems to be that every character from the Marvel Universe who could be in the story is in the story, usually wearing their classic or best-known costume. It ends up looking vaguely like one of those stories where characters are pulled into the action from all across the timestream, so you have the classic Silver Age characters wearing their old gear and standing next to the Runaways or Nextwave. This gets particularly strange when Power Pack shows up, since they're all back at their original ages.
    • As an example, Magneto has a base on "Asteroid M" and is accompanied by his Acolytes, including Fabian Cortez, who weren't introduced until the 1990s. In Dead Days, however, the X-Men's lineup and costumes date back to the Claremont/Cockrum period in the early '80s, except for Kitty Pryde, who's wearing her blue "Shadowcat" costume from several years later, and Wolverine, who's in the then-standard yellow suit rather than his brown-and-tan costume from the period.
    • The universe of Returns is an even more extreme case, where the out-of-universe timeline advances by about a decade each issue.
  • And I Must Scream: In the first issue of the original series, Magneto uses Captain America's shield to take off Hawkeye's head. In MZ2, T'Challa's grandson finds Hawkeye's head. He's not quite all there anymore, after spending the better part of forty years lying under some rubble in a post-apocalyptic New York City, unable to move and with no-one to talk to.
  • Anti-Hero: Spider-Man's anti-zombie New Avengers (himself, zombie!Wolverine, zombie!Hulk, and cyborg Iron Man/James Rhodes), Zombie Deadpool (a.k.a. Headpool), and the Midnight Sons.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • Class 3 —-> Class X-4. A small community of humans and mutants may be the last living creatures in the universe, they do not have the genetic diversity required to successfully repopulate Earth (which means their initial population was less than 160 people), and their new leader is a power-hungry madman.
    • At the end of Marvel Zombies Return, that particular alternate Earth may actually have it worse. The only surviving humans on the planet are James Rhodes and Flint Marko, which makes Rhodey the last living baseline human, and the Kree, Skrulls, and Shi'ar have all attempted and failed to wipe out the zombies on Earth. Galactic civilization, on the other hand, is largely intact, as the Zombie Not!JLA never got off the planet.
    • Resurrection is "only" a Class 2: there's been a significant global die-back, with humanity reduced to scattered bands of survivors caught between hordes of undead led by super-zombies and Phalanx-infected mechanicals. However, the characters mention that a potentially significant number of human survivors were able to escape off-planet. By the end of the 2020 miniseries, much of the zombies' leadership has been killed and/or trapped in Limbo with no way out, but an infected Carol Danvers is implied to have survived and assumed command.
  • Arc Words: "It started with a flash in the sky, and a ripple through the clouds" is used by Mr. Fantastic, Spider-Man and the narration to describe the origins of the outbreak.
    • Multiple zombies discuss the need to "spread the gospel" without ever coming into contact with each other.
    • In Resurrection, the new Arc Words are "Come and see."
  • Badass Normal: Ash G. Williams, the alternate version of Ash J. Williams, despite not experiencing the same events his original counterpart did, managed to survive quite well through the early stage of the invasion. He even managed to kill Hulkling and Multiple Man. The only reason he got killed is that he saw his canon self and let his guard down, allowing a zombified Howard the Duck to chomp into the back of his head.
  • Big Bad: In Return, Ant-Man is the closest thing to a main villain as he uses his intellect to open to different worlds to feed on.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: New Avengers (Universe Z) vs. Zombies and Zombies vs. Midnight Sons.
  • Black Comedy: 3, 5, and Destroy! all have some pretty humorous moments stuck between the pure horror that is the series.
  • Blatant Lies: In the Black Panther crossover storyline, the Zombi Galactus face the Earth-616 Fantastic Four (currently consisting of Black Panther, Storm, the Thing and the Human Torch);
    Zombie Giant-Man: All right, hand over the trans-dimensional device and nobody gets hurt.
    Human Torch: You realise you've got no credibility with that statement, right?
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to regular Marvel titles, especially since it's all about a Zombie Apocalypse. Inverted with the Secret Wars tie-ins, which are about as violent as the typical Marvel comic.
  • Body Horror: Aside from the obvious, in Marvel Zombies Return, Spider-Man learns how to use his own veins and arteries as makeshift webbing. On top of it all, despite being a zombie who supposedly can't feel pain, doing so is incredibly painful for him. By the end of Return, he, in a fit of rage over losing his chance at being human again, rips off his skin and throws it in a trash can.
  • Butt-Monkey: When Deadpool visits the Marvel Zombies universe in Merc With a Mouth, he runs into Zombie Cypher, who has no relevant powers whatsoever and is treated like the other zombies' annoying kid sidekick.
  • Call-Back: In the original Ultimate Fantastic Four arc, Magneto makes his entrance by flattening an infected Dr. Strange with a pile of cars. In 3, The Kingpin's group of zombies recover Strange from beneath the pile after the Galacti leave earth; although badly brain-damaged, he's still capable of using his powers to view alternate realities, inspiring the Kingpin's plan to invade Earth 616.
  • Came Back Strong: Averted. Becoming zombies has made quite a few of the infected characters weaker. Wolverine and Hulk don't have their healing factors anymore, Thor being bloodthirsty means he can no longer lift Mjölnir (he uses a cinderblock with a pipe attached as replacement), and Eddie Brock is no longer a suitable host for the Venom Symbiote (which eventually just falls off and dies).
  • The Cameo: Actually invoked during the Army of Darkness crossover, when Nextwave makes an appearance, with a caption box outright telling the readers it's a "purely superfluous cameo", and that they're all horribly killed off-screen moments later.
  • The Captain: Hank Pym aka Giant Man appears to be the alpha of the main pack of zombies as he is shown giving commands to the other zombies, and the other zombies appearing to ask for orders from him however they seem to be only taking orders from him because he is the smartest and can lead them to more food but they are quick to disobey him when their hunger is overwhelming.
  • Captain Ersatz: In the Return, the triumphant zombie superheroes form a Captain Ersatz-version of the Justice League with Zombie Sentry as Superman, Zombie Quasar as Green Lantern, Zombie Namor as Aquaman, Zombie Quicksilver as the Flash, Super-Skrull as the Martian Manhunter, Zombie Moon Knight as Batman, Zombie Thundra as Wonder Woman and Zombie Giant-Man as the Atom. This is actually a relatively subtle joke about Mark Millar's original proposal for the "Crossover" plot, which would've had a barely-concealed Superman as the cause of the outbreak. This got shot down by his editor, but small references to it persist throughout the series, such as Ash shooting the Sentry and leaving a Superman-logo-shaped hole in his costume.
  • Continuity Nod: In 3, zombie Kingpin is mentioned offhand to have been shot and then infected early in the outbreak, and he has several conspicuous bullet holes in his suit during a flashback. This is a nod to how he was seemingly shot to death by the Punisher without being infected during the events of Army of Darkness.
  • Continuity Snarl:
    • Dead Days and Vs. Army of Darkness have a couple of muddled background details, although none of them really detract from the main storyline:
      • The biggest snarl is that Alison Blaire is shown in the original UFF "Crossover" book in a crowd scene as a zombie, but is a supporting character in Vs. Army of Darkness and gets all the flesh blown off her head by Doctor Doom before she can turn. Marvel Database hypothesizes that, as she wasn't a zombie yet, she was revived as a part of the deadite army and subsequently infected.
      • Iron Fist is turned into a zombie in two different ways: he's bitten by an infected Black Cat in the title page of Vs. Army of Darkness #2, and Luke Cage bites him in the big battle scene in Dead Days.
      • Vs. Army of Darkness depicts Hercules and She-Hulk getting infected at the same time, but in Dead Days She-Hulk is long zombified and killed while Hercules appears in the group scene in the Helicarrier.
    • An already-zombified Deadpool is seen getting completely vaporized note  in the foreground of a large battle shot in the original Marvel Zombies, only to make a complete return later without explanation as a full-scale character both within that universe and 616.
    • In the original miniseries, Colonel America and Iron Man discuss their uncertainty as to whether or not decapitation would have killed Hawkeye permanently, and Iron Man claims that they aren't sure what it would take to put them down for good. This despite the fact that the heroes killed zombies by the dozens during the events of Dead Days.
    • The Vision is seen as a zombie during the attack on Silver Surfer in the original miniseries. 3 later shows him, not a zombie (it has been established by that point robots can't be turned) but as a captive of the zombies doing Zombie Scarlet Witch's bidding.
    • The Absorbing Man is killed off in both Marvel Zombies 3 and Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth. It's especially egregious because both writers independently came up with the idea to have the protagonists kill him by tricking him into absorbing a weaker material (another zombie in 3, toilet paper in Merc With A Mouth.)
  • Crapsack World: The entire world (and later, almost the entire multiverse) has been overrun by vicious, cannibalistic zombies, all of whom retain their sentience but are powerless to control their hunger.
  • Crossover: With Ash Williams from Evil Dead.
  • Darker and Edgier: By its very nature, Marvel Zombies is this to the mainline comics, being stories of your favorite heroes being turned into vicious flesheaters who eventually willingly embrace their newfound monstrous state. Marvel Zombies Resurrection is even darker than the original books, as it lacks the Black Comedy angle.
  • Dead Guy Junior: In Marvel Zombies Halloween, a boy named Peter and his mother were survivors of the zombie apocalypse, living alone on a secluded farm, until Peter decided he wanted to experience trick-or-treating on Halloween. He is attacked by a group of zombified heroes before being rescued by his mother. His mother takes him in his arms, tells him to hold his breath, and phases through a wall to escape the zombies. Turns out his mother was none other than Kitty Pryde and his deceased father was Peter Rasputin.
  • Determinator: Jim Rhodes in Marvel Zombies Return. Not only he has managed to not be infected for many years, by cutting out any bitten part of his body to replace it with cybernetics, but he voluntarily cuts off one of his fingers to use as bait for zombies.
    Jim Rhodes: What's one less finger? I got two more!
  • Devoured by the Horde: Galactus' ultimate fate after the Silver Surfer is eaten and his power absorbed by the surviving "heroes".
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The zombies gang up on Galactus and devour him. GALACTUS.
  • Don't Look At Me: In Dead Days, a recently zombified Spider-Man says this to Nova, who witnessed him devouring Mary Jane and Aunt May before being attacked. It's later elaborated that Spidey can't even look at himself unmasked after what he's done to his loved ones.
  • Doppelgänger Gets Same Sentiment: Briefly comes up when the Earth-616 Fantastic Four arrive in the Zombies universe and Johnny meets the local version of Lyja, as he shows a degree of interest in helping her specifically while this version of Lyja dismisses him as a random human and focuses on her duty.
  • Double Standard: This is a series in which characters get graphically torn to shreds, but swear words are censored.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Marvel Zombies 2. The remaining zombified heroes are on the path to redemption and will help the few remaining humans survive and thrive... and then Cortez Jr. sends them through the dimensional portal, dooming another universe, while what little is left of the first one will probably go extinct in a few generations under a Knight Templar ruler. This led to Marvel Zombies Return, which ditches most of the Character Development.
    • The Return universe, as mentioned above, is both better and worse off than the original.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: A lot of characters die in Marvel Zombies Destroy!, but the three who die in battle against Thor's zombie goats are all killed in one panel.
    • In Marvel Zombies Return #5, Luke Cage, Black Panther and Wasp are shown to have been killed by the Sentry's undead Faux-Justice League while trying to halt the spread of the infection.
  • Enemy Mine
    • The Hood and Midnight Sons did it in Marvel Zombies 4.
    • Also happens in Marvel Zombies Return. Hulk was allied with Sentry at first, but then Sentry tried to kill him, and Hulk decided to side with Spider-Man.
    • Ash and the Necronomicon, when Ash mentions that once the zombies have eaten all the humans, they might go after it, since it also happens to be made of flesh and blood.
  • Episode of the Dead: This series takes place on in an Alternate Universe where the heroes of the Marvel Universe have been infected with a zombie virus and devoured all humans on the planet. Afterwards the (still sentient) zombie heroes ponder on what to do next before they get overtaken by the hunger and lose their rationality.
  • Evil Learns of Outside Context: Although things like alien worlds and The Multiverse are widely known by most residents of the Marvel Universe, after the zombie plague destroyed the home Earth of the titular zombies, many of them became too obsessed and driven by hunger to think about such concepts. However, as "food" (aka people) became more scarce, the zombies become desperate to start looking for other solutions. When the Silver Surfer and Galactus appear, they immediately get the idea to eat them and take their powers to scour the universe for more food. After eating pretty much the entire known universe, they then return to Earth to find a working time machine/dimensional transporter that can let them continue to feast on other universes.
  • Evil Versus Evil:
    • Zombies vs. Zombies vs. Galactus.
    • Zombies vs. Deadites. According to the narration, it didn't go too well for the latter.
  • Expendable Alternate Universe: Indirectly; when the Earth-616 Fantastic Four visit this world and learn what happened on Earth, Storm explicitly states that the only reason it isn't as bad as it could be is that this isn't happening on their Earth, acknowledging the horror of the situation while still distancing herself from it.
  • Expy
    • The Squadron Supreme are, of course, all take-offs on members of the Justice League. That said, Issue #2 of Marvel Zombies Supreme is pretty much an extended slam on Superman's origin, with zombie Hyperion eating his way through small-town Kansas.
    • It's hard not to wonder if Supreme's Jill Harper is supposed to be a shout-out to Jill Valentine.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Ultimate Fantastic Four, the first real arc, has Reed claim that "within twenty-four hours, we'd consumed the entire planet." This puts the entire events of both Dead Days and the Army of Darkness crossover within that period (ironic, given the title of the former), and leaves the whole thing with a rather squished time period. Dead Days doesn't use any obvious time indicators but certainly doesn't seem to have taken place over the course of a single day, and claims that the zombies simply ate their way through all of humanity feel... extreme, to say the least, especially when we rarely-if-ever see civilian zombies.
  • Face–Heel Turn
    • Almost all of the infected regardless of whether they were hero or villain beforehand. What's really interesting, though, is the way some of the villains are the last to be infected, predictably because they weren't trying to save anyone when the infection started and so didn't get bitten. Dr. Doom and Magneto in particular come off as downright heroic because of their efforts to combat the virus, with Dr. Doom protecting some of the last human survivors in Latveria and Magneto getting an awesome heroic last stand after helping the Ultimate Fantastic Four return to their Universe, staying behind to destroy the machine to prevent the zombies from invading other Universes but dooming himself.
    • Doom, alone of everyone in the entire universe without exception, was able to resist the infection by sheer willpower. He eventually succumbs, but not before he saves the surviving citizens of Latveria by teleporting them to another reality. Of course, then he finds out his ape counterpart is a baboon. Baboon von Doom. He considers this reason enough to destroy the Ape world.
    • Wasp manages to partly recover from the compulsion after being reduced to a head in a jar. Apparently the hunger fades with time. The same applies for Hawkeye, whose head is found among some old rubble.
    • The Hulk plays with this; the Hulk himself, like the others, turns into a monster. In keeping with the Jekyll-Hyde nature of things, however, Bruce Banner is conversely torn up with guilt, but feeds on the living to try and stop the Hulk from breaking through, because he's worse.
  • Fad Super: It can't really be a coincidence that this series launched right as zombies were the next big nerd thing.
  • Fisher King: Destroy! shows this with Odin. It only takes one bite to infect the whole of Asgard with the zombie virus.
  • Friendly Zombie: Played with. While most zombies are flesh eating monsters, they retain their intelligence and are able to act rationally so long as they keep their Horror Hunger in check. Certain zombies also possess altruistic qualities such as Zombie Spider-Man who constantly has My God, What Have I Done? moments and eventually turned on his fellow zombies to side with the humans, while Zombie Colonel America still retains a degree of honor and promises to let survivors die painlessly first. Bruce Banner is also generally horrified at what he has become, but has to keep eating flesh because if he gets hungry he transforms into the ravenous zombie Hulk, who is naturally a lot worse.
  • From Bad to Worse
    • It was actually revealed in the Army of Darkness crossover that S.H.I.E.L.D. had plans to contain the infection, and they would have worked as well, although it would've limited the damage to "just" North America. Then Quicksilver got infected and spread the infection to other continents, making containment impossible.
    • In Destroy!, the Nazis won World War II by infecting their soldiers with a zombie virus that works much like the Gospel. All of the old Nazi supervillains are now undead, as are most of the Invaders, and the world has been overrun by zombie Nazis. It's pretty bad, but then it gets worse: the entire population of Asgard got infected too, including Thor. The only survivor is Loki, and well, he's Loki.
  • Genre Shift: Somewhere around 4, in order to help reduce the amount of stagnation, the series moved to being horror-comedy, signaled by Aaron Stack becoming a main character.
  • God-Eating: The zombies end up devouring Galactus, despite him being a Cosmic Entity, and gaining the Power Cosmic. Also serves as Death by Irony for a being who devours worlds.
  • Good Lips, Evil Jaws: As soon as people become zombified their lips seem to disappear leaving their jaws and teeth entirely exposed.
  • Heel–Face Turn
    • Wasp, after being reduced to only a head. Towards the end of Marvel Zombies 2, the other zombies eventually seem to lose their bloodlust.
    • In later appearances, it only seems to stick with Spider-Man, making him the closest thing to a hero that the original Marvel Zombies universe has/had.
    • Magneto eventually wound up Face-turning in the wake of the disaster, ushering a small group of survivors to safety through the inter-dimensional portal... even knowing that none of them were Mutants ("Beggars can't be choosers").
    • In Return, Spider-Man has a zombie Hulk and Wolverine come to his side, and convincing the former that all zombies must die.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Subverted and lampshaded. Howard the Duck has taken to wearing pants... on the advice of his lawyers.
  • Handicapped Badass: Black Panther survived the outbreak because Hank Pym had locked him up in private so he can harvest Black Panther's limbs to satiate his hunger while he works on a cure. Black Panther was able to regain conciousness and escape with Magneto's mutant army despite having lost half of one arm and one leg.
  • Heroic Sacrifice
    • Magneto ensures that the Ultimate Fantastic Four (as well as a few civilians he had been protecting) get back safely to their own universe and then destroys the dimension-hopping machine, dooming himself to be trapped with the zombies and later devoured.
    • At the end of Marvel Zombies Destroy!, Ms. America rides an atomic bomb all the way down into the heart of the Nazis' war operation, taking a horde of zombie Asgardians and Nazis with her.
    • Loki's last act before dying is to teleport Dum-Dum back to his allies, ensuring his survival, even as Thor tears him limb from limb.
  • Homage
    • The cover of almost every issue of the Marvel Zombies franchise is an homage cover of a famous cover from Marvel history, featuring zombie versions of the characters.
    • The covers for Marvel Zombies 3 do the same, but for horror movie posters (Army of Darkness, 28 Days Later, The Evil Dead (1981) and Shaun of the Dead).
    • Marvel Zombies Return begins in the Lee/Romita era of Amazing Spider-Man. Each following issue advances through the larger Marvel Universe timeline, with the Iron Man issue taking place during the "Demon in a Bottle" alcoholism plot, the Wolverine issue being an extended homage to Frank Miller and the martial-arts side of the Marvel Universe, and the fourth issue set during "World War Hulk".
  • Horror Hunger: The zombies of this series don't need human flesh for sustenance, but have an insatiable need to consume it that eventually drives them mad. Some try to fight their fate; most embrace it.
  • Hybrid-Overkill Avoidance: Averted, subverted and played straight. It's averted in that every superhero/villain becomes a zombie, but often lose some of their powers in the process. Wolverine can't regenerate, and Black Bolt loses his destructive voice. Subverted with "vambie" Morbius, who becomes a half-vampire / half-zombie. Played interestingly straight with Werewolf by Night, who is infected while a human, but as his biochemistry changes when he transforms, his werewolf form remains zombie-free. Earth-Z Black Bolt (Marvel Zombies Return) keeps his sonic powers as an undead, since his vocal cords haven't rotted yet.
  • Irony
    • Every second page has someone being torn to bloody shreds and yet a character saying "shit" is censored.
    • Spider-Man is established early in the first issue of the first series as having the most remaining conscience of any of the infected superheroes. Naturally, that means he lives longer than most of the rest of them put together.
  • It's All About Me: The hunger eventually forces all zombies into this mentality, changing them from upright and noble heroes into miserable monsters who only want food. Their attempts to work together fall apart quickly since they're selfish enough that they'd happily stab each other in the back to get more food.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: While Spider-Man absolutely regrets every innocent he eats, he makes one exception when he expresses joy before eating J. Jonah Jameson, who had been making his life miserable for years.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo:
    • The fifth issue of the original series features an alien race whose head shape and skin color are too similar to that of the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise, with the main differences being that they lack pointy teeth and have eyes.
    • An averted one. Rather than the Sentry, Superman was originally intended to be the superhero who started the outbreak without explicitly identifying him, but he was ultimately recolored into the Sentry due concerns of potential legal issues.
  • Lunatic Loophole: By the end of Marvel Zombies 4, it appears that the severed head of Zombie Deadpool has escaped the destruction of all the other zombies.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Throughout its run, various origins for the Gospel popped up without any confirmation or resolution except for one. In Ultimate Fantastic Four, Zombie!Reed claims the virus is a Multiversal Conqueror using superheroes as its personal army to devour entire realities. Dead Days suggests that Magneto is in some way responsible due to having made a deal with something to shift the human-mutant population ratio to his favor. The crossover with Army of Darkness shows the zombified Sentry eating and killing at Saint Peter's gates before ending up in the Marvel Zombies universe after a scuffle with Ash Williams. It's eventually resolved that the Gospel has no origin, as it exists within a Stable Time Loop.
  • Multiversal Conqueror: The zombies would like to spread the Hunger Gospel through the whole multiverse. The end of Marvel Zombies Return subverts it .
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Spider-Man in Marvel Zombies Return. Just his appearance in the new universe, where his counterpart is still in the early years, causes some changes. Then he tries to stop the Sinister Six but the Hunger overcomes him... And it's all horribly, horribly downhill from there.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot:
    • Superhero zombies! Zombie Deadpool! Machine Man vs. the zombies! Lampshaded by Morbius in Marvel Zombies 3 (coming up with a very corny new word): "I am a VAMPIRE! I am a ZOMBIE! I am a VAMBIE! I cannot be stopped!"
    • Subverted in that robots cannot be zombies, but Ultron in "Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies" can make them cyborgs.
  • No Zombie Cannibals: Zombie flesh tastes utterly repugnant to another zombie and does nothing to sate their hunger.
  • Not Me This Time: Ash is surprised to learn that Earth-2935's Necronomicon is not responsible for the zombie outbreak. That said, it does raise the Deadites and sic them on zombified superheroes. They fare as well as you'd expect from an ordinary shambling corpse facing against a superpowered zombified person.
  • Only Sane Man: In Marvel Zombies Return, Electro was the only one of the Sinister Six to attempt to kill Zombie Spider-Man whereas Octavius had to be told by Electro to kill Spider-Man after Octavius had started to monologue. Their efforts were in vain however because Octavius was electrocuted and eaten by Spider-Man after his tentacles absorbed the electric bolt. Electro was decapitated by Spider-Man while he was stunned.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: They've got superpowers, for one. And they are smart. And their condition was from a space virus. And their hunger fades if they go without eating for some time, and they regain some degree of self-control. And after the original super-zombies are defeated, A.R.M.O.R. sends agents throughout the multiverse, killing all the different zombies they encounter. For extra fun, the viruses are all shoutouts to famous zombie creators (eg. a Romero virus).
    • The source of the infection in Resurrected turns out to be the result of the Brood somehow managing to plant eggs in Galactus. The result was a dead Galactus and a new generation of Brood that could infect hosts much more easily. The resulting not-zombies were drawn into a hive mind with other infectees, and plagued by what a zombified Magik calls the "Hunger Cosmic."
  • People Farms: Zombie Giant Man suggests starting one to provide them with more live humans to eat. We see one in Marvel Zombies 3 (in an offshoot Hunger Gospel-infected universe).
  • Perpetual-Motion Monster: Reed Richards discovered that the zombies are basically immortal. They require absolutely no energy input to "live", but suffer from a severe case of Horror Hunger. Even so, he infects the rest of the Fantastic Four (and by extension himself) out of grief for his children's deaths. It's revealed in later volumes that if they can be forced to go without eating humans for a few months or years, the craving fades to manageable levels.
  • Plot Tumor: Zombie Deadpool has just a minor appearance in Marvel Zombies 3, but thanks to real Deadpool's Wolverine Publicity, his head has a way much bigger role in 4.
  • "Pop!" Goes the Human: Played for Horror when Sandman, mistaking his world's Spider-Man for the Marvel Zombies version that killed the rest of the Sinister Six, forces himself into Spidey's body through his mouth, then exploding outside in a burst of sand and body parts.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Magneto vs. Zombie Cap— er, Colonel America. "Oh good, you brought the shield". Magneto then uses said shield to cleave the top half of Colonel America's head off.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Actual death-death, that is; at the end of Returns, Zombie Spider-Man eventually atones for his actions throughout the minis by arranging for the deaths of all the remaining zombies... including himself.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: The former just results in an angry, unliving head. The latter method will kill a zombie, though.
    • The latter is subverted with the undead breed of the Medieval world of MZ5. They'll just regrow their heads, so the whole body has to be destroyed.
    • Played with in the original Marvel Zombies. During the chase scene with Magneto, he uses his powers to send Colonel America's shield back at him, cutting off the cap of his skull and part of his brain, which the latter points out might be proof that this trope might be bunk. However, the other zombies simply point out that people have survived wounds like that no problem. Played straight when Red Skull scoops out the Col.'s brains, killing him.
  • Retcon: Zombie!Reed Richards claimed to Ultimate!Reed that the zombie virus was a multiversal plague that has destroyed countless realities in the past, specifically targeting superheroes as the means to spread itself. The virus is later revealed to actually be contained within three realities: the original Marvel Zombies universe, Earth-616, and Earth-Z in a Stable Time Loop, thus with no real origin to begin with. This essentially retcons Zombie!Reed's explanation as merely a theory he had.
  • Ret-Gone: Happens to Gorilla Girl at the end of Evil Evolution when she causes a Temporal Paradox to prevent the plague from spreading to other universes.
  • Revenant Zombie: The zombies depicted in the series maintain their intelligence and abilities, with their hunger being akin to drug addiction since they feel an insatiable hunger and pain that can only be negated after feeding on the living. After consuming all life in the universe, the main zombies were able to lose their hunger and fully realise what they've done.
  • Sanity Slippage: Basically what happened to Reed Richards in Dead Days; seeing his children being killed by zombiefied She-Hulk and the sheer scale of what happened caused him to basically decide that the zombies were a "natural" step in evolution, to the extent that he infected Sue, Ben and Johnny and allowed them to turn him.
  • Self-Parody: Marvel Zombies 5 is basically Marvel admitting they've done this to death and playing it for laughs — come on, Machine Man (in full Nextwave mode) and Howard the Duck versus the undead?
  • Shout-Out: Several.
  • Sole Survivor: Sandman in Marvel Zombies: Return, with the rest of the Sinister Six being infected by the Zombie Spider-Man.
  • Spot the Impostor: When the Earth-616 Fantastic Four arrive in the Marvel Zombies universe and first confront Luke Cage, T'Challa attempts to claim that he is the T'Challa of this universe who was able to find a cure for Ben and Johnny, but Cage dismisses the idea that T'Challa could find a cure after Richards, Stark and Banner failed.
  • Stable Time Loop
    • It's how Marvel Zombies Return ends. To elaborate, here's a spoileriffic excerpt from the Marvel Zombies Return section of Uatu's Wikipedia page:
      A version of Uatu witnesses the Zombie Spider-Man's arrival in his universe. After being horrified by the nature of the infection, he decides to travel to other universes to warn others of the infection, but the zombie Giant-Man appears and bites off Uatu's head, planning to use his communicator to traverse the multiverse and satiate his hunger. At the end of the series, Uatu returns stating he was pure energy, and thus could not be infected by the virus. He then proceeds to trap the last zombie, the Sentry, in a time-loop paradox by sending him back in time to Earth-2149, starting the entire Marvel Zombies Saga from the beginning.
    • This is also the ultimate fate of Zombie Deadpool, a.k.a. "Headpool". In the Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth miniseries, Deadpool tricks Headpool into reuniting with his body and jumping through a dimensional portal in the Florida Everglades... where he's taken back to the moment where he was decapitated.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: In Vs. Army of Darkness, The Punisher tried to kill all of the zombie heroes and villains by shooting at them while standing in the corridor. Punisher may have forgotten that the zombies still had their powers and his plan went as well as you'd expect.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • In 5, one of the universes to get infected by a zombie virus is very similar to ours. It follows a Marvel devotee's (referenced above) transformation into a zombie. First he's freaked out, then he decides to become a superhero. Unfortunately for him, rigor mortis sets in just before he's killed.
    • In the original series, Magneto sends a girder through Daredevil's chest. Later, when he complains about a painful swelling in his feet, the other zombies discover it's his blood: without a heart to pump it, gravity is causing it to pool in his feet.
  • The Teetotaler: Marvel Zombies 5 opens in an old west setting where a group of women are protesting alcohol. They mistake the dismembered dead for drunks.
  • Token Heroic Orc: While most of the infected superheroes eventually willingly accept being zombies, with all the carnage that entails, a few, most notably Spider-Man, still feel massive remorse for what they've become and try to redeem themselves if given the chance.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • In Vs. Army Of Darkness, Punisher's idea of killing all the zombified heroes and villains was to shoot them while Ash throws ammo to him when he needs to reload.
    • In Marvel Zombies Return, Doctor Octopus and Vulture are ironically shown as the dumbest members of the Sinister Six. Doctor Octopus didn't take the situation as seriously as Electro despite witnessing Spider-Man gruesomely killing Kraven the Hunter and Mysterio and choosing to monologue instead of killing Spider-Man on the spot. Vulture even remains at the scene despite having the means to escape Spider-Man, something Spider-Man actually points out to him before ripping his arms off.
  • Torso with a View: Daredevil, after Magneto plugs him in the chest with an I-beam, and Nova after Silver Surfer blasts him during the battle in Times Square.
  • Tragic Monster:
    • Spider-Man. While he's just as ravenous and disgusting as the other zombies when hungry, he's nonetheless plagued by grief and guilt at his actions and Horror Hunger, but unable to stop himself. He's particularly tormented by the fact that he ate his Aunt May and Mary Jane, to the extent that he refuses to take off his mask so he can't look himself in the eyes again.
    • Some of the other zombies can count as a tragic monsters because the virus is revealed to give the infected person an overwhelming psychological hunger and if the infected person is able to resist the hunger or is contained in isolation then the hunger will disappear. This doesn't seem so bad but the infected person will still maintain the memories of the atrocities that they have committed. Giant Man was completely horrified and guilt ridden when his hunger had disappeared and remembered the quadrillions of people that he and his group consumed while watching the Hulk kill and eat Reynolds.
  • Transformation Exhilaration: Played straight and averted; most of the supers who get bitten and turned into zombies don't enjoy it, but Reed Richards (who has gone insane after witnessing a zombiefied She-Hulk devour his children) comes to admire what he calls "improvements" in the human body that come with the transformation, deliberately infects Sue, Johnny, and Ben, then asks them to bite him so he can experience the transformation himself. He's smiling when they do so and as he becomes a zombie.
  • Transhuman Treachery: After seeing a zombified She-Hulk eating his kids and studying the zombies' physiology, Reed Richards, in the worst Mad Scientist fashion possible, comes to the ever-so-logical conclusion that the zombies are the next evolutionary step, and he infects himself and the rest of the Fantastic Four. Evil Evolution also suggests that Reed himself was inadvertently responsible for unleashing the Zombie Virus into his universe in the first place, thus adding further guilt issues into the mix.
  • Transplant: "Headpool" has joined 616-Deadpool in his book.
  • Trick Arrow: Zombie Golden Archer innovates biting people at a distance by tying his teeth to arrowheads.
  • Villain World: Kinda what happens when everyone is turned into zombies.
  • Welcome to the Real World: The end of Marvel Zombies 5.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?
    • A follow-up arc in Ultimate Fantastic Four ends with the Ultimate version of Doctor Doom, Victor Van Damme, transported to the Marvel Zombies universe right as the zombies finish devouring Galactus, in a span of time that wasn't shown in the Marvel Zombies miniseries. The zombies attack Van Damme and the book ends. Van Damme subsequently reappears back in the Ultimate Marvel universe without comment, where he is killed by Ben Grimm during the Ultimatum crossover. Of course, Van Damme has been mutated by his own cosmic ray exposure into a solid metal creature, so it's possible that the zombies just ignored him. Still, it's a plot hole that somebody could very easily exploit to return him to life in the Ultimate Universe.
    • Marvel Zombies 2 ends with Cortez successfully getting rid of the Zombies via teleportation and being left in charge and New Wakanda on the verge of extinction. Later issues only follow the Zombies and we've still yet to see New Wakanda again.
    • T'Channa, Black Panther's son and the second Colonel America is teleported away with other zombies but is neither seen nor mentioned in Return, hinting that he may still be alive in that universe somehow.
    • After kickstarting the outbreak the Sentry just drops off the radar and never appears again, except in Marvel Zombies Return, which is a backstory for him.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Inverted. When the some of the zombies in Marvel Zombies 2 beat the hunger, they remind Zombie!Gladiator, a Shi'ar, that he was a hero of the people. He says that the humans are not his people, Spider-Man and the rest ate his people, and now he's going to return the favor.
  • Worth It: After zombie Red Skull finally manages to kill zombie Colonel America, just before zombie Giant Man squashes him underfoot.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: It's pretty clear that the "Sentry" that infected the zombieverse was supposed to be Superman, and was only given a Palette Swap to avoid action by the Distinguished Competition (the hole in his costume the same size and shape as the S-shield is a dead giveaway).
  • Wrong Genre Savvy:
    • As depicted in Dead Days, a lot of the superheroes early on seemed to believe that this zombie plague is just the latest in a series of constant crises and that eventually things will get back to normal. Pre-Zombie!Spider-Man rescues Ash and points out that his friends will have a hard enough time dealing with what they have done when, not if, they get back to normal, while an actually zombified Colonel America manages to regain his composure briefly and insist they get help. If this had been the mainstream universe, they would be absolutely right, but alas, this is an Elseworlds tale. Only Nova is willing to point out how many they've already lost (and how hopeless the situation really is) while only now working on a plan of attack during a group scene on the Helicarrier.
      Nova: THIS IS CRAZY!! Do you guys even realize what we're up against?! If someone you know is not here—they're one of them! Don't you see what that means? We're completely outnumbered! And the plan is to turn this helicarrier into a flying Noah's Ark? How is that going to work?! How many people fit on this thing?! I'm sorry—I know we get together like this every few months to avert some global crisis or fight some enormous bad guy—I get it. That's what we do. But I think you guys are treating this like another Kree/Skrull invasion—or Thanos attacking! This is different! Look how many we've already lost and we're just now forming a game plan?! We're all dead! We're as good as dead!
    • Even Nick Fury admits that he may have a point and upon seeing what will happen if they leave their universe for another one with the risk of the virus spreading, he orders Thor to destroy the machine so that the zombies will not use it to cross over.
    • In Marvel Zombies Vs. Army of Darkness, Ash looks at the costumes of two characters — Thunderball's bright, colorful getup and Daredevil's demonic attire — and makes an incorrect assumption about which one of them is the good guy, knocking Daredevil out. Punisher also gets a wrong genre savvy moment, seemingly thinking that these zombies are typical Romero shamblers and forgetting that they retain their powers, skills, and intelligence. This leads to his demise.
  • Your Head Asplode: Really the only way to kill a zombie, right? So what does Susan Richards do to a zombified She-Hulk when she discovers the dead bodies of Franklin and Valeria Richards?
  • Zombie Apocalypse: An interesting mash-up of this and the superhero genre.
  • Zombie Apocalypse Hero: The S.H.I.E.L.D. sub-agency A.R.M.O.R.note  is introduced in Marvel Zombies as a group of self-appointed guardians of the multiverse. One of their main objectives is to fight, contain and ultimately eradicate the zombie infection that has spread to several other realities and transformed all of their inhabitants into flesh-eating undead. A.R.M.O.R. agents (in particular, Machine Man) are the most recurring protagonists because most of them (being demons, machines, and other creatures without mortal flesh) are immune to zombification.

Alternative Title(s): Marvel Zombies Destroy