In the new Comics Journal, Michael Dean has an essay about the Marvel Zombies in which he says:
“Kirkman’s stroke of genius was to let his zombies talk, thus violating a rule that had been observed by virtually all of the many, many zombie incarnations that had come before. (The zombies in Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead evidently can speak but choose to exercise the ability sparingly, sticking largely to a one-word vocabulary — “Brains!” — and mimicking the speech of a paramedic calling for more paramedics. Similarly limited zombie conversation is also hinted at in Waid’s introduction of the characters into Ultimate FF.) Kirkman’s zombies are downright glib. In this world, the undead Marvel superheroes have been infected with not only a ravenous hunger for living human flesh but also a propensity for sarcastic banter. Even normally earnest characters like Iron Man and Captain America are full of bitter wisecracks in Marvel Zombies. The notion of zombies who can reflect and articulate a perspective on their distressing condition brings the genre to a whole other level of pathos and absurdity.”
This is pretty much exactly wrong. As Bataille discusses in Erotism, the whole point of violence is that it is silent. Language is what defines civilization; that which is outside language is barbarism. Bataille notes that barbarism and civilization are linked and not completely separable; two sides of a coin. And, of course, zombies are us, as Romero suggests over and over again. But still, the zombie genre is built around the idea that zombies, even as they are us, aren’t; they’re the repressed, non-speaking part of us; barbarism, violence, and so forth.
When zombies talk, they’re not zombies; they’re human beings. Yes, they’re murderous human beings — but there are a lot of human beings who are murderers. The problem with Marvel Zombies is that the characters are just super-villains, largely because they talk and wise crack. There’s nothing awe-inspiring or terrifying about them. To have a zombie talk is to not have a zombie. We’re back to idiotic super-heroics, except without a moral compass.
I have lots more to say about the zombie genre here, if anyone’s interested….