Ho. Lee. Fuck.
Those are the words which left my mouth reading this series.
Imagine if 28 Days Later happened in the Marvel Universe.
That's basically what this is.
Johnathan Maberry and Goran Parlov have crafted this intense masterpiece that almost eludes to be described by words. Brutal, heart rending, and true to its source material, this is one of the greatest works I've ever read. It rivals novels in story structure, and rivals the visuals of today's most striking films. Just this intense ride that never lets you go.
Versus Wolverine came after, but it serves as a prequel to Versus Punisher, so read that first if you feel the need. If I were to pick a stronger one of the two, VW would take the win. It has much more strength and shots to the heart than VP does, and strikes so much fear into the heart when read. Moments like the battle on the Brooklyn Bridge or Wolverine dealing the most painful blows he has ever had to deal keep one emotionally attached to the work in more ways than one, always holding you in it's death grip of a seat and never letting the pace slow down.
28 Days Later is a great movie, anyone will say, but it would be even better if the infected were super-powered. You just known instinctively that the whole world is fucked the moment you rest your eyes on Spiderman eating the Rhino in front of a packed Madison Square Garden. The first of the infected totally surprised me, the fact they picked Spiderman to be the harbinger of the end of the world threw me off guard. The sarcastic and fun loving hero was now the looming, ever present darkness, and he does a damn good job at it, even with minimal screen time.
Wolverine is the star of the show though, and he also does a damn fine job in his role. Logan's primal and personal conflicts are tested by this virus, and on multiple occasions he's forced to put some of his closest friends out of their misery. But that never slows him down, not even losing one of his hands to Hulk can slow down Wolverine. He's the ultimate in perseverance, and his goal of helping his fellow man never leaves his sight. The supporting cast does great at providing more to the story, the most notable being Deadpool. Deadpool is primarily treated as a cliche in modern Marvel comics, but I truly felt attached to Deadpool. Logan trusts him after what they go through, and winning the trust of the world's greatest assassin is an accomplishment on its own.
I legitimately shed tears multiple times during the course of reading this work. Maberry's moments of total desperation and despair are outlined by Parlov's excellent artwork. The friends battling friends, the futility of the combat against The Hulk's army, and Cap's exit are all tender moments.
Let it be known I did not bawl my eyes out like at the end of The Amber Spyglass (did I really just say that on the internet?).
The pitting of infected versus human has been stylized for decades in American art, but it never has found a proper foothold in the superhero genre IMHO (Blackest Night doesn't count, I believe Versus is the better of the twin situations. DC and Marvel are always fucking copying each other... at least Marvel's was non-canon, and the non-canon material put out by the two competing companies are always the best). This is it.
If Versus Wolverine is the true chronicle of the world's downfall, then Versus Punisher is its death rattle. The story takes off where VW ended, or rather eleven hundred days after the events of VW. The Punisher remained in New York while Mr. Fantastic, T'Challa, and Wolverine went to the Arctic Circle, for the sole purpose of removing the infected people and supers from the world. The effects of the wars are present; survivors corralled up by infected supers, destroyed landscapes (once again beautifully drawn by Parlov), and The Punisher. Who else would be so perfect for the role of the last uninfected Super living in New York?
His mission is anything but perfect, however. The sole reason is not to protect the weak of New York, but to hunt and kill Spiderman, the first infected. It's a mission of honor, in that destroying the source of all the madness brought into the world will make it easier on the rest of the world. Spiderman also rules one of the largest tribes of supers, so there's also the motive to scatter them via a destroyed leadership. But ultimatums and ignorance cause everything to blow up pretty quickly, which is beautiful.
The Punisher has always been a complex character to me in how simple he is. His strict black and white moral code are his constant downfall, and remain to be so even in post-apocalypse. There is no shade of gray for him, you're either good or evil, and the latter simply does not deserve a place on this Earth. But, as Donnie Darko put it: "You can't just lump things into two categories, things aren't that simple." That's what makes everyone hate Punisher in the end, and deep down, he hates himself for it.
So..... just read this. Buy it at a comic store, in a bookstore, on the Nook store, [pirate it], just get your hands on this thing.
OH: Chazz, I don't count Blackest Night because those weren't zombies, they were cosmic anomalies brought on by the alien Black Lantern rings. Zombies =\= cosmic anomalies.