The 2011 ten-part crossover Infestation from IDW Publishing is basically a zombie story. I loves the zombies, as The Walking Dead knows, but I generally find crossovers to be a forced conceit. Nevertheless, I’m often drawn in by their epic geekiness, and what drew me into this one was my long-standing love of Star Trek.
IDW’s original series CVO (Covert Vampire Operations) serves as the wraparound, bookending two-issue entries from four disparate franchises: Transformers, Star Trek, G.I. Joe, and Ghostbusters. Fortunately, they didn’t just grind all these different meats into one loaf (Eew!), and end up with the Ghostbusters running through the corridors of the Enterprise. Instead, the magic/sci-fi nature of the CVO universe made a good launching pad for the creation of a zombie/vampire/extradimensional Overmind portal thingie, which sends alternate versions of the bad guys into the multiverse, dealing with each franchise on its own terms.
First up was Transformers. I gotta admit right off that I never “got” Transformers. They’re trucks, they’re robots, they carry operatic grudges . . . it just doesn’t grab me. So reading about zombified robots (uhh . . . what now?) fighting in Las Vegas isn’t my cuppa. I read it, but it just confirmed that I don’t get it. Perhaps it was nice and shiny for robot fans.
Next up was Trek. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and a few security guards take a shuttlecraft to the Calibus colony only to discover it’s infested with zombies. The blend of horror elements and Trek worked fairly well. They continued the thread started in Transformers that the infection is a cybernetic/human hybrid, and, fortunately for our heroes, they meet some uninfected robots who can assist them. Unfortunately, these robots look a little like oversized Mac SE/30s with arms and legs, a choice that perhaps was supposed to be amusing, but is just silly and disruptive to the serious tone of the zombie story. The retro cover options featuring Original Series uniforms were the coolest, but the story itself is set following Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Moving on to G.I. Joe: I’m old enough that the G.I. Joes I had were basically regular, well, Joes, not superagents, and it was before the franchise developed its archenemies in Cobra, so I’m a little in the dark on the backstory here, but it was a pretty good tale, perhaps the best of the franchise stories. And it was set in an underwater lab that added another layer of excitement as cybernetic zombies began taking over the place. A captured Joe ends up having to fight with the Cobra agents against the common enemy; it’s an old bit, but was used effectively.
Up next was Ghostbusters. The writing veered between nailing the beloved characters from the movies (well . . . at least the first movie) and trying too hard to nail the beloved characters from the movies. When they brought back the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, it really felt like forcing together a bunch of references instead of writing a fresh story. Which is too bad, because zombies are a great fit in the supernatural Ghostbuster universe.
The second CVO title brought it all home, literally. After the diversions across the multiverse, the evil force of the zombie Overmind is back where the whole thing started, with the soldiers of Covert Vampire Operations. This comic has some interesting stuff going on, with its blend of science and magic, and it seems to have a fairly arcane backstory. The artwork is particularly good and creepy. The story gets wrapped up while introducing some important changes to the CVO storyline.
If I rated the pairs of comics in order from the best to my least favorite, I think I would say CVO, G.I. Joe, Star Trek, Transformers, Ghostbusters. As a miniseries . . . I don’t know. The crossover is forced, and you could drop out any of the franchises without losing anything from the overall story.
Meanwhile, Infestation 2 is in the works, this time involving CVO, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dungeons & Dragons, Groom Lake and Bat Boy (yeah, that’s what I said), G.I. Joe, and 30 Days of Night. Instead of zombies, it has Lovecraftian monsters, and apparently there will be actual crossover of characters. I think I’d rather just read a Lovecraft comic.