A couple months back I posted an eschatalogical theory of zombie invasion—the theory that zombie infection is, in fact, the kingdom of heaven; that zombies are happy to be zombies, but are so fully changed that they can't communicate their eternal bliss in any other way than biting and infecting the living.
It's a weird idea indeed—so imagine my surprise to see a variation on the same idea appear in Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips' Marvel Zombies: Dead Days. This one-shot is a prequel to their gory, zany 2006 miniseries that imagined a Marvel Universe overtaken by the undead. In the climax of Dead Days, a not-yet-infected Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) injects the other members of the Fantastic Four with the zombie plague and allows them to devour and zombify him. It's a remarkably creepy scene, and the issue's final page makes it even creepier as Richards announces his new mission of interdimensional evangelism:
The intelligent, superpowered zombies of the Marvel Zombies universe view their curse as a blessing, a sign of divine election.
One character in Warren Ellis' and Max Fiumara's miniseries Blackgas 2 comes to a markedly different conclusion about the meaning of zombie infestation. In the second issue, a survivor named Maxwell Rader sees the zombies as definitive proof of the nonexistence of God:
Modern atheists frequently cite the so-called problem of evil to support their position. There are a number of theistic responses, but in this context, suffice it to say that Zombie Mr. Fantastic disagrees.
Religion makes a less blatant appearance in Kirkman's other zombie title, The Walking Dead (illustrated by Charlie Adlard). #37 of the open-ended, character-driven series depicts a wedding that occurs during a lull in the chaos of an undead siege. With no priests, pastors, or justices-of-the-peace available, the ceremony is conducted by Hershel, described in the previous issue as "the most spiritual out of everyone here... so he's the closes thing to an actual priest that we've got." Hershel is a Job-like character who refuses to allow his family's death to lead him to the same conclusion as Rader in Blackgas—his faith has become more complicated since the beginning of the zombie plague, but it has not been defeated. The wedding scene includes a lengthy quotation from 1 Corinthians 13 (of course—and it's NIV, for those who are keeping score).
The scripture passage here becomes not just a statement on the emotional bond between two people, but a credo for those who fight to survive in a crumbling world. This is probably the most satisfying approach to religion in recent zombie comics, because it takes into account what faith can actually mean for the believer. For Hershel, God's existence is not even a matter for debate—he finds those aspects of his faith that can best respond to his world's crisis, and turns his belief into a source of strength for his community.