Comics Anonymous

MARS ATTACKS #1 by Craig
June 23, 2012, 7:39 pm
Filed under: Comic Reviews, IDW Comics | Tags: , , , ,

The Martians have landed! This week IDW brings us the first issue of their new Mars Attacks series – with an incredible 58 covers to choose from. But is it all gone a bit Pokémon with “Gotta Catch’em all” or should you just ‘Pika-iss-chu’? (sorry – I promise there’s no more Pokémon jokes in the rest of the review)

There’s a good chance, like me, you’ll only be familiar with the Mars Attacks brand from the Tim Burton movie in 1996 starting Jack Nicholson (twice!), Danny De Vito and Tom Jones, but what you might not realise is the film was based on a trading card series from the Sixties. It seems like an unusual choice for an adaptation, but I loved the film – a great spoof of classic sci-fi B-Movies with the usual Tim Burton style. Even stranger though they’ve now adapted the trading cards as a comic book with the publisher best know for licenced work – IDW. In keeping with the trading cards style, they’ve made a bold move to have a variant cover for issue #1 for each of the 54 cards – a nightmare for those of us hell-bent on collecting every copy of everything. I went with card 40 – ‘High Voltage Execution’ (pictured above) since it featured a giant Mars insect being frazzled as it tries to walk through some power lines – grisly!

Going past the cover and getting into the actual book, you’ll find a quality product inside. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure about picking this book up – I hadn’t pre-ordered it and left it down to a ‘I’ll see how I feel’ decision nearer the time. It was on seeing John McCrea’s variant cover – a non-trading card one – that convinced me to pick it, since it gave me some indication of what I might find inside. And I was right – McCrea’s work on this is beutifully detailed, and made even better with Andrew Elder’s colouring. I suppose one of the things that put me off initially was the posibility that the art could have taken a different direction, trying to mirror the trading card’s style or even comics of the Sixties, to give it a gimmicky edge, but I was pleased this wasn’t the case.

I was also pleased that it kept well away from the art style of Burton’s movie too – instead it goes for much more of a horror feel rather than retro sci-fi. It means that the comic can really stand out on it’s own and doesn’t hold back on the blood and gore – there’s plenty of gunshot wounds, exploding heads and that iconic Mars ray-gun has a much more brutal feel when it’s disintegrating humans. Although the overall Martian design hasn’t changed much from their unique appearance on the trading cards, they are more often than not drawn with a much more menacing look, sometimes with just the red of their eyes visible in those giant sockets.  It sends a clear message – these aliens aren’t here to make any friends – they mean war!

The events that lead to this war though, told through issue #1, don’t sit with me all that well. As much as I enjoyed the look of this book, I can’t say the same with the story. With a brief glimpse at the start of the issue of the devastation that’s to come, we begin hours earlier when a lone ship of Martian explores on a reconnaissance mission crash land somewhere in hick town, America, where one of the survivors is found by a couple of Farmers. Their rather quick decision to sell him to the nearby Circus freak show leads to abuse and some rather pissed off aliens who call for back up – hence the ‘Attacks’ part in the title. I do like that it’s a simple act of human ignorance that sparks such a major event, but I just feel that the way that this takes place wasn’t as engaging as I’d have liked.

Granted this issue is just getting us started on the path of the alien invasion, but I had also hoped there would have been at least a few characters in the issue that we either cared about, or were going to survive at least the first few books. The main characters of this title are inevitably going to be the aliens, but since they don’t speak English (and aren’t translated) it’s going to be a hard push to sell these as our main protagonists – instead I would have thought at least one or more human characters would have been introduced to lead us through the story. At the moment it’s not really being told from a particular side, human or alien, something that could be fixed if a group of human characters were introduced to tell the story of the events unfolding.

I seem to have read a number of books that deal with an apocalypse in some form, including American Muscle (in Creator-Owned Heroes #1) and The Massive, and Mars Attacks isn’t even the only one to deal with an alien invasion (see Extermination #1) , but I had hoped that this book would have a bit more of an edge. I think I was hoping for The Walking Dead for Martians, but there’s no sign of that from issue #1. Based on how good the book looks though, I might be tempted to try a few more issues before passing final judgement.


Craig – @hastiecraig

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