Monday, January 14, 2013

Mars Attacks Volume 1: Attack from Space

Written by John Layman
Art by John McCrea

            Mars Attacks is one of my favorite Tim Burton movies.  Oh, it’s definitely unpolished, to be sure.  It’s also hilarious, star-studded, and just all-around dark fun.  And I was excited for the announcement of a new comic series with Chew writer John Layman at the helm.  And the results are…well, a little unpolished, but interesting, to be sure.
            The Martian invasion begins in this volume when in the 60s, Zar and a small group of Martians land near a small town and Zar gets taken to the county fair, where he’s scarred.  When the other Martians try to rescue him, it explodes into a massacre, with Zar being the only Martian survivor.  Now, Zar is General Zar and is at the head of the Martian fleet that only has one purpose: wipe out humanity.
            One of the more interesting things this comic does is actually making the Martians kind of sympathetic.  The movie and, as far as I know, the original trading cards, just had the Martians being destructive for destruction’s sake.  They almost seem misunderstood in the movie…and then they return to killing.  Here, it’s clearly shown that the Martians have a reason for thinking of humanity as nothing more than an aggressive race, and we find out that the Martians have visited Earth several times before and just been killed.  It gives them just a little more depth, and the narration gives us some insight into the vengeful Zar not necessarily being the pinnacle of the Martians.  On the other hand, this kind of leaves the humans out of it.  We get our heroic group of humans, but I didn’t really have much reason to care about them.  It looks like the next arc (and I’ll say my reason for “looks like” in a bit) is going to be more focused in that aspect.
            What this series really does well is gore.  If you don’t care for gore, this is not the series for you.  If you do, then John McCrea’s art is going to appeal to you.  Full of people being blasted, Martians getting stabbed, giant insects decapitating people.  It leans towards more dark-humor-gore, but it’s still a violent series.  The art also does some nice nods to the original trading cards.  Throughout, some of the panels will be the cards, complete with a number and a caption like “The Martians Invade!”  It adds a nice bit of fun to this series.
            Which I guess is my biggest problem with the book.  It doesn’t go into full fun.  It flirts with it, and there’s some dark humor throughout, but I guess it doesn’t have the wackiness/campiness that I was expecting after the Tim Burton film.  I still enjoyed the series, but it just wasn’t as hilarious as I was expecting.  And on another note, my review copy contained the first 5-issue arc…along with the 6th issue, which starts a new arc.  I’ve never read a collection before that just leaves something hanging like that, and I can only assume it was a mix-up in the review copy.
            Mars Attacks isn’t great, but it is an interesting start to the new series, especially for those who revel in violence and destruction.  I’ll keep reading it, but I hope things get kicked up in the future. 

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