IDW is certainly no stranger to crossing over their properties. With the many licensed books they have, they’ve done events like Infestation, which ran through many of their properties (twice!) and crossed over Star Trek with Doctor Who and the Legion of Super Heroes. With Mars Attacks IDW, the Martians, well, attack four licensed properties, along with one of IDW’s originals.
Because this is an anthology comic, I think it’s fair to look at each story individually. The first is Popeye (written by Martin Powell, art by Terry Beatty), which has the Sea Hag controlling the Martians against Popeye. I know the bare minimum about Popeye, and that’s from the cartoons. With this comic taking place in the comic-verse, I knew even less. What’s really interesting with this story is that it’s toned down to be family friendly. Martians zap people, but they just lose their clothes instead of dying. Unfortunately, this ends up making the story a bit too tame. If you’re a big fan of the Popeye comics, you might get a kick out of this, but I got nothing.
Second is Kiss (written by Chris Ryall, art by Alan Robinson), where the band members, before becoming Kiss, end up fighting against Kiss-powered Martians. That sentence is about as nonsensical as it sounds. Again, all I know or care about with Kiss is their music. I don’t know any of their comics-verse stuff, which is a big problem here since I honestly can’t tell the tone of this story. If it’s meant to be taken seriously, it’s ridiculous. If it’s meant to be a comedy, it’s taking itself too seriously. There are some nice moments in here, but it’s too in-between on what it’s doing.
Next, we finally get to a property I know, the Real Ghostbusters (written by Erik Burnham, art by Jose Holder). In case you’re wondering why the Ghostbusters are fighting Martians, well, they’re ghosts, naturally. This is another low-violence tale, but it works. The dialogue between the Busters is witty, the Martians get some nice powers, and it’s just a fun story in general.
The book’s strongest story, though, is definitely Transformers (written by Shane McCarthy, art by Matt Frank). A lull in the battle between Autobots and Decepticons gives the Martians an opportunity to attack. The great part of this story is that, while most of the stories here seem indecisive about how funny they’re being, Transformers nails it down perfectly. This is laugh-out-loud funny, willfully taking both the black humor of Mars Attacks and having some good-natured fun at Transformers’ expense. You also don’t need to know much about Transformers to get the jokes, which is good. It also doesn’t forget to tell an interesting, well-built story. While most of the stories just translate the Martian dialogue for the readers’ benefit, Transformers actually gives a reason for it. Definitely the must-read here.
We end on the original property, Zombies vs. Robots (written by Chris Ryall, art by Andy Kuhn). The Martians think they have a perfect invasion plan, only to find the world overrun by…you know. While I know nothing about the actual ZvR comic, the title about says all you need to know. Without the humans, Mars Attacks definitely loses something, but it does give a good look at the Martians themselves. There is also plenty of violence here, in case you feel you got short-changed on that front from Popeye.
Mars Attacks IDW is a mixed bag. There’s high points (Transformers, Ghostbusters) and low points (Kiss) throughout. If you love any of these franchises, though, and wouldn’t mind seeing Martians tear through it, give the book a shot. The better moments make it worthwhile.