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Science fiction fans get a simple alien invasion this without the invasion. This issue of Mars Attacks is nothing historically unique, but is a great tribute to a fifty-year-old franchise with great artwork and a story easily accessible to people who aren’t science fiction fans.
“Mars Attacks” is a franchise celebrating it’s 50th anniversary with IDW Publishing as a new ongoing comic book series. This issue features Zar and several fellow alien grunts crashing to Earth and being met with a hostile species: us.
Mars Attacks is written by Eisner-winning writer John Layman (Chew). Layman is creating a completely new Mars Attacks universe, making it easily accessible to people who had no idea that Mars Attacks was even a franchise – like me. This is essential for a title like this. An issue spawned from an anniversary should ease readers into a franchise without them needing to know fifty years worth of back-story.
The organization of the story is what’s not easy to understand. There are several flashes forward and backward in the opening of the story, only the opening flash-forward being reasonable. The rest are just pointless and make the storyline feel repetitive, specifically when Zar is discovered by two farmers. Two farmers, who are, stereotypically stupid. This is where the story becomes clichéd. You have two farmers in the middle of nowhere who find aliens and, using their total of two brain cells, decide to sell him for a hundred bucks. Er, sorry, I mean “a hunnert bucks,” as Mars Attacks farmer continually says. The story leaves no time for anyone (human and alien alike) to be characterized in-depth. However, one of these farmers is saved from being a nameless, stupid cliché when he takes surprising action towards the end of the issue and becomes a well-placed plot device that really gets the narrative rolling.
To match the Eisner winning author, Mars Attacks #1 is illustrated by John McCrea (Hitman). Character designs are almost cartoonish but have a good deal of detail. The only time the artwork suffers is when the humans emotions get too cartoonish. During intense fighting scenes like the ones in the opening, there is great emotion put into the artwork through the aliens bulging eyes. There are also some great photos used to start each mini-chapter within the issue (a style I’ve never understood why any comic writer would implement) that seem to pay homage to an older art style The colors from Andrew Elder compliment the artwork well. He uses a bright mixture of warm red and orange colors and cool blue coloring to greatly amplify the backgrounds. That is, when the artist has backgrounds, which is often despite a few bland backdrops under the big top. The artwork under the big top between the ringmaster, alien and later, the farmer, also features some of the more lackluster artwork – ironic considering these panels are the best part of the narrative. But these problems are small and never detract from the story – and when the emotions are well-drawn on characters faces and complimented by a colorful and detailed background, the story satisfies on a higher level.
This is a great comic that requires no beforehand knowledge. Sci-fi fans and readers who rarely dabble in science-fiction unite because this issue (specifically fans of the oddly similar Frankenstein Alive, Alive), despite some odd opening decisions and a clichéd cast of characters, is a fun read.