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In my most recent edition of “You Missed That Issue?!,” I discussed Mars Attacks Popeye, and marveled over the existence of such a bold and strange creation. For those of you checking this out for the first time, “You Missed That Issue?!” is a type of feature article in which an odd or obscure comic is given an in depth look. Mars Attacks Popeye feels almost tailor made for such an endeavor. While this next one might not feel like quite as extreme of a mismatch, it’s certainly strange enough. This is Mars Attacks Judge Dredd in the context of the greater Mars Attacks IDW, with spoilers to follow.
Why is it that Mars Attacks seems to lend itself so well to crossovers? The former Topps trading cards, which later became comic books and a motion picture, not only inspired a very similar concept with dinosaurs, but also seems to have taken the world of comics by storm—that is, if copyright allows. IDW Publishing owns the rights to Mars Attacks, and they’ve taken advantage of the fact by tying it in with other popular titles that they also own the rights to, making for quite a hodgepodge of Martian targets.
That’s right, Mars Attacks Popeye and Mars Attacks Judge Dredd are only the tip of the iceberg. There also exists, Mars Attacks Ghostbusters, Mars Attacks Transformers, and the ever so bizarre, Mars Attacks Kiss—Yes, the band, Kiss, and no, I haven’t read it—and there are more. How come there aren’t any Ghostbusters Meets Kiss, or Transformers Vs Popeye, or, regrettably, Popeye Punches Kiss?
Upon my initial reading of Mars Attacks Popeye, I was a bit more awestruck than I am this time around with Mars Attacks Judge Dredd. Last time, I didn’t know what to expect, and was therefore pleased to find that Popeye’s setting took precedence and that the Martians were invading his venerable community by the sea. However, upon finding much of the same setup in Mars Attacks Judge Dredd, I’ve grown weary of the whole thing.
Of course, I didn’t expect Judge Dredd or Popeye to go to Mars. I haven’t forgotten that the title is Mars Attacks so-and-so, and not so-and-so Attacks Mars. What I’m getting at is that the Mars Attacks series has become a recycled villain for IDW, the antagonist that keeps on antagonizing. Sound uninspired? Well, that’s not all.
In Mars Attacks Popeye, the Martians don’t attack on their own accord. They attack because the Sea Hag, Popeye’s longtime nemesis, summons and controls them. And guess what? In Mars Attacks Judge Dredd, they don’t operate independently either. No, a Judge Dredd villain by the name of Crusty is giving the orders, a gangster with daddy issues whose finger is always crammed up his nose—I enjoyed that, by the way.
What I didn’t necessarily enjoy, however, is being told I’m reading a Mars Attacks comic, and instead finding out that it is, in fact, merely a Judge Dredd comic with a Judge Dredd villain who happens to have hired goons with bulging eyes, exposed brains, bell-jars over their heads, and laser pistols. And the same goes for Mars Attacks Popeye. These crossovers are deceiving in that the only real guarantee is a battle involving laser pistols. In the case of Judge Dredd, a hero who totes guns anyways, the Martian contribution was even less significant.
Despite the limited Martian contribution, this comic has its merits. The meeting of the mobsters at the very beginning, for example, is very funny. In addition to Crusty, there’s Don Schnozzell, who has an enormous nose, Don Mumbletti, who is impossible to understand, Don Travolta, who, well, quotes John Travolta films, Don Hooverbot, who is a vacuum cleaner, and Don Uggie Apelino, who’s a monkey. While, arguably, the jokes are simple, they are appropriately so and their antics had me laughing out loud more than once.
Judge Dredd’s character, however, lacks anything that might resemble a sense of humor. He just goes around murdering people—although, being that he’s a “Judge” in a literal sense, I guess it isn’t, technically, murder. This was a disappointment because the villains are absolutely ridiculous (in a good way). Not only that, but Mars Attacks is notable for it’s dark humor, and the scenes with Martians aren’t all that funny.
And yes, I would go as far as to say that the creative team did a pretty good job. Al Ewing, who is by no means a stranger to the Judge Dredd series, fashioned this into a classic Judge Dredd tale. While earlier I was criticizing that fact due to the failed promise of a more major role by the Martians, as a Judge Dredd comic, it stands on its own. His sense of humor, I might add, is quite good.
I found John McCrea’s artwork to be great. It’s exaggerated in all the right areas—from caricatured villains to over-the-top action—I can’t imagine this comic looking any other way. Another interesting aspect is the style of the Martians. When contrasted with Terry Beatty’s portrayal in Mars Attacks Popeye, I’m somewhat amazed at how these artists manage to fit these truly spooky looking creatures in these vastly different looking worlds. Somehow, it always manages to work.
I think I might be over the whole Mars Attacks IDW craze. If I were to randomly guess the role that the Martians play in Mars Attacks Ghostbusters after reading the Popeye and Judge Dredd crossovers, I’d say a ghost summons them. Mind you, that’s conjecture, and I haven’t read the comic. I will end on this note. By itself, Mars Attacks Judge Dredd is a really solid comic. As a crossover, it’s a real let down.