Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mars Attacks #1

Writer: John Layman
Artist: John McCrea
Company: IDW Publishing

I remember sitting in the theater with my Dad watching the Mars Attacks movie back in 1996 and scratching my head a bit. I went in, not quite knowing what to expect back then. I was only beginning to take note of different actors and directors and the styles that they utilized in their various movies. Still, the odd blend of Sci-Fi action and off the wall zaniness that went so far as to use Slim Whitman's Indian Love Call as the vehicle for the downfall of the Martian invasion, certainly struck a chord for me. For a new take on such an odd property, it only makes sense to call on the talented and Purveyor of the Bizarre, John Layman. His work on Chew has been humorous, ingenious, and straight up strange. Can we say, "Perfect Fit?"

And Layman doesn't let us down either. This first issue doesn't hit too high on the crazy scale, but fun is had by all parties, and the story that is set up certainly has quite a bit going for it. There are a few time jumps set up throughout, but once you get a handle on that, which isn't difficult, it's easy to sit back and relax and bask. One of the biggest draws for the book is that the main character is not a human but is instead one of the Martians, a dude that goes by the name of Zar. That simple twist and the way that the humans that he runs into treat him...Well, I won't say that it humanizes him, as that would be wrong, but you kind of understand his desire to, "EXTERMINATE."

The one complaint that I could make is that all of the human characters, everyone from the down on your luck guys who stumble across our aliens to the runners of the Carnival, feel like caricatures. That's sort of in keeping with the tone that the movie set though and it also allows for conflict to show up quickly enough. That's the meat and potatoes of any Alien vs Human book, and you won't be disappointed in what you find in that regard with Mars Attacks.

Illustrating the mayhem is artist John McCrea. He's an artist that I'm always on the look out for, and because of the often zany moments that could occur in the book he's most know for, Hitman, he seems perfect for the subject matter and its inevitable out of the box antics. Everything here feels animated, but the difference between the way the humans look compared to how the Martians look is interesting. The line work for the humans feels loose while the Martians are very structured. It's a small thing, but it sets the two sides apart. I also love the design work that has gone into it all. The armor and technology that the aliens use definitely reflect what we would expect, but it's all taken a step further and is striking. McCrea also gets to redraw some of the cards from the Topps trading card series, used here as an interstitial between chapters, which adds a cool factor to the book that I think fans of that card series will really enjoy.

This is a setup issue. One that lays the groundwork for things to come. Overall, it feels a little on the light side, but Layman and McCrea do a great job of adding their own spin to the mythos of Mars Attacks. It's a popcorn comic, a perfect blend of humor, violence, and insanity.

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