"Mars Attacks Classics: Volume 1" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by IDW Publishing
Originally Published as Mars Attacks #1-5 from Topps Comics
Written by Keith Giffen and Len Brown
Illustrated by Charles Adlard, Keith Giffen, Tom Sutton
1994, 158 Pages
Trade Paperback released on June 20th, 2012
Something that is made very apparent by most sci-fi movies is how unprepared the human race is for an alien invasion. I think we're probably ready for a zombie apocalypse, but UFOs would totally destroy us. Mars Attacks illustrates this in a pulpy style and manages to add a twinge of humor to all the death and devastation.
Suddenly and without warning, Martians swoop in and start attacking the Earthlings. They fire lasers. They drop ground troops. They mutate insects to create giant bug armies. They even manage to hack into the missile silos around the world and shoot most of the nuclear weapons into space. Humanity is quickly knocked from the top of the food chain, but there's something about mankind that causes us to strive against adversity. We're down but not out, so we start to fight back against the invaders with mixed results.
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This volume collects the original Mars Attacks series first published by Topps Comics. This five issue mini-series details the first battle between the Martians and the humans. Unlike later incarnations of the series, writer Keith Giffen has the Martian speech translated for us so we know what these creatures are saying. It definitely adds to the story because we get much more insight into why they're doing this. These reasons aren't explored much in the main storyline but are picked up in the backup written by Len Brown.
This original series isn't as humorous as the Tim Burton film or the current series from IDW Publishing. There are a handful of moments, but for the most part the story is played pretty straight. The covers for each chapter are a throwback to the old days of comics, complete with speech bubbles and descriptive text. For example, the third issue has a a giant mosquito stabbing a man through the back with bold letters saying "Forget Killer Bees...the Giant Mosquitoes are Coming!" They're a fun addition to the series with some brilliant art by...well, I'm not really sure who drew the covers. The name isn't listed. I think it's Ken Steacy though judging from some of his other work that I've seen. Regardless, they're fantastic.
Speaking of the art, Charles Adlard drew the main series. He's now known for a little book you might have heard of called The Walking Dead. As Mars Attacks came out almost ten years before The Walking Dead premiered, you can see how Adlard has grown as an artist from one title to the next. That's not to say that the art is bad. It can just be a little rough at times. The Martians look great and very menacing. There's not a single scene with them that isn't at least a little unsettling. Their very presence is unnatural.
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It was also a little strange to see Adlard's work in color. George Freeman and Digital Chameleon brought a bright array of colors to Mars Attacks. It makes each page really pop with a vibrant look.
Also included in this collection is the series of backup stories that appeared at the tail end of each issue when they were originally published. Each is a short one-shot tale looking at different characters and aspects of the invasion. They fill in some of the blanks from the main title and expand on the stories behind some of the characters. This is also where one of the most heartfelt parts of the book comes in. The second story, entitled "Ain't Nothing but a Hound Dog!", is told from the point of view of the canine companion of a young boy seen in the mini-series. It's written wonderfully and will tug on the heartstrings of anyone who has ever had a dog.
These first five issues set the stage for the initial invasion from Mars. The world is beat up and humanity is on the ropes, but they're not down and out. They're fighting back in a variety of ways and the Martians have to rethink their plan if they intend to totally take over the planet. Mars Attacks is a little over-the-top, but any fans of old school sci-fi stories would eat this up.