"Mars Attacks: Occupation #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by John Layman
Illustrated by Andy Kuhn
Colored by Jason Lewis
2016, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on March 9th, 2016
You may remember Mars Attacks as a quirky sci-fi comedy with some wacky Martians babbling and ultimately failing to take over Earth. That is perhaps the farthest thing from reality, especially in Mars Attacks: Occupation. The comic takes place after the Martians have arrived and conquered the planet. What remains of mankind is treated like slaves and there is no hope for freedom. It's a pretty bleak existence and it's rather terrifying.
The Martians are brutal. They have little to no tolerance for rule-breakers as evidenced by the guy they vaporize for speaking out of turn. These are menacing creatures, lording over humanity with superior firepower and a general bad attitude. Humans are forced to fight in a gladiatorial arena for their amusement.
Despite everything being stacked against her, Ruby Johnson has not let this dystopian society bring her down. She watched her father go down fighting in an effort to save her as well as a number of others. She clearly inherited his strong will and determination. Anyone else might have given up when faced against such a horrid environment, but not Ruby. Just because she's stuck in this crappy world doesn't mean she has to let people abuse her, especially sniveling douchebags working for the Martians.
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The issue opens with Ruby dreaming of boxing, just like her father. Her fists break through Martian helmets and liberating her world from its new overlords. The scene shows a brief glimmer of hope before peeling back the curtain to reveal the decrepit buildings and alien spaceships that surround this area. Perhaps my favorite moment is when Ruby sees the aforementioned vaporization. Artist Andy Kuhn shows her gritting her teeth before showing a close up of her clenched fist. She wants so much to knock that Martian's block off, but she has to show restraint. It has to be one of the hardest things she's ever had to do and I'm sure it happens often. That says a lot about the character and it's done with minimal dialogue.
Ruby's story is interspersed with flashbacks of her father's last moments. By showing his selfless actions, we learn a lot about Ruby as well as the people around her and the invasion in general. Colorist Jason Lewis gave these scenes a different tone, shaded in a cool blue, which works well as we're seeing these as memories.
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The classic Martian design is unchanged here. If something works, you don't try to fix it. Kuhn draws them with such a lack of emotion. There is not a shred of compassion in these soldiers. Human beings are little more than animals to them. They hold all the power in this world now, having knocked mankind off the top spot in the food chain.
Now that the Martians have conquered Earth, they have to hold on to it. This is the part of the board game Risk where you hope no one attacks you before your next turn so you can get all those extra soldiers by having a full country. (Did I just take this to a far nerdier place than normal?) Mars Attacks: Occupation shows a dreadful version of our future where we're no longer at war with an alien race; we've lost. Despite this, mankind is surviving and in examples like Ruby, it will persevere. The book puts humanity in an underdog position on its own world to the point where you can't wait to see Ruby kick some Martian ass.