“Do you really mean the 'Ak-Ak-Ak' Martians from that film?!”
Let's be honest, those were probably a lot of people's initial reactions, myself included, when they first saw this new project from IDW. If there was any doubt left in my mind about the title and what it really contained, it was all wiped away when I saw the cover. Across it (and all of the variant covers in one form or another) are the aliens from the 1996 cult classic movie.
Of course, said movie was based on a popular trading card series released in the early Sixties. Last year IDW began to publish new Mars Attacks comics and after the fun they'd had with their two Infestation crossovers (which saw zombies attacking the various IDW comics based on licensed properties such as Ghostbusters. Transformers, GI Joe and even Star Trek) they followed up with a series of Mars Attacks one shots earlier this year, where we saw the titular martians attacking Popeye, Ghostbusters, Transformers, Zombies Vs Robots and even Kiss! These single issues also included variants covers teasing other non-existent crossovers and among them was Mars Attacks Judge Dredd, which lead to quite a few excited fanboys who were swiftly disappointed when they realised it was just a variant humourous cover.
But never let it be said that IDW aren't a publisher who listen to their audience, because here's a four issue Mars Attacks Judge Dredd miniseries. This is a very strange mix but then Dredd isn’t unaccustomed to the idea of a crossover, having had them with Alien xenomorphs, Predator and Batman to name a few.
Al Ewing takes B-movie-style imagery and mixes it with the dirty futuristic scenery of Mega City One. The story is loosely based around the changes made to Mega City One in the wake of Bulgine Smalls, the boss of bosses, and how in the following years others major criminals carved the city into territories and rose to their own lofty heights. Smalls’ own son was snubbed in the process of doing this.
At the same time Dredd - while “troubleshooting” a notorious area of the city - is infiltrating a known mob front in his own unique style. Forcing deeper into the building he is confronted by what he can only assume is a severe mutation, but the reader will easily recognise the Martian. After dispatching the “mutant” things only get weirder. A mysterious sphere, more mutants and a giant carnivorous insect leaving us on a cliffhanger for the next issue.
Whilst it hasn’t avoided the aliens, I was glad that they weren’t comically peppered throughout the issue. Whereas the Burton movie was very tongue-in-cheek and comedic, this story is coming from a different angle, closer to the original trading cards or IDW's recent Mars Attacks comic.
Combined with John McCrea’s artwork there is a serious feel to the story instead. McCrea’s artwork, having worked on 2000AD previously, is totally in line with what a fan would expect. I personally prefer Greg Staples’ wonderful cover artwork but that is my preference more than anything.
The overall feel is that IDW have captured both IPs and put them together in a visually striking way. As for the story though I’m really not sure. The first issue hasn’t had enough development to show anything more than a teaser of the Martians in Dredd's city. Even the climax isn’t about them, though it does showcase the B-movie roots of Mars Attacks. It’s hopefully going to develop further and be more inclusive, otherwise it will feel like an endless chase. At present it really needs a situation to focus on and give a greater pull to the reader. I wasn’t completely wowed by it all so I’m hoping there’s a change coming. That said, fans of either series will want to add this unique little tale to their collection.
Matt Puddy Attacks Lunch!