Back in January IDW blew me away with a Mars Attacks one-shot entitled Mars Attacks: Zombies vs. Robots. The comic was fun, exciting and didn’t require you to purchase 10 issues to get the whole story (I’m looking at you, Age of Ultron!). Then I found out they were publishing another Mars Attacks one-shot this week. Was it love at first sight twice and more importantly, is it good?
Mars Attacks: Classics Obliterated (IDW)
There could easily be a disclaimer on the front cover of this issue that reads, “no need to ever read Mars Attacks, but knowledge of Moby Dick, Jekyll & Hyde and Robinson Crusoe a must!” If any of those three classics don’t ring a bell you won’t find this comic 100% appealing. A lot of the humor and setup require, at the very least, some knowledge of those stories. That isn’t to say someone with absolutely no knowledge of these classics can’t enjoy this book though.
Ahab is looking very Martian here eh?
This issue runs at 48 pages with 16 pages devoted to each story and each story stands on its own. The Martians aren’t jumping between novels like Deadpool did in his “Killustrated” series. The comic opens with Moby Dick and follows Herman Melville as he goes out on Ahab’s boat to catch some whales. John McCrea draws this tale and truly makes Ahab look monstrous. The man has jagged teeth, a bulbous head and freakish eyes. The story spends its first six pages without Martian sighting, but once they do show up a wonderful allusion to the white whale is made that should make even those unfamiliar with Moby Dick snicker. But the story takes a much more serious tone and suggests the fantastical tale was actually dumbed down because who on Earth would believe Martians exist?
Unfortunately it might be a little too smart for its own good and comes off as a bit pretentious. Maybe it’s because it’s playing around not just with the story, but the real life man who wrote it as well. It doesn’t contain enough Martian action for my tastes either, but there are two more stories for that.
Dial it down a notch!
The second story, drawn by Kelley Jones and written by Beau Smith, focuses on Jekyll & Hyde and is much less serious. Anyone familiar with Mars Attacks comics should enjoy this story as it incorporates their love of blonde human women and has plenty of action. Jones’ style works too, with heavy use of ink that reminds me of a less colorful Eduardo Risso. Pound for pound it’s a lot of fun and really only requires you to know Hyde is a monster that can pound brains in.
The final story focuses on Robinson Crusoe, or to be more accurate, a Martian trapped on the same island. It’s told in a first person narrative from the Martian’s perspective. It’s clever because we’re getting his account as if he were the Martian version of Robinson Crusoe. The story works because writer Neil Kleid captures the madness you’d go through being alone on an island for years, but with a killer Martian point of view.
The only issue I took with the final story was its pace, which feels like a slog unless you’re in the right mood. It’s well written though, and the art by Carlos Valenzuela works great for the island locale.
Martians need to take their hands off our damn oil reserves!
- 2 out of 3 entertaining yarns
- Impressive art on every page
- The first story is boring and poorly paced
I highly doubt classic literature fans are going to run out and get this, mostly because they probably won’t know it exists. That said, if you have read these classics, you will enjoy Mars Attacks‘ takes.
As far as comic book fans unfamiliar with the classics though, I’d wager most will find the Moby Dick a bit on the boring side. When Martians do show up it’s fun, but this story seems too focused on the original work and Melville rather than anything that occurs in the comic. Similar to most twist endings you’ll note that it’s clever, but it’s the least satisfying of endings. That said, the final two stories are worthy of your time because they don’t lean on the classic tale that inspired it; instead standing on their own because the art and writing are so top notch. Two out of three ain’t bad.
Is It Good?
Yes. A Mars Attacks one-shot worth your time.