Lifetime reader of comics and fan of Planet of the Apes. When the two combine I can barely contain myself. Image, Boom and Titan comics fight for shelf space with Doctor Who DVDs.
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Mars Attacks: Occupation #2 by IDW Publishing has hit the shelves. Contributor Darryll Robson answers the question; in a world run by mindless, killer Martians, what becomes of mankind?
Martian’s rule the Earth and mankind are no more than slave labour. Ruby Johnson thinks that her world couldn’t get any worse but after the events of last issue things are going to take a horrible turn.
This month’s issue opens with the introduction of Zar, a Supreme Sector Overseer. Zar rose to power and was given his current position because of his unwavering one-rule-fits-all treatment of the humans. His motto; No Mercy. This maxim is repeated, ad nauseam, over the first four pages just to hammer home the point that Zar shows no mercy. His reign is cruel and harsh and as a result he is able to keep control.
The heroine Ruby is one small part of the world that isn’t under Zar’s control so after she gets into a fight with an over friendly resident, the Martians take her away to the Martian Gladiator Arena. In the holding cells she meets a selection of characters, all with no redeeming features or even memorable names. This is because they know that to fight in the arena is to die in the arena.
What’s the point in making friends if neither you nor them are going to see out the day?
One exception to this is Grady Rizzo who has seen the arena floor before and offers Ruby some advice; “If you want to survive a little longer, try to stay behind me.”
Ruby isn’t fazed and she’s not about to curl up and die. She straps on her choice of weaponry and heads into the arena. The fight is hard and bloody and most of the humans fall beneath the Martian onslaught, as is expected by everyone. But Ruby can hold herself in a fight. With her father’s words echoing in her ears she tears the Martians apart which is something these alien invaders have never seen.
Unfortunately for her, the entire arena event is being overseen by Zar and he shows No Mercy.
Mars Attacks Occupation is straight forward story telling. It’s simple and a little, but not entirely, brainless. This issue is basically a comparison between the cold hearted, inhuman Zar and the spirited fighter Ruby. This is achieved by introducing the main characteristic of each of them and then playing this over until it sinks in. Zar has no mercy and Ruby never gives up. These two elements are the focus of most of the narrative. Even when the arena fight is in full flow it is purely to highlight Ruby’s determination to win at all costs.
The only element of sub plot comes from the constant reference to Ruby’s father. She talks about him to Grady and his memory speaks to her as she fights. Where this is leading remains to be seen however one moment in the voice over possibly hints at what is to come:
“Her father, who was taken away – and no doubt killed- by the same extra-terrestrial monsters that were going to be the death of her.”
The inclusion of the words ‘no doubt’ and the bolding of the word ‘Killed’ suggests the possibility that Ruby’s father still has a part to play in her story. A previous reference to Martians upgraded with mutations and bionic weapons may also feature in Jerry Diamond Johnson’s return. This is purely speculative however.
John Layman tells an entertaining story full of violence and personal resolve but lacks engaging characters. Zar is a Mars Attacks stereotype, the Martians are nothing but relentless killers, and Ruby hasn’t developed since issue one. This doesn’t detract from the readability of the story it just means there’s no depth to get your teeth into.
As a contrast, Andy Kuhn injects the comic with some gruesome humour. His illustration switches from pure horror to comical whimsy between panels and the gladiator scenes have real energy to them. His depiction of the Martians, with their unrelenting hatred and disgust for all other life, is spot on.
Overall Mars Attacks Occupation #2 is an enjoyable read however it is mostly scene setting. This series lacks the humour of the older Mars Attacks incarnations but is representative of the direction that IDW have taken the franchise. From a personal point of view I believe the series is lacking something without the black humour of the original trading cards from 1962 and the resurgence in the 1990’s. But this is a modern Mars Attacks for a modern audience.
Darryll Robson is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Occasionally he might use his Twitter account: @DarryllRobson
IDW’s Mars Attacks will appeal to people who love straightforward Alien Invasions stories and with the addition of gruesome art, this makes it worth a read.