Variant covers used to be all the rage and still have a hold in collectors’ hearts and wallets, but “Mars Attacks” #1 has fifty-nine different options to blaze multiple holes into the wallets and pockets of crazed collectors everywhere. Thankfully, I consider myself a reader and not a collector.
All the same, it certainly is fun to see a comic cover displaying the art from one of the original 1962 trading cards. Those cards serve as a transitional motif throughout this issue. John McCrea uses the concept of the cards to lead into each scene. You can almost hear McCrea and writer John Layman, with wads of waxy, pink gum from the card packs in their mouths, trading ideas of the story surrounding the image depicted.
Opening with a dynamic scene of Earth being conquered by the Martians the story slides into a flashback of 1961 where two men find the Martian we will come to know as Zar. McCrea follows up the prologue and sets the rest of this story in motion with a credit sequence evocative of Hollywood storyboards with creator credits marching down the page, embedded in panels that advance the narrative and present more of what exactly happened in 1961.
As with any artistic adventure or new issue based off of a licensed property, there are some quirky bumps here and there, like the difference in a carnie barker shouting out “Sidney” in front of a sign that reads “Sydney” and one of the country folk who finds Zar blasting two Martians at once with what appears to be one gun suddenly becoming two guns after said blasting. Those bobbles are slight and certainly don’t detract from the main story of misunderstanding couched within humanity’s knack to assume the worst and lash out at the unknown. Otherwise, throughout the story McCrea’s art and Andrew Elder’s colors are fantastically matched to the wondrously gory, hideously unsettling encounter between a quartet of Martians and a band of humans who simply won’t back down.
The trading cards were known for their vivid imagery and the “Mars Attacks” Martians have become pop culture icons. “Mars Attacks” #1 is a fitting tribute to this legacy and a fun summer comic that is a buoyant celebration of this franchise’s fiftieth anniversary.