Mars Attacks: First Born #1

7 Overall Score
Art: 8/10
Dialogue: 6/10
Story: 7/10

A thoughtful and exciting comic.

Fans of the film, be warned: This isn’t the Mars Attack you know.

Mars Attacks: First Born #1
Ryall, Kieth
IDW Publishing
2014

Though often maligned, I remain a fan of Tim Burton’s 1996 film Mars Attacks. It combined Burton’s once novel and pleasing aesthetic with a really bizarre mixture of hard science-fiction and slapstick comedy. Though not heralded in film circles, I think it is an under-appreciated film in Burton’s growing oeuvre. The new IDW comic Mars Attacks: First Born, is a story investigating the lives of a few folks who lived through the attacks depicted in Burton’s film. Though the book presents an interesting narrative, it’s not entirely successful at carrying the Mars Attacks banner.

The story, by Chris Ryall, follows Claire a little girl who lost all of her family to the Martian attacks, except for her eccentric Uncle Woody. The two live a secluded life in an old farm house, where Woody does his best to protect Claire from any future attacks. Oh, and Claire has also “adopted” an infant Martian that she names Baby. It would seem this story exists in the world of the 1996 film in name alone. Though, the Martians resemble the aliens of the film, the world does not. The universe in the film was an eclectic, painting of the Martian apocalypse; even destruction looked fun under Burton’s hand. The book has captured none of this. The world of Mars Attacks: First Born is drab and bleak, virtually void of any of the kinetic energy that made the film so fun. And other than the gonzo premise, their isn’t a lot of humor to be found, which is in stark contrast to the sarcastic, slapstick humor of the film.

I don’t mean to nit-pick the comic for not adhering to its source material. In fact, this a pretty good comic, which makes me wonder why IDW didn’t just divorce it from the Mars Attacks film altogether and let it stand alone as its own series. After all, the only thing tying it to the film is the look of the alien, which is an easy fix. Despite the comic not resembling the film universe from which it sprang, Mars Attacks: First Born is a promising first entry into what promises to be a bizarre series. Ryall spends much of the first issue allowing the reader to understand and care about our main characters. Claire is innocent and sweet; Woody is the same, but rest assured, he’s seen some shit that has stuck with him. Ryall is to be commended for creating a tense atmosphere; though the Martians, aside from Baby, aren’t seen much in issue one, the threat of a Martian attack is an ever-present concern for Claire and Woody.

The art, from Sam Kieth, is much like the story itself, in that Kieth has created an interesting world, just not a world that looks anything like the source material. Kieth’s style is innocent and playful–his drawing of Claire and Baby are down-right precious–until they’re paired with a desolate backdrop of despair and destruction. It’s an odd pairing but works surprisingly well, as if Bill Waterson drew a story as told by Clive Barker.

The words “Mars Attacks” splashed across the cover of a comic book, invoke a very familiar universe. Mars Attacks: First Born isn’t that universe, which can be a little frustrating in the early pages of the comic, when the nature and pacing of the book is a bit of a question mark. However, once the comic settles in and distinguishes itself from Burton’s film, it turns into a pretty exciting first issue.

 

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Craig Schroeder
Author: Craig Schroeder View all posts by

I am a graduate of Florida State University, studying Creative Writing and History. Right now I work a desk job but I dream all day of making a living writing comics. I formed an indie label based in Tallahassee called Gentleman Baby Comics and HIT! is our debut comic.

I read a lot of comics. I watch a lot of movies. I drink too much soda. I love a great television show.

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