IDW's Mars Attacks event comes to a close this Wednesday with the release of Mars Attacks Zombies Versus Robots (a clumsy title if there ever was one). Having now read them all, I can guarantee there will be no cross-over event more ridiculous in 2013. In order, the skull-faced, big-brained Martians have attacked Popeye, KISS, the Ghostbusters, the Transformers, and some zombies and robots. The individual issues don't cross over with each other, instead they're only unified by the "what if" premise of imminent Martian attack.
Out of all the properties, I'm probably the biggest fan of Popeye, so I was really surprised how well Martin Powell and Terry Beatty pulled off their book. It really felt like any other Popeye adventure, not a forced attempt to make the Mars Attacks trappings work with something so quaint. Putting aside the immediate recognition of Topps' weird-looking Martians, this could have been any given Popeye comic book from decades ago, and you'd never know the difference. That's a high compliment.
I'm no fan of KISS, so Mars Attacks KISS was a miss for me, but I do have to give it credit for having the greatest single panel image in the entire event - the Martians in full KISS make-up (pictured above). I don't know if its dumb rock-and-roll tale of cosmic spiritual forces are part and parcel with the overall KISS mythos, but this was corny to a fault. KISS completists can add it to their list, but otherwise, I'd only really recommend it for the Alan Robinson art.
I've been reading Erik Burnham's Ghostbusters ongong for IDW since it started, but Mars didn't attack them - Mars attacked the "Real" Ghostbusters. It's an odd but important distinction between the Ghostbusters directly from the 1984 film and the Ghostbusters from the old Saturday morning cartoon (complete with blonde Egon and mascot Slimer). I have no idea why they chose this direction. Possibly to keep it out of the continuity that Burnham is creating in the monthly? Regardless, Burnham's book is as light as the others, but he seems to take the challenge of introducing the Martians a touch more seriously. He comes up with a surprising, clever way to have the two properties face off in their one-time (?) story.
Unexpectedly, Mars Attacks Transformers turned out to be the most ridiculous of them all - definitely the most intentionally comedic. For this casual Transformers fan, some of the gags were pretty amusing (references to Sam's yellow boots and a hilarious late game appearance by one of the least cool Autobots in Transformers history), but if you're a die-hard who doesn't mind having a laugh with these characters, this one-shot is a must. Everyone else will be left scratching their heads as to why this is nothing like the Michael Bay films.
Zombies Vs. Robots is an IDW stalwart, a post-apocalyptic tale created in part by their Editor-In-Chief, writer Chris Ryall. Though not as recognizable as the other characters involved in the event, this was actually the one book I didn't want to end. It feels like there's real potential for a long-form tale of alien invasion on a planet where there's no one left alive to subjugate, Andy Kuhn (Firebreather) should be invited back if they ever explore this further, as he has a real handle on how to translate original series artist Ashley Wood's distinct high-art world into something more breezy.
I'd call the Mars Attacks event a success. IDW's obvious intent was purely to create a slew of fun one-shots under one marketable umbrella, and they did. This doesn't feel like the last time they'll do a Mars Attacks initiative, and the goofy "dumb fun" tone of the whole thing certainly makes the books stand out. Not many (any?) publishers are building company-wide cross-over events around a dedication to total silliness.
(Mars Attacks Popeye, Mars Attacks KISS, Mars Attacks the Transformers, and Mars Attacks the Real Ghostbusters are available now. Mars Attacks Zombies Vs. Robots arrives on Wednesday, January 30.)