Kieran Fisher reviews Mars Attacks: Occupation #1…
‘The Martians came. The Martians saw. The Martians conquered. Now the space invaders cruelly rule over humanity, which has no hope for liberation… until Ruby Johnson decides that she has had enough.’
The alien invasion story is one of science fictions most timeless, terrifying and fun. The existence of extraterrestrial lifeforms in the far reaches of space has yet to be disproven, therefore the reality of little green men invading our planet might not be so far-fetched after all. Should they invade – and takeover – then let’s hope they’re not as mean as the Martians in Mars Attacks: Occupation, a new five issue mini-series from John Layman and Andy Kuhn.
Set in a world where the aliens have taken over and instilled their authoritarian ways on the humans, the first issue sets up the new world they inhabit and introduces us to our central protagonist Ruby Johnson. The post-invasion society is an otherworldly totalitarian nightmare; if Nazi Germany and ancient Roman meshed, then it would be something akin to this new world. Humans have a curfew they must adhere to; speaking out against the Martian’s results in certain death; gladiatorial combat and human sacrifice is sport, and alien law is imposed with an iron fist. That being said, if you choose to voluntary work for the overlords from outer space, you can enjoy perks such as tickets to their cruel events and gainful employment.
Ruby is your archetypical hero: strong-willed, fiercely independent, handy in combat and tortured by her past. She’s spent her life preparing to strike back against the invaders, but out of respect for her father’s memory she’s held back until a situation triggers her survival instincts. Andy Kuhn’s art expertly portrays Ruby’s emotional turmoil, while painting an exterior which suggests an empowered female protagonist more than able to take care of herself.
Those going into Mars Attacks: Occupation expecting the same tongue-in-cheek hilarity of Tim Burton’s spoof movie may find this as shocking as an intense alien anal probing; while not lacking in gallows humour, the style is much darker than the film. The blueprint of aliens looking to enslave humanity is the same, but they’re told in a separate manner which might disappoint those looking for X, only to find themselves getting Y. Occupation strikes a fine tonal balance between entertainment and drama to create a story that takes itself seriously, but not so much so that it abandons genre tropes and extravagance.
Much like the alien invasion stories it draws inspiration from, the first issue has done nothing to suggest Occupation will be anything ground breaking; for those who appreciate a traditional tale then you’ll find it ticks all the right boxes, but if you’re seeking something more innovative than it might come as a disappointment. Other than that, there are few faults with the issue and you can mark it off as an opening winner: it successfully sets up an interesting world, the protagonist is engaging and it has ample amounts of character focus.
Overall, Mars Attacks: Occupation is off to a great start. Sci-fi comics have a tendency to push the envelope on a regular basis, but sometimes you need a throwback like this that reminds you why you fell in love with the genre in the first place. It’s been awhile since we had an old school alien invasion story, and this one delivers on all fronts.
SEE ALSO: Check out a preview of Mars Attacks: Occupation #1
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