REVIEW: Mars Attacks KISS #1

by

Or – “Where’s The Phantom Of The Park?”

I am a real sucker for comic books featuring KISS.  Maybe it’s just that Gene and his pals have created iconic comics-style images for their stage personas, maybe it’s a matter of loving the old Steve Gerber-penned Marvel Super-Specials, but I can seldom withstand the allure of the Fearsome Foursome in comic form.  Add in the bonus of Martian monsters on parade, and you’ve got yourself one guaranteed sale.  Will the book hold up to my expectations?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

MarsAttacksKissCoverMARS ATTACKS KISS #1
Writer: Chris Ryall
Artist: Alan Robinson
Colorist: Jay Fotos
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Chris Ryall
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in Mars Attacks KISS:  In 1962, Len Brown was inspired by a Wally Wood issue of ‘Weird Science’ to pitch a card set called “Attack From Space,” whose 55 individual bubblegum cards each depicted a scene from an imaginary invasion of Earth by sadistic fiends from Mars.  The graphic violence and adult themes were a hit with the kiddies, but not so much with the parents, leading to the trading card set being first revamped and eventually pulled from sale.  Fifty years later, the Mars Attacks cards are a well-known cult classic, and even spawned their own movie!

Roughly a decade later, a couple of comics fans ditched their old band, Wicked Lester, in search of a new direction, adopting flamboyant costumes and kabuki-style makeup, renaming the group KISS.  (Despite rumors, it’s not an acronym.)  Hitting the big time thanks partly to their appearance on a Paul Lynde Christmas special, the band has been up and down the charts, and their membership has changed, but leader Gene Simmons has proven himself to be a canny promoter, keeping the KISS image and trademarks in the public eye in multiple media.  They, too, spawned a movie, but they don’t really like to talk about it.

AND NOW THEY FIGHT!!

ALTERNATE HISTORY?

This issue opens with a scene that could be read either as a deconstruction of every high-falutin’ scene featuring cosmic entities in a floating plane of space, or just a goony bit of slapstick.  Me, I’m taking the first view, as we see the creature/naked psionic energy babe known only as “She”, floating in the void, communing with The Elder, he what empowers the amulets of Khyscz (and, by extension, their avatars, the superhero versions of KISS.  The usual blah-blah-blah about duty and greater powers and destiny ensues, and The Elder asks his emissary to do one final thing:  “Um, duck?”  The Elder’s warning comes, sadly, too late, as She is promptly run down by a Martian sauce, advance scout of the impending fleet.  It’s a great opening, followed by a sort of retelling of the events of the long-ago Marvel Super-Special #1, as a strange blind man called Dizzy tries to get the amulets of Khyscz to worthy bearers.  Of course, things go awry, and the amulets end up in the hands of a quartet of Martians, who are flat-out HYSTERICAL decked out as the Demon, Cat-Man, Starchild and Space Ace.  They proceed to rampage, while four youths watch helplessly, knowing that they have just missed their own destiny…

YES, HAVE SOME!

Just like the Popeye one-shot that Stephen and I covered on Dueling Reviews not so long ago, this issue has the continuity chops, from the appearance of Dizzy to the aliens duplicating the transformation pose from the original issue, and the dialogue is evocative of that long-ago issue as well.  (Ace calling people “Curly” always sticks in my head.)  Sadly, though, while the KISSified Martians look phenomenal, the four humans are practically interchangeable, looking pretty much nothing like their real-world counterparts.  There is some nice battlefield stuff that goes on, though, and the homages to Mars Attacks (both cards and the movie) are numerous and well-done.  Like the original, it’s a bit bloody and graphic, but also hilarious, and both The Elder’s battle with the Martian fleet and the ending of the book are pretty good gags in their own right.  All in all, it’s a nice issue and it ends on a perfectly absurd note, like any good ‘What If?’ style tale should.

THE BOTTOM LINE: BIG, LOUD GOOFY FUN.

It’s not a perfect issue, but it’s a good one, and you have to appreciate the kind of madness that would lead to fusing these two properties in the first place.  If you know nothing of the comic-book backstory of KISS, you learn what you need to learn here, and the visuals, while flawed, have moments of such utter brilliance that you almost forgive the artist for not being able to make Gene look like Gene.  If you’re looking for poetic narratives or inspiring insights into the human condition, you might be disappointed, but the book  entertained me all the way through, it referenced previous books that I dearly love and even its worst points aren’t a complete deal-breaker.  The price point might be a sticking place for some budgets, but Mars Attacks KISS #1 earns a very impressive 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  Now, when do the li’l green buggers attack Optimus Prime?

Rating: ★★★½☆

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