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.



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…


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.


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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About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. There are comic books that are a must read because of an epic story arc. There are comic books that are a must read because of fantastic art. And then there are a larger number of comic books that are just fun to read. I cannot help but chuckle – and groan – at the idea of a comic book – any comic book – featuring KISS, especially in this day and age when you never hear KISS music on the radio any more and the group lacks relevance.

    KISS has never been more that a one-trick pony in the first place and they’ve should have been put out to pasture a decade or more ago. I don’t seem to recall any other rock bank getting jammed into other people’s comic books the way KISS is, aside from The Monkees, who I believed once had their own comic book title. Please tell me that DC didn’t do a “Batman Bops with the Beatles” issue or Marvel didn’t do an “Ironman vs. Iron Maiden” treasury edition…

    • Actually, Batman did sort of crossover with the Beatles, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof, something that Retro Review fans may recall reading about here: http://majorspoilers.com/2011/01/02/retro-review-batman-222-june-1970/ The Beatles also met The Thing and the Human Torch, and I’m pretty sure Iron Man slept with Pink and Jessica Simpson.

      As for your opinions on KISS, mileage varies, but it should be noted that their ubiquity is due to Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley being pretty great at self-promotion and licensing, as well as being big comic nerds. I can’t get too angry at them for wanting to see their comics-inspired characters in actual comics, but then I tend to have a higher tolerance for this sort of thing than you do. After all, just because a comic is goofy doesn’t mean it isn’t brilliant…

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