I mentioned not having heard of Al Ewing before hearing about this cross-over, but if this book is any indication, I should definitely look up some of his other works, especially his Dredd-related ones as this one is fantastic. It cuts straight to the point, showing that the sadistic, vulgar Martians of Mars Attacks fame infiltrated some of Mega-City One's most far-reaching criminal organizations not by destroying them, but by aligning themselves with one of the bosses and supplying him with enough firepower to take over. Dredd comes across this plot when he’s investigating an unexpected drop-off in crime rates across one of the Mega City’s more violent regions. Coming across a Martian (which Dredd mistakes for a mutant) guarding a strange energy source, things being to escalate quickly.
The story is a great mix of the usual tongue-in-cheek satire that Judge Dredd comics are known for (the Martians, at one point, plan on selling Dredd’s bones as an aphrodisiac) but it’s also punctuated by mock-ups of the trading cards that made the Mars Attacks brand famous with settings and characters from this comic inserted (as well as bits and pieces of back-story for the setting and characters), so the cross-over feels much more meshed than simply shoehorning Martians into the Dredd universe and makes for a great bit of story punctuation.
Dredd veteran John McCrea supplies the linework with Jay Fotos on colors and they bring a great, not-quite-retro look to the entire issue. Dredd looks more old-school than usual with his wide helmet, but the characters still look great and are surprisingly emotive (though it’s all melodrama and fine cuts of the hammiest ham) and the action is hard-hitting and has a great sense of immediacy. The colors have a sharp contrast to them, mostly using primaries, and the shadows are played up to glorious extremes.
The issue’s timeline jumps around a lot with little indication of when it’s returned to the “present,” which can be severely jarring and cause momentary bouts of disorientation when reading. The book occasionally leans a little hard into celebrity references (one of the Dons of the crime families looks like John Travolta) which, I know, is a hallmark of the franchise, but it’s one I’ve never really enjoyed in any of the books I’ve read, past or present.
This book is great, cornball fun and a great intertwining of the '50s sci-fi aesthetic of Mars Attacks with the '70s look and feel of Judge Dredd. I can’t recommend it enough for fans of dark humor or keen satire. It’s action is over-the-top violent, it’s dialog is taking itself JUST seriously enough to be hilarious and the cross-over is shockingly seamless considering how wildly different the two properties are. If you’re a fan of either, or IDW’s previous Mars Attacks… books, then this is definitely worth a look and if you’re a fan of both, what are you doing reading this review? PICK IT UP NOW!