Pullbox Reviews: Mars Attacks Red Sonja #3- Switch off, sit back, & enjoy the pulpy crossover goodness…

Martian conqueror Xi’Zeer has his eye on a bride and has set his sights on Red Sonja! Are those wedding bells I hear in the distance, or is it simply the sickening slicing sound of the She-Devil-With-A-Sword, as it lops off yet another oversized green head of those pesky Martian invaders? The crossover of the century continues!!!

While the fiendish Grand Martian Science Advisor & self-proclaimed King of Bryssendyn Xi’Zeer continues his reign of terror among the people of the Hyborean Age, his experiments have taken an unexpected turn… to marriage! The subject of his latest sadistic foray into scientific discovery is none other than his captive… the she-devil with a sword, Red Sonja! But all hope is not yet lost, as there remains one last true & surviving heir to the throne of Bryssendyn… the also captive but still feisty Princess Meredeen!

Will Sonja be able to escape the heinous advances of the mad Martian King Xi’Zeer?

Will the plucky Princess Meredeen survive long enough to claim her birthright and free her people from the interplanetary despot?

Did you just read all of that and totally hear the announcer’s voice from those schlocky 50’s & 60’s horror movies?

Nothing to be ashamed of. Every now and then, we all need a little schlock in our lives, and Dynamite has taken it on themselves to provide that very thing.

Like with all cheesy crossovers, you’re gonna have to go into this one with an open mind. The very concept of Mars Attacks being thrown into the world of Red Sonja was enough to get you to read this review, so I’m thinking that you’re already halfway there. If you’re still not sure about pulling the trigger, you’re still sitting on the fence trying to decide which way you’re going to go, dial back the higher brain functions a notch or two and let’s see if I can give you a nudge.

I’ll start by pointing out that the writer behind this particular piece of escapist brain candy is John Layman, the mind behind Chew & (my personal favorite) Outer Darkness. Make no mistake, Layman can do morbid & creepy… and as it turns out he can also do cheeky & campy. The original set of Topps cards that featured the creatures & situations of Mars Attacks! took its cues from good ol’ fashioned cold war paranoia, the fear of invasion from the Red Menace (kids, ask you parents about that one, or do a little research) which was ever present throughout the sixties. Then in more recent years when the concept of the Green Menace once again gained a toehold in pop culture, Mars Attacks! came back more satire than horror. Layman leans hard into that attitude here, but changes up the normal setting for his invasion.

Instead of more contemporary times, this incursion of the Martian Menace takes place “in a time undreamed of” (right around the time the oceans drank Atlantis & the rise of Sons of Aryas), when legendary warriors walked the land. One of the most well-known of those heroes is none other than (no, no, not him… totally different publisher) Red Sonja of Hyrkania. The combination of pulp sci-fi & fantasy gives this spin a new look as the dark science of Xi’Zeer brings new horrors to Robert E. Howard’s Hyborean Age. John Layman approaches his story in a way that embraces the absurd, lovingly entwining Sonja in a most unique situation. I mean sure, men & women have tried to take Red Sonja, to have and to hold- usually much to their detriment- but none have had the means to try and… y’know what, let’s just move along. I’m no spoiler.

Capturing the insanity of the visuals for this kind of comic is essential, and the team of Fran Strukan (illustration), Valentia Briski (colors), and Taylor Esposito (lettering) is on point! Given the twisted scientific leanings of the “maddest of Martian mad scientists” in the personage of Xi’Zeer, Strukan must’ve had a great time figuring out new and inventive ways to twist and reshape the already twisted & misshapen. As you’re flipping through the book, take a moment to really appreciate the results of Xi’Zeer’s genetic manipulations as his experiments lurk about in search of victims to rend and tear. Then spend some time admiring the work of Briski and the use of dense shadows for those murky environments. I’ve seen some recent criticism of colorists as a whole, claiming that they don’t always take the effort to really fit their work to that of the illustrator. In some cases that may be true, but Briski & Strukan have joined forces to create a cohesive piece of work. They’re… on the same page, you could say.

Okay, moving on.

I don’t know how many times I’m going to find myself looking to the work of letterer Taylor Esposito as some of the best in the business. Eventually he’s gonna have to put me on his Christmas card list or something, because I’m consistently finding myself reading a comic with some fantastic and creative lettering, only to look at the credits page and see his name. Esposito doesn’t just set type… I mean, sure he sets type, always keeping his work in sync with the action, never interfering or distracting. Then in titles like this he gets to play around a little. Sound effects are worked into the artwork instead of just stamped on top of it, and the Martian dialect had to have been interesting to find a font for. Calibri™ just doesn’t seem to cover it.

Look, in case you haven’t caught on by now, yes I think you should check this title out. I’m not saying it’s going to change the way you see the world around you… but I ain’t saying it won’t, either. I am saying that in a world, at a time filled to the brim with doom and gloom, some classic pulpy escapism can’t be a bad thing. So pick up a comic book, any comic that floats your boat but for the purposes of this review I’m hoping you grab this one. Switch off, sit back, & just embrace the absurd for a little while.

Final Score: 10/13

issue #1, page 1
issue #1, page 2
Issue #1, page 3
Issue #1 cover
Issue #2 cover
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