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Mars Attacks: The Human Condition

featuring Fred Hembeck, Bill Morrison, Ian Boothby, Dean Haspiel, Phil Hester, Beau Smith and Neil Kleid.

(Art by Fred Hembeck, Tone Rodriguez, Alan Robinson, Dean Haspiel, John McCrea, Kelley Jones and Carlos Valenzuela)

This anthology combines 'Mars Attacks The Holidays' with 'Mars Attacks: Classics Obliterated', giving us a collection of short episodes each with an individual theme, either a special holiday or piece of classic literature; Halloween, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Moby Dick, Jekyll & Hyde and Robinson Crusoe.

Really, beyond the novelty of each story's theme, there's little of particular interest about this book as a whole.  It mostly occilates between silly and pointless, although, truth be told, I actually found the latter half of the book to be an actual insult to the great works of literature it appropriates.

The one good thing on offer here, and the reason I've rated this as a two instead of a one, is Boothby's 'Mars Attacks Thanksgiving'.  It contains the dark, wry humour that the rest of the book is lacking but which you could justifiably expect in a Mars Attacks story.  Somewhere between amusing and tragic is the inclusion for comedy effect of the arrogant, idiotic elitist businessman Donald Triumph.  A nice parody of Trump, but tragic in that this book was released in 2013, when the idea of him becoming President was just a horrifying fever-dream that we were sure couldn't ever be real...

2 out of 5

 

Marvel Platinum: The Definitive Guardians Of The Galaxy

featuring Arnold Drake, Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Bill Mantlo, Jim Valentino, Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.

(Art by Gene Colan, Mike Esposito, John Byrne, Terry Austin, Mike Mignola, Al Gordon, Jim Valentino, Steve Montano, Timothy Green, Victor Olazaba, Paul Pelletier and Rick Magyar)

An anthology collection which covers some important milestones in the comics history of the Guardians of the Galaxy, bringing us more or less up to date.  It is worth pointing out, to those not in the know, that there are in fact two teams with that name; the original one whose stories take place in the 31st century and a second one which formed the basis for the massively popular movie.  This book features both.

The first story here charts the first appearance of the original 31st century Guardians, published in 1969 and then there is a later story, published 1990, which features an updated version of this team.  I used to own several comics featuring this team but the truth is that their storyline, so disconnected from the main Marvel timeline, makes them seem pretty campy, shallow and, frankly, unfamiliar.  It also doesn't help that the 1969 story is based on the astronomy of a time when the moon was still a mystery, so to read about Charlie 27 walking on the surface of Jupiter robs the story of the scientific credibility that sci-fi needs.  On the plus side, I really like the character of Vance Astro (despite the name); a man who left Earth in the 20th Century and is revived a millennia later in a Buck Rogers-esque way.

We are also given a couple of graphic novel-length stories of two of the modern Guardians but from their early days in comics.  The first, by comics legend Claremont, tells the story of Star-Lord's fight against sinister forces within the realm of an interplanetary Empire.  This story was published the same year that Star Wars originally took the world by storm and the parallels are too strong to be ignored.  There's even a character who's referred to as a Sith-Lord.  What would've been a cheesy but enjoyable Flash Gordon-esque space opera is ruined by paling in comparison to the franchise that defined that genre from 1977 onwards.  The other old story of a new Guardian is a mid-eighties story of Rocket Raccoon.  It is a genuinely bizarre affair in which Rocket is a Ranger on a planet where talking animals and robotic clowns are tasked with caring for an entire civilisation of insane people who were dumped there like it was one big asylum.  Even now, I couldn't honestly say whether I really liked this weirdness or whether I completely hated it.  Mike Mignola's artwork for it is great though.

The last third or so of the book brings us to more recent times, in the aftermath of the Annihilation War when the de-powered Peter Quill aka Star-Lord is given command of a Dirty Dozen-type group of misfits which includes Loverbug, Mantis, Captain Universe, Rocket and Groot.  This was a much more enjoyable storyline indeed, albeit something of a cliche, and I particularly enjoyed seeing the awkwardly developing friendships within the group.  There's then a skip ahead a bit to issue #1 of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, in which Quill formalises a new team intended as cosmic Avengers.  There's some great humour in this last story as it is interspersed with debrief vignettes from each of the characters, commenting on the progress of their first mission together.

Overall this book is perfect for getting a sense of where the current Guardians of the Galaxy came from and, perhaps, where they're going.  Unfortunately, as a reading experience it's very disjointed and occasionally confusing, with great variations in the quality of the stories on offer.  And the truth is, although comic purists may want to crucify me for saying it, the comic incarnations just aren't as compelling as the ones in the 'Guardians of the Galaxy' movie.

2 out of 5

 

Marvel Zombies: Dead Days

featuring Robert Kirkman, Mark Millar and Reginald Hudlin.

(Art by Sean Phillips, Greg Land, Matt Ryan, Mitch Breitweiser and Francis Portela)

A companion book to the Marvel Zombies series, this book opens with a prelude to the main Marvel Zombies timeline then goes on to include the stories where the zombies crossover into the Ultimate Fantastic Four and, later, the mainstream continuity of the New FF.

The cover of this book promises to reveal the origins of the Marvel Zombies universe, but that's not strictly true.  Sure, it shows us how many of Earth's mightiest became zombies in the first place but it never really goes into details as to where the infection came from.  It may be that this is revealed in the main MZ books, which I haven't yet read, but I went into this book under the impression that it was intended as the starting point for people new to the MZ ideas.  On top of this, the first third of the book, the titular 'Dead Days' story by Kirkman, isn't actually particularly engaging.  It's fairly shallow zombie fayre and never seems to decide whether it's straight-up horror or slapstick comedy.

The parts of the book which show the zombies crossing over with more familiar continuities are much more interesting, however.  Although I'm not the biggest fan of the Ultimate universe, this book's best moments all come in the crossover with the Ultimate Fantastic Four.  I particularly enjoyed seeing the youthful Ultimate Reed Richards matching wits with his older, zombified alter ego.  Similarly, I enjoyed the watching the New FF (which is to say, the Thing, Human Torch, Black Panther and Storm) going toe to toe with the zombie Galacti.  

However, that leads me on to this book's other major problem, which is that I don't know when to suggest reading it.  I read it in the expectation that it would lead into the first 'Marvel Zombies' (by Kirkman), which parts of it do, but the latter parts of this book all take place after that book and lead into 'MZ2'.

3 out of 5