I'm not going to make this review about whether this book has any reason to exist, because it doesn't. Besides being franchises with a fondness for tongue-in-cheek ultra-violence, there is no connecting thread to excuse a 'Judge Dredd'/'Mars Attacks' pairing besides IDW editor itchy trigger-fingers on any project that mashes their licensing library together. That said, 'Batman vs. Predator' and 'Predator vs. Magnus: Robot Fighter' didn't have a much better excuse and ended up at the very least amusing reads, making the argument against meaningless crossovers insubstantial as long as a good story is told. So does 'Mars Attacks Judge Dredd' have one?
Well what does it have?
Puns, I guess?
From the very first page, our primary antagonists are a gang of cartoon mobsters with names like Don Schnozzelli and Don Apelino (guess what they look like) who team up with the Ack! Ack! Martians to Crime Better or something. The first page even features a mobster called Don Travolta who futily tries to weave 'Grease' puns into his threats. This kind of humor goes on for four pages before the story starts, a by-the-numbers potboiler about Dredd taking on one of the mobster's organizations single-handedly, but it makes it kind of hard to seriously feel concern for Dredd when the central villain’s gimmick is he picks his nose in every scene. While not a Dredd fan I am aware the series is historically cheeky, and there are a couple of genuinely funny lines (“We will sell his bones as medicine for our sexual dysfunctions!”), but there is a line crossed here from satire to humor more suited for the pages of Cracked Magazine.
The rest of the book is serviceable, albeit with negligible Martian activity. They show up here and there but could have been absent from the first issue to no real detriment. One nice touch was the use of Mars Attacks cards drawn onto the page to communicate exposition. However, this doesn't save us from normal exposition, which on one page was so detailed it gave me pause considering only a few pages earlier we were reading about a monkey who used a banana like a cigar. If anything about the book was the most irritating it was the swinging pendulum tone; too wacky to be dramatic yet still trying to tell a cop story like the structure isn't built on whoopee cushions and fake dog turds.
The art by John McCrea fluctuates as well. Initially, I was unimpressed by the ugly rendering of the cartoon mobsters and the martians, but during the later Dredd section the art actually had some flair, with an angularly drawn Dredd with dense stocky lines.
With these kinds of mash-up crossovers the bare minimum expectation is fanservice, something to appeal to one or preferably both fanbases, but what does 'Mars Attacks Judge Dredd' offer in that regard? It's a Dredd book that's been watered down to plug a crossover in, and the Martians are so far marginalized to the point of irrelevance. I'm not sure who the book was written for, not sure who would buy it, but it's not horribly offensive considering IDW's track record. Lord knows if it doesn't sell they've got plenty of options. Mostly Pony related options.
Writer: Al Ewing Artist: John McCrea Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 9/11/13