Mars Attacks Red Sonja is the sort of project that only comes about because of corporate fiat. On the one hand, we have Mars Attacks—a science fiction story dictated through a 1962 Topps trading card set, which was later adapted into a 1996 movie. On the other hand, we have Red Sonja—a fantasy heroine originally created for Marvel Comics in 1973 to meet the demand for a female Conan, revived later by Dynamite Entertainment in 2005.
There is no logical way to bring these two franchises together. There is also no aesthetic reason for Dynamite Entertainment to do so. The only reason this series exists is to hoist a plethora of variant covers upon the teaming masses of comic book speculators, who will happily buy dozens of comics to secure the 1:100 variant where Red Sonja, clad in nothing but an anachronistic thong, faces down a Martian death machine several times her size.
The damnable thing is that writer John Layman does a fair job of justifying this madcap idea. The story is set in the distant past of both Mars and Earth, when the Martians were an advanced and peaceful people and Earth was savage and untamed. Enter Chief Science Advisor Xi’Zeer, a xenophobic soul who dreams of a Martian empire built on conquest. He heads to Earth on what is nominally a mission of exploration and peace, but really an excuse for him to take over Hyborian Age Earth, use the helpless humans as fodder for his weird science, and generally be a jerk without the Martian Emperor around to stop him.
The only thing standing in his way, of course, is Red Sonja. Well, Sonja and a few other random fantasy heroes who are barely given names and mostly not given dialogue, so really it is just Sonja. The setup isn’t bad, but it is a bit cliché, even by the standards of genre fiction and there’s nothing done with this war between the worlds that hasn’t been done before and done better elsewhere.
The artwork is flat and lifeless, for the most part. This is odd given how much bloodshed the story contains. Unfortunately, there’s little personality to any of the human characters and the Martian villains all maintain the same expression from scene to scene, showing emotion only as their heads are being crushed or sliced by the barbarians fighting them. The colors don’t help, with most of the comic rendered in muted pastels that don’t match the vivid coloration of the original Topps trading cards or your average Red Sonja comic.
This volume is rated Teen Plus for audiences 13 and up. I seriously question that rating, given as the violence within this book, ineffectually drawn as it is, retains enough detail to be worth a 16 Up rating, at least. There are several scenes of people and horses being cut in half, Martian and human heads being crushed with viscera leaking out, and one intensive scene involving Red Sonja being beheaded. Unfortunately, while some of the variant covers in the gallery that follows the story are inventive in paying tribute to various B-movies, the actual comic book story is easily skipped.
Mars Attacks Red Sonja
By John Layman
Art by Fran Strukan
Dynamite Entertainment, 2022
Publisher Age Rating: 13+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Character Representation: Bisexual