Mars Attacks: 50thAnniversary Collection, an anthology of the 1962 trading card series from the Topps Company and Abrams Comic Arts, comes packaged in a jacket made from the same wax paper as '60s bubble gum wrap. The packaging establishes an air of honeyed nostalgia that the cards themselves are mercifully quick to demolish. The 55 violent images of interplanetary slaughter in the "Mars Attacks" series were controversial in their day, but have atrophied in the popular consciousness as kitsch relics of the Kennedy era. The best thing about this 50thanniversary book is that it frees "Mars Attacks" from rose-tinted memory.
Though painted in gorgeous, lurid color by Norman Saunders from drawings by Wally Wood, the "Mars Attacks" series is otherwise proudly inelegant. There is a semblance of a continuing story — about a deadly Martian invasion of Earth, and mankind's successful counterattack — but there are no recurring characters, and only the barest of narrative information. Mars' attack (prompted by "atomic pressures building up beneath the surface of Mars for many years") involves expanding Earth insects to Godzilla-like proportions and slaughtering every human in sight. Earth's brilliant strategy for victory involves (hang on, let me check my notes...) crushing the Martian invaders with tanks and blowing up their planet.