Review: God Hates Astronauts #1

In most of my reviews, I like to go back to the old dramatic-criticism-toolbox and talk about how the writers and artists have created worlds for these books to live in, and these worlds have rules; the fun is in watching someone try to break the rules. With Ryan Browne’s God Hates Astronauts, I am going to have to take an entirely different tack, because this is for all intents and purposes a world without rules, where floating ghost-horse-heads merge with headless-divorcee-superheroes, and the only romantic subplot is a farmer who demands to be allowed to fuck his chicken/the chicken head on a female body he has created. If you can’t tell already, I loved every single panel of this comic.

I’ve been sleeping on God Hates Astronauts, relatively speaking. Image put out a collection of the webcomic version of it earlier in the year before picking it up as an ongoing, but the first I heard of it was a few months ago in the back of a Manhattan Projects issue. It was a three-page comic where the aforementioned ghost-horse-head-divorcee-superhero (Star Grass), punches a rhino in a suit in the face (Dr. Professor). It honestly doesn’t take much more than that to sell me on a series.

The storyline in this issue is the only thing that I would call “weak,” but I would only call it that if pressed. This is a world that exists for characters and rambling backstories that are so out-there that you can’t even (seriously, you just cannot even); the plot is just a nicety to give the world a little bit of a place to go. Browne obviously knows what his story is and where it’s going to go, but in this issue, he has a lot of fun with all the different ways he can catch you up to speed with the backstory (my personal favorite being the guided tour by 3-D Cowboy, who is 3-D and also a ghost). There’s not a lot in terms of stakes, but the whole issue is unconcerned with what it should be doing and does what feels like it makes the least sense, which in this world makes the most sense. For example, the biggest threat Star Grass can come up with for Astro Farmer is to eat all his corn, so later on, Star Grass makes a point of eating all the fucking corn.

Actions have consequences, you guys.

GodHatesAstronauts_01_AThe design of this book is spot on, as well. I mean, the title page looks like a medicine show ad that promises it will result in a story to “enjoy in the bathtub or while riding an elliptical machine.” It instructs the reader to “Press Start with your mind-finger to continue.” I literally cannot find bad things to say about this comic book, to the point that even I am starting to become uncomfortable with what a frothing fanboy I sound like. The end result is that this comic stuck with me long after reading it, making me chuckle to myself for days.

I don’t get the vibe that this is the kind of comic you’re going to pick up for emotional weight. God Hates Astronauts doesn’t plumb psychological depths like Sex Criminals, or break down patriarchal mythologies like Pretty Deadly, or rewrite the history of the country (and the world?) like East of West. But at the end of this issue, I had literal tears in my eyes from laughing. It came on the heels of a rough week, full of panic attacks, and it said, “Hey, man. Feel better. Look at Admiral Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger, one of many in the familial line of Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger’s.” It’s weird, and it’s funny, and it’s gorgeous. It’s the kind of comic you would expect the Monty Python crew to come up with if they were just starting out now.

When you want zany action and fun, with hilarious dialogue and gorgeous art, you come to Ryan Browne and get your copy of God Hates Astronauts. When you want that boring other bullshit, you and Dr. Professor can go get fucked.

Score: 5/5

Writer/Artist/Creator: Ryan Browne Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 9/3/14 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital