God Hates Astronauts graphic novel review

God Hates Astronauts: The Completey Complete Edition is like Adventure Time meets Doom Patrol

A wonderfully anarchic knockabout-turned-Kickstarter project from Ryan Browne (artist on Image Comics’  The Manhattan Projects and Bedlam), God Hates Astronauts: The Completely Complete Edition is gleeful mixture of Saturday morning cartoon gone violently wrong Venture Bros and Grant Morrison’s Dadaist Doom Patrol run.

Less wickedly subverting tropes and more inanely revelling in them like a naked jelly bath, God Hates Astronauts follows cosmic-powered super-dick Star Fighter, who gets his head beaten to a gristly swollen Toby Jug by a mustachioed Victorian boxer and his army of battling bears. As his relationship with his vacuous super-groupie wife Starrior degenerates, she hooks up with a ugly, but not as ugly as Giant Bulbous Head Man, cowboy haunted by the ghostly, floating head of a cow he failed to protect.

Star Fighter catches them in the act and lashes out, transposing the spectral cow head onto his own bloody stump (it explodes like a balloon full of yuk, like swollen heads do when they get shot), he goes increasingly nuts – unleashes an atomic punch that gives his hirsuit Batman analogue the Anti-Mugger a green third arm, sees his job threatened by the pompous rhino-man Dr Professor and has a frustrated cat with a rocket-pack called Simon represent him in court.

Meanwhile, a bunch of crab-headed aliens ruled by King Tiger Eating A Cheeseburger, who is a tiger eating a cheeseburger, are doing… something, not quite sure what, but it’s got a sort-of fast-food mascot Bucky O’Hare vibe to it, so it’s bound to be a good thing.

Deliriously odd, the real surprise about Browne’s folly is just how coherent it all is in narrative terms – the subject matter may be eyebrow-raisingly ludicrous and surreal, but there’s a real cause and effect and genuine sense of drama underpinning the whole thing. The art, too, is just as brash and bold as the concept, and produced over a period of years there’s a real, visible progression in skill and style that makes the later, cameo-laden spreads all the more impressive and energetic.

God Hates Astronauts began life as a 24-hour comic-creating challenge, and while the original black-and-white strip (included on this volume, along with origin stories drawn by the likes of Hack/Slash‘s Tim Seeley, Angel‘s Jenny Frison and frequent Jonathan Hickman collaborator Nick Pitarra) has that increasingly tiresome stream-of-consciousness narrative that’s never as funny as you think it is when writing it sloshed on Skittles at 3am, it underlines just how cohesive and complete the finished product is.

Either that or we’ve gone mad.