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‘God Hates Astronauts: The Omni-Mega-Bus’ (review)

Written and Illustrated by Ryan Browne
Additional art by Various
Published by Image Comics

 

For many years, I just presumed that the 1970s conspiracy trilogy Illuminatus would be the strangest thing I ever read. But then came the Internet and all bets were off. We’ve all read some truly weird **** online here in the 21st century. Now, however, comes Ryan Browne with a classic “Hold my beer” move and his 691 page “Omni-Mega-Bus” version of God Hates Astronauts. I think we have a new champion for the strangest thing I’ve ever read.

First of all, this book is…Well…What I mean to say is that God Hates Astronauts is actually…Okay, let me just describe how…Hmm…No, that definitely won’t work.

I know. This will explain a lot. I’ll just say, “Ryan Browne is inSANE!” I found a photo of Ryan Browne. He LOOKS normal! Too normal, maybe.

Image Comics describes God Hates Astronauts as “a story of superheroes, NASA, farmers, and more jokes per page than any other comic in history (probably).” That doesn’t really even begin to describe GHA. In fact, that word, “story” is pretty deceptive, even.

Okay, there is, in fact, a basic story structure, at least early on, although it keeps bouncing back in later, too. But it’s not the most important part of this…this…this…

Think Naked Gun. Think Blazing Saddles. Think Kentucky Fried Movie. Throw in violent adolescent power fantasies, some sex, lots of beer, and an absolutely absurd amount of absurd surrealism and you’ll be coming close, at least, to the feel of this monster.

Let me at least attempt to give you some idea of what passes for a plot, as narrated throughout by a cute li’l 3-D ghost cowboy. This being the odd book that it is, said ghost cowboy gets more and more involved with things and eventually has his own, totally unexpected plotline running separately!

But where was I? Right! Got it. In a world not the least bit like ours, a superhero group is employed by NASA with the express goal of keeping farmers out of space. But then legendary boxing champion John L. Sullivan shows up and… Yes, THAT John L. Sullivan. He beats the main hero’s head to a giant, misshapen pulp, which causes marital issues and eventually ends up with the head being replaced by that of a ghostly blue cow with bionics. But the misshapen head comes back! And…and…

Sorry. There are space bears with British accents, “King Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger,” alien crab men, a powerful superbaby with a cookie obsession, a planet of babysitters, a time traveling giraffe, an ugly cowboy that rides a seahorse, a vampire stock boy who blows up everything, and actor Reginald VelJohnson’s character from Family Matters, Carl Winslow, is one of the main characters as “Gnarled” Winslow, whose arms have been replaced first by bear arms and later by cybernetic bear arms!

There’s Starrior, Reed Spacer, the Impossible, the Anti-Mugger, Dr. Professor, and a whole bunch more krazy kharacters! There’s a whole planet/dimension based on Nintendo and ruled by a guy who looks like Kirby’s Darkseid! There’s an alien invasion and the Great John L. keeps turning up again in various forms throughout.

If we think of the narrative as an actual plot, it doesn’t really ever come to an actual ending. If we think of it as an excuse to tie on a zillion increasingly off-the-wall gags, then we’re onto something. As is the way with all gagfests, the jokes aren’t always funny, and the over-the-top violence, although purposely over-the-top, still feels a bit overdone.

A large number of other artists contribute some origin stories, fake ads, and a few running alternate storylines. Make no mistake, though, this is all Ryan Browne’s faul…I mean…all Ryan Browne’s baby! Toward the end of this collection, along with the usual extras for this type of volume, he even gives us not one but two entire issues of recycled earlier issue artwork with all new “plot” and dialogue!

God Hates Astronauts is ugly, it’s terrible, it’s disgusting, it’s unsatisfying. But it’s damn funny! I enjoyed nearly every one of the book’s nearly 700 pages and I’d have to conclude that yes, it’s now the strangest thing I have ever read! I’d bet it’ll be the strangest thing you’ve ever read, too!

Booksteve recommends.

 

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