Review: Strange Planet

In Nathan W. Pyle’s little alien world, large-headed gray aliens with enormous eyes live their everyday lives, while explaining their actions in oddly formal, factual ways.

That’s it. That’s pretty much it.

It’s a simple formula, but one that is thoroughly endearing. “Strange Planet” is a collection of Pyle’s little four-panel comics about a “strange planet” occupied by these little gray aliens, whose lives are more or less identical to human lives, but who often explain themselves in ways that gently highlight the absurdity of things we take for granted.

These include surprise parties (“I believed the falsehoods you told me.” “Because trust!”), mosquitoes, babies, cats (“It’s vibrating”), coffee, birthday wishes (“Who wants to ingest this now that I have exhaled on it?”) smoke alarms, salt, TV news, giving flowers, makeup, wine, working out, assembling furniture, dogs, piercings (“I am considering a new hole in me”), pizza delivery, dental visits (“I’m here to scrape your mouth stones”), swimming pools, sports, and many other things.

Of course, it helps that the aliens have odd ways of phrasing things (“The group of orb-catchers that represent our region did not catch the orb tonight”). Also included: dougslice, rollmachine, personal star dimmers, seriousness cloth, sweet disks, plant liquid partially digested by insects and then stolen, the rollsuck, the hotdanger screamer, and many other charming little names.

They also have a knack for declaring their feelings in an oddly formal manner that reflects the most rational perspective on their actions, such as a sports fan declaring happily “I feel undeserved pride!” or a college graduate loudly declaring “My knowledge suffices” while other aliens announce “We smack our hands.” It’s this manner of phrasing things that calls attention to the oddness of some of our actions (wishing on falling stars) and makes them charmingly sardonic in nature.

The series’ charm also lies in Pyle’s simple art – the aliens are adorable with their little sexless gray bodies, bulbous heads and enormous eyes. Their surroundings are minimal, and their backgrounds often blank. They also all look alike, so you’re often not sure if most of the strips feature the same aliens or all-new ones every time.

Part of the charm of “Strange Planet” is that it isn’t that strange at all – it just calls attention to our own strangeness. And the chronicles of these cute little aliens are well-worth an hour or so of gentle smiles.

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