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Humor can make almost anything enjoyable. If a story is funny, almost all of its other flaws can be forgiven. But first, it has to actually be funny, and that’s a litmus test that the Guardians of the Galaxy animated series hasn’t really lived up to. In fact, it’s almost aggressively unfunny in its first episode back from a nearly three month hiatus.

“Space Cowboys” began with the Guardians still hot on the trail of that Cosmic Seed which they totally won’t find until the final episodes of the season. For a few brief moments, “Space Cowboys” actually created a sense of danger as an intense gravity storm nearly crushed the Guardians’ ship with the entire team trapped inside of it. In fact, the Milano was in such bad shape that fixing it seemed improbable. And yet, a short pit stop on Knowhere had the ship back and flying faster than a commercial break.

To barter with the Collector (who hates them) for a device to get past the gravity storm, the Guardians agreed to transport his foul cargo of Moombas to his brother, the Grandmaster, who also hates the Guardians! Essentially, the Guardians were roped into becoming cowboys as they escorted the herd across space.

James Gunn and the live-action Guardians of the Galaxy team probably could have pulled off Peter Quill’s joy at being a Space Cowboy or even the gross bodily fluids of the Moombas. But the Guardians cartoon can’t seem to replicate the charm of the movie. All of the jokes in this episode were flat and forced, and there wasn’t a genuine laugh generated in the entire story. It’s not as if the script wasn’t trying to be funny, it just didn’t work.

Along the way, the customary setbacks occurred when the Guardians were stopped by the Nova Corps for trafficking an endangered species before Yondu and the Ravagers showed up to steal the herd of Moombas and dump them back on the Collector. Oh…and the Moombas turned out to be explosive if they eat anything other than grass…because reasons.

Strangely, the Grandmaster didn’t appear in person, but perhaps that’s because the TV show gave him a personality that was too close to the Collector’s persona. Instead of developing the feud between the two brothers, the show delivered a subplot about the Guardians avoiding Drax’s horrible cooking even after he guilted them about it by invoking the memory of his dead family. That was a very clumsy attempt to mix comedy with Drax’s inherent tragedy.

The episode came close to making a few of the visual gags work, as Drax co-opted Quill’s cowboy hat and led the Moomba’s through space. Did I mention that the Moombas could also conveniently open up portals through subspace? Because they could, and that allowed Drax to lead the herd and the Milano past the gravity storm and on to the planet where the Guardians discovered that the Cosmic Seed had eluded them once again. Shocking, isn’t it? But with the Moombas settling down on the planet, the episode left a big question unanswered. If it would have taken months to go around the gravity storm, how were the Guardians supposed to return without the aid of a Moomba-created wormhole?

This show doesn’t stand up well to scrutiny, and it seems as if there isn’t much thought behind it. Guardians of the Galaxy is pretty far into its first season and it’s not improving. It actually feels like the series is regressing. “Space Cowboys” was a difficult episode to watch, and it didn’t have any encouraging signs that the show will find itself anytime soon.

What did you think about this week’s Guardians of the Galaxy? Let us know in the comments section below!

Image Credits: Marvel TV/Disney XD

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