If you haven’t read Axe Cop, the web phenom Newsarama calls the “best comic ever,” you really should hit this link and enjoy the experience. Basically, comic-book artist Ethan Nicolle, 29 when he started this (now 30), and his brother, Malachai Nicolle (5, now 6) collaborate to translate Malachai’s violent, imaginative stories and primary-school dialogue into an ongoing adventure that strips to the bone the childish wish-fulfillment that underlies super- and action- heroes.
Dark Horse has given them a chance on an actual comic series; it begins with a three-issue mini in which the blade-wielding titular officer and his adventure-seeking, villain-wasting team must face the terror of… Bad Guy Earth!
Title: “Bad Guy Earth”
Writer: Malachai Nicolle
Artist: Ethan Nicolle
“This is too many bad guys!”
–Axe Cop, #2
Axe Cop, Dinosaur Soldier, and the rest of the team must dodge angry real cops, save endangered dinosaurs, involve themselves in a battle between baseball players and vikings, learn the secret of “the Year Zero Thousand and Zero,” and much more as they take on a pair of Psychic Brothers who want to transform our world into Bad Guy Earth.
The comic overflows with the kind of goofball insanity that makes its online counterpart so much fun to read. Ethan asks numerous questions to clarify what comes out of Malachai’s head, but he doesn’t force it to fit adult standards of logic, plotting, or character motivation. We’re seeing how particularly imaginative kids tell stories and how they imagine the world working. We’re also seeing what our escapist fiction looks like without the gloss, disguise, and transformation required by adult writers. Axe Cop‘s greatest strength is its point of origin…
This is also its greatest weakness.
I find the online Axe Cop grows wearisome after awhile, but the brothers divide the adventures into such short chapters that I continue to read. A three-issue comic does not provide such relief. While I loved the first issue, I found that the story deteriorated—even measured by its own standards—as it neared its conclusion. The grand finale features exactly the sort of joke that a little boy would find funny— and he seems to have made it because he knows he has a sizable audience. He may well be losing the naivete that gives Axe Cop its peculiar charm.
Honestly, you’d think a kid had written this.
Originality: 5/6 Despite many derivative elements, Axe Cop has an original underlying premise, and the brothers continually surprise me with some of the most bizarre developments in comic book history. A flying dinosaur with guns for arms? Evil chicken brains with cameras for eyes? Magic-blocking traffic cones? Axe Cop throws something like that out every other page.
Artwork: 6/6. Okay: that’s Axe Cop‘s other greatest strength (shh!): great comic-book illustrations of utterly bizarre and childish concepts. Ethan Nicolle deserves credit for matching his visuals perfectly to the story’s premises.
Story: 3/6. It’s a fun story, but it makes little to no real sense. It may not be fair to apply anything like adult standards to Axe Cop’s plot, but your ability to accept the childlike and childish plotting will determine how much you enjoy these issues.
Characterization: 3/6. In all fairness, the reductionist characterization, with Axe Cop as a six-year-old’s Mary Sue and a world of arbitrary Good Guys and Bad Guys, is intrinsic to the concept.
Emotional response: 5/6 I enjoyed Axe Cop and laughed frequently, but the comic works best in smaller doses.
Flow 3/6 The story changes direction whenever the author comes up with a, like, way more awesome idea.
Overall: 5/6. Word has apparently reached the schoolyard that Malachai does this, because the comic features a number of responses to the sort of criticism his classmates would most likely bring against Axe Cop. Typically, these involve things that “real cops” don’t do, like fly, travel through time, or have pet dinosaurs.
But, of course, these things are awesome.
In total, Axe Cop #1-3 receives a score of 30/42.