There are few things in the world that give me joy quite the way Axe Cop does. My daughter, I GUESS, and maybe cookies or something, I dunknow. But Axe Cop is definitely in the list of Best Things Ever Created. So it’s with a heavy heart that I tell you that Axe Cop Volume 3, which hits comic stores and book stores from Dark Horse comics at the end of March may be the best volume of Axe Cop yet!
My heart was heavy from all the joy in it, by the way! Surprise twist!
Anyway, for those of you not in the know, here’s the well trod pitch-line: Axe Cop follows the adventures of the title character, who likes chopping heads and solving crimes. The catch is, the book is written by a six-year-old, and drawn by his thirty-year-old brother. So basically, it reads like how you used to play when you were a kid, by which we mean, awesome. Axe Cop started as a web strip, quickly blew up, and now Dark Horse is doing the world a favor by reprinting a most of those comics in book format.
What makes this particularly worth it - beyond the fact that Axe Cop is a non-stop delight - is Ethan Nicolle’s commentary on every story. Ethan, you see, is the elder part of the duo; but beyond that, he’s also the guy that gives his little brother Malachai focus, helps him craft the stories, and essentially does everything but put his name in the writer slot. This is a herculean effort, making Ethan not just the series artist, and the main marketer, and the editor, but essentially the guy who figured out how to get a six-year-old Hunter S. Thompson without the drugs spew out Pulitzer prize winning essays (or in this case, comics about pizza stealing goo monsters).
That’s pretty genius, and seeing an insight into both Ethan - and Malachai’s - process is an intriguing look behind the curtain. I’m not sure anyone, ever, will be able to reproduce what they’ve done here, as Malachai has such a universally unique imagination (parse that sentence, English scholars); but if they were, the notes in Axe Cop Volume 3 would be the place to start.
Beyond that, there’s the stories, which are the regular assortment of Axe Cop genius level material. By the way, I want to stop for a second: any of you who think I’m either being sarcastic, or too effusive in my praise here? I’m not. Axe Cop is just that good. I have yet to meet a single person who read Axe Cop that didn’t become a slavering maniac in love with the comic. Joooooin usssss.
But I was talking about the stories. This volume collects a few longer Axe Cop strips, as well as a number of the usually shorter or one-off “Ask Axe-Cop” strips that usually populate the website, but beyond that, there’s some spectacular highlights and guest strips. The centerpiece is the team-up between similar web break out star Dr. McNinja, which has the most superb title of any story every created: “Separate Pizza/Separate Lives.” Interestingly, Ethan spends a while in the notes talking about why the crossover didn’t quite work as well as he and McNinja creator Chris Hastings wanted it to, and how they’ll do better the next time. Given the story could have just been presented as is, it’s a surprising bit of candor - more surprising because he’s right on the mark.
However, it’s a later story, which includes one of the most heinous bits of casual child abuse ever recorded in any medium (seriously, Precious would probably read this story, and shudder), that also pays off with a scene so deliberately insane, I was crying with tears on the subway reading it. And I’m a New Yorker, so that can basically get you ejected from town, and I did it anyway. The last line of the story - which I’ll ruin now, as it’s online anyway - is almost perfect in its Dada-esque surreality: "So day after day, more rabbits arrived in the mail, and the clones ate them forever." I realize this makes no sense out of context, but it only barely makes more sense in context, and that’s the point.
To bring it back around, what comes clear in both the stories and the commentary by Ethan is that Axe Cop, like children’s imaginations, is about bringing order to the chaos around them. Does the order always make sense to everyone else? Heck no. Does the life of your neighbor, or even your significant other make total sense to you all the time? Of course not. Life is random. Life is strange. And Axe Cop, like the best works of art, encompasses and embraces that... But with a lot more heads getting chopped off.
Axe Cop Volume 3 hits stores from Dark Horse on March 28, 2012.
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