Pick of the Week
What did the
Penciller: Ethan Nicolle
Size: 32 pages
What is a comic book? Well, it can be anything. It can be any kind of story, and more often than not, the creators of comics decide that the best use of the medium is to take advantage of the absolute freedom the form provides and they try to stuff as many pages as possible full of outlandish ideas and insane bursts of imagination. But the problem is that with the amount of comics a lot of us read, in addition to whatever stories, real or imagined, that you’re taking in, it’s getting harder and harder to read something that doesn’t feel like you’ve read it before. Comic publishers are scrambling to find the next big thing, and the next mind that will change the way we view the form, and step up to fill the shoes of Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Grant Morrison.
Enter Malachai Nicolle, age 6.
I’ll grant you that it’s a marketing gimmick to continually harp on the fact that this comic was written by a six year old. Then again, this comic book was written by a six year old. As a person who has written extensively about trying to make comics, and spent a whole lot of time contemplating the form, and the best way to utilize comics to tell stories, I am surprised as you are to find myself writing this. But the fact is, of all the comics I read this week, Axe Cop Bad Guy Earth #1 was easily the most interesting of them all. The short story is that Ethan Nicolle was visiting home for Christmas and starting drawing his little brother’s stories as a way to pass the time. They were posted on the web, and recently collected by Dark Horse Comics. For more, go read our interview with Ethan Nicolle. This issue is a new story, published for the first time in comic book form. To put it simply, it is the unfettered ramblings of the imagination of a six year old, and there is obviously something magical about that, especially when compared to all these other books, where competent, experienced professionals are trying to accomplish the same thing. Instead, this child and his brother distill it into pages that inexplicably delighted me.
As you can imagine, the plots are not complicated. There is a Axe Cop, who is a cop with an axe. It turns out that real cops don’t like him. But he’s got his sidekick Dinosaur Soldier, and a desire to do the right thing. A mysterious planet shows up, and Axe Cop decides it needs to be exploded. If only the real cops and the army would let him do that. So he bombs them. But it’s just a just a faint bomb, which are for dumb good guys. Then he calls in Wexter, a T-Rex with gatling gun arms and aviator glasses to get the army out of the way. It goes on like this. We meet Uni-Man, a sort of Q to Axe Cop’s Bond, and a Good Guy Machine, that turns bad guys into good guys, creating Hand-Cuff Man, who throws handcuffs and bad guys, and they shock them until they’re dead.
I’ll be honest, I’m a little jealous. This comic book is pure imagination, unconstrained by the things that hold adults back, and by all accounts it should not work, and an educated and discerning reader such as myself should rightly scoff, but I did not scoff. I laughed, and was impressed.
Certainly credit must go to older brother Ethan Nicolle for translating and harnessing the ramblings of a mad genius child, and putting them on a page. The artwork is both competent, but also has some of that childlike quality to go along with the words and ideas it’s depicting. It sort of reminds me of the tone and style of early Adult Swim, as an explosion of imaginative id, meant to satisfy the most basic of our desires for entertainment. At the same time, what artist wouldn’t be excited about getting a chance to draw all the crazy stuff the kid is coming up with. Dinosaurs, monster trucks, and killer chicken brains are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s certainly a reason to want to get out of bed in the morning and draw.
It’s not all about deep meaning and subtext. Sometimes, it’s about whatever crazy bits of our minds can be captured and transformed into comic books. I’m far from the first person to recognize the special alchemy in Axe Cop, but even so, I was surprised to find myself enjoying it, and actually laughing out loud, not in a “oh that’s so cute” sort of way, but in a completely genuine enjoyment of the ideas in front of me. It’s not for everyone, and it’s certainly not all I want from a comic book, but as part of a balanced storytelling diet, there aren’t a lot of things more fun and more pure than Axe Cop. Let a kid show you what fun it was to be a kid.
Axe Cop got frustrated and took his daily two-minute nap.