Axe Cop vol. 1 TPB – Malachai Nicolle

5 out of 5

Written by a five year old, and drawn by his older brother; a tagline, on the back cover of Axe Cop’s first trade of collected webcomics which likely elicits some pretty immediate responses: a sputtered judgment of genius! owing to an appreciation of kid logic or, maybe more directly, memories of egging on your own kid bro’s or sis’s imaginations. On the flip side, maybe you roll your eyes hard at the stupid coolness of the concept, or you just stop at considering it stupid.\u0026nbsp; Maybe, like me, you’re jealous of not having had an older, cartoonist brother who helped bring your insane kid fever dreams to life.

If a character called Axe Cop – real name Axey Smartist – who is perpetually befitted with an 80s mustache and reflective shades and who is pals with a T-Rex with machine gun arms doesn’t at least make you titter, then, yes: Axe Cop is likely not your bag. But let’s say, even despite possible grievances, you are grinning: then the book deserves a shot.

The magic here, and what keeps this from sinking into exploitation or from being too winky clever, is ingrained in how it came to be: springing from playtime between 5 year old Malachai and his 29 year old brother, Ethan, the latter was caught up by some of the wild names and concepts sputtered out by the former and put them to paper. While things quickly expanded from one-shotty web series to longer strips and published comics, that process of shared excitement and freewheeling creativity has remained: Ethan creates the imagery and asks Malachai questions, but everything else is coming from Malachai, and when it’s not fun for him… the comics don’t come. Appreciated, then, as a capsule of that time in a kid’s life when his thoughts are ruled by the wildest of internal logic, Axe Cop never feels like it’s milking the concept, or forcing it: it’s repetitive in its mindset (chop off badguys heads!) organically, and grows by smashing craziness on to the world instead of attempting “depth.”

Initially, when there was no sense of how long Malachai would care about Axey, the strip is at its best in short bursts: the self-contained one page gags and short “ask Axe Cop” strips that are the first part of the trade. But the DNA is there: Axe Cop never sleeps; he kills all bad guys; his “secret attack”s often involve poison; getting blood splashed on you mutates you into whatever let that blood; unicorn horns are instant magic…

The first transitions to slightly longer stories wear a bit as the limited conceptual palette repeats, but around the time the duo launch into the longer, incidentally brilliant and hilarious story that is the back half of the trade – zombies, Baby Man tracking a duck that shoots exploding eggs, etc. – a natural synergy has happened: Malachai, likely encouraged by Ethan, pieces together disparate bits from his universe of characters – still in rampant, kid fashion, of course – and Ethan’s sense of just unraveling the thread versus using his cartoonist prowess to massage the flow turns the tale into a mini epic.

Ethan has comments throughout the first half of the book which help to confirm the team effort, but even without that, the unbridled energy and giddiness drips from every page. The Nth mention of something might just make you smile, but when it hits N+1, you can’t help but laugh at how naturally this thing achieves complete ludicrousness.