Axe Cop vol. 2: Bad Guy Earth (#1 – 3) – Malachai Nicolle

4 out of 5

We’re now aged 6 (Malachai) and 30 (Ethan), but the concept is still going strong: some explanatory text from our elder, cartoonist brother in issue #1 lets us know that it was back to basics for Bad Guy Earth, meaning in-person playtime between the brothers – as opposed to over the phone discussions – that resulted in mass hilarity and a worthwhile, innocently brilliant, three-issue dose of overkill.

The gags are still of the “bite something and turn into it” / “sneak attack with bombs” / “unicorn horns are magic” variety, but just as the sort Bad Guy Earth warm-up story in volume 1 benefited from having more room to smooth out the journey, after issue one bounces around a bit for focus, the loose-limbed logic and madness takes over.  It’s lovely seeing what would be extended battle sequences elsewhere boiled down to “it was a big fight” narration over one-panel (because why would a six year old choreograph moment-by-moment fights?), and yet, there still manages to be an odd sense of “stakes” because our enemies in this arc – The Psychic Brothers – pretty much get as ridiculous as Axey and team, flip-flopping a good-guy-making-machine into a bad-guy-making one, and using giant parking cones to diminish unicorn power…

Some religiousness sneaks in there (something that also happens with buddy Doug TenNapel’s comics); it’s very minimal, just a line about god, but it’s, I dunno, a reminder of something sort of craziness-immersion breaking, and having Axe Cop crack up over his own antics as a conclusion feels out of “character,” but then again, there’s no right way to follow up the actual antics that precede that, and the constant one-upping of nonsense that’s built up to that point has you in enough of a daze anyway.

What’s doubly rewarding about this arc is how it adds some further bits and pieces to the mythos (“regular” cops and the army hate Axe Cop, and the feeling is mutual) and brings back the pre-existing randomness dropped throughout the previous strips.  In short: it’s damned fan, and fills up many more pages with full-on entertainment than I would’ve ever expected it to be able to.