Comics Time: Axe Cop

Axe Cop

Malachai Nicolle & Ethan Nicolle, writers

Ethan Nicolle, artist

Ongoing webcomic, December 2009-January 2010 and counting

Read it at

This comic was inevitable. In retrospect, it’s where we were headed all along. The New Action. The Art of Enthusiasm. Attempts to recapture the childhood joy of drawing, the ability of action to form its own narrative logic through sheer visual cohesion, the incorporation of the almost surrealist conventions and tropes of video games and action-figure lines and kung fu films, all of that–Axe Cop does it by having a five-year-old kid come up with characters and storylines and dialogue for a 29-year-old Eisner nominee to lay out and draw. From Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim to Benjamin Marra’s Night Business to Geoff Johns’s Green Lantern to C.F.’s Powr Mastrs to Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction’s Immortal Iron Fist to Brian Chippendale’s Ninja to Kazimir Strzepek’s The Mourning Star to Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges #2 to BJ and Frank Santoro’s Cold Heat to Malachai and Ethan Nicolle’s Axe Cop. There was no other way.

Now, let’s not get crazy here: the elder Nicolle is not inventing new ways of conveying action and physicality and space on a page, or constructing elaborate metaphors for the fate of the artist in a rapaciously capitalist society, or drawing on previously ignored methods of pop-culture storytelling. He’s “merely” an accomplished illustrator, drawing his kid brother’s delightfully crazy ideas for a super-cop with an axe and his partner, who wields a flute as a weapon, then transforms into a dinosaur, then transforms into an avocado. His swanky line is employed to milk humor out of mirrored sunglasses and mustaches, or superheroes made out of socks that fly around like boomerangs, or babies with unicorn horns who you can throw around like a grenade. Ethan uses his older fanboy’s experience to wring specificity and hilarity out of the super-action conventions with which young Malachai is already entertainingly familiar: opposite-number characters (Bad Santa and his newfound enemy Good Bad Santa), secret origins (Axe Cop and Avocado Soldier are secretly brothers whose parents were killed by their time-traveling nemesis, but they bumped heads while walking backwards and have had amnesia about their true relationship and origin ever since), enemy archetypes (rejected heroes, giant robots, elementals) and so on.

I’m not going to say the storytelling style is inimitable, because lots of people imitate it, but there’s no faking the “and then…and then…and then” rhythms of a really excited first grader. The comic’s web interface enhances the flow: Instead of clicking from page to static page, you drag your cursor to scroll around one gigantic mega-page per episode, catching the craziness as it comes. My guess is that this is as much of a reason that this comic went from total obscurity yesterday morning to Internet fame by yesterday afternoon as the don’t-that-beat-all backstory, impressive and accessible cartooning, and overall Looney Tunes “Duck Amok” zaniness level. On every level it’s a pleasure of a sort you haven’t experienced elsewhere. Hernandez, Buscema, Kubert, Nicolle–if you’re going to be online for the next few months, make room in your brother-act pantheon.

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9 Responses to Comics Time: Axe Cop

  1. Sean P Belcher says:

    Based on that strip, I think they should hire five-year olds to write every comic. How awesome.

    My five-year old has her Justice League Unlimited figures team up with Wall-E (who uses a sword from an old Typhoid Mary figure I gave her) and various plastic dinosaurs to fight Skeletor, Ultron, and Darkseid (talk about a trio of evil!), and the other day they fought an invasion of giant plastic food. It really is just a hoot to see the stuff she comes up with.

  2. R.D. says:

    I’d be more impressed if Woodrow Phoenix and Ian Carney’s SugarBuzz hadn’t done the exact same ‘child’s story illustrated by an adult’ idea TEN FUCKING YEARS AGO.

  3. My guess is that they hadn’t heard of it because one of them was A COLLEGE FUCKING FRESHMAN and the other one was UN FUCKING BORN.

  4. Matt Shoelace says:

    Wait, this wasn’t the first time that a child ever wrote a story? I am shocked and appalled, and demand that Nicolle’s Eisner nomination be revoked.

    (Now THAT’S sarcasm.)

  5. matt w says:

    The battle between the Forces of Yay and the Forces of Meh rages on.

  6. MarkAndrew says:

    There wasn’t a a policeman who turns into an avocado in Sugarbuzz. I assume that R.D. drew one in himself just so he could make this complaint.

    It wasn’t worth it.

    Also: HA! Cool! A Policeman who turns into an avocado!

  7. MarkAndrew says:

    No, really. That was brilliant. Far better than anything I’ve ever written.

  8. Your comment layout is confusing: it shows the author both at the top with a colon and at the bottom with “Posted by”. It makes everyone look like they’re replying to themselves.

    Oh, and Axe Cop is the most brilliant comic ever published.

  9. I prefer to look at it as making every comment’s authorship doubly clear.

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