Axe Cop: President of the World #1: Madcap All-Ages Romp "Pure" Family Fun


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Got the Campaign Blues? Then check out Axe Cop as he chops his way to the Presidency – of the WHOLE WORLD!!

By now, we’ve all heard the warm, fuzzy success story of the Brothers Nicolle and how they cleaved their way into the funny book spotlight with their viral webcomic hit, Axe Cop. First posted online in January of 2010, within days everybody and their (little) brother were singing the praises of this strange collaboration between the five year old Malachai and his 28 year old brother, Eisner-nominated cartoonist Ethan. Two years and hundreds of thousands of fans later, Axe Cop has made his way into print (not to mention the popular imagination), courtesy of his second Dark Horse limited series, President of the World.

This is a character that could have only sprung fully formed from the vibrant, uninhibited imagination of a five year old boy. It’s a simple premise, really but one told with such heart, humor, and care it’s sometimes hard to remember Malachai was still in kindergarten when he and his eldest brother Ethan acted out Axe Cop’s first adventure. Chronicling the misadventures of a fearless, super-powered beat cop who chops off the heads of evil-doers everywhere with his trusty axe (well, duh!), these are the whimsical, stream-of-consciousness fantasies of an admittedly brilliant young boy as filtered through the artistic sensibilities of an accomplished thirty year old cartoonist. The result is like nothing we’ve ever seen before (or since) in comics.

In President of the World, Malachai and Ethan plunge Axe Cop into a time-bending, rip-roaring “political thriller” pitting the newly dubbed leader of the free world against a race of bizarre robotic penguin aliens, deadline-challenged mad Martian scientists, and a horde of time-travelling supervillains. Featuring the introduction of Axe Cop’s newest comrades-in-arms Goo Cop, once a humble carpenter transformed into a goo monster by aliens, and Junior Cobbb (yes that’s with three Bs), a super-intelligent alien gorilla (with a tail), sporting robotic gun hands and possessing the ability to shoot anything he wants out of his tail – including volcanoes – it’s safe to say POTW doesn’t pull any punches to the funny bone. How Ethan manages to corral all of these disparate story elements into a readable finished product is a testament to his abilities as a cartoonist, not to mention his patience. In an age where most kids possess the attention span of a fruit fly, I suspect the biggest challenge Ethan faced in the production of this latest Axe Cop opus was dragging Malachai away from the game console.

According to Ethan, his collaboration with Malachai works something like this: Malachai delivers the plot, usually via phone to Ethan, who madly takes rough notes, all the while trying to keep his younger brother’s focus on the story at hand. In the case of POTW, Ethan actually spent a month back home with Malachai, during which time they acted out scenes from the book. Ethan then questions Malachai about some of the finer plot points, in an effort to instill some semblance of functional form and structure to his whimsical ramblings. From there, Ethan distills Malachai’s often nonsensical ideas into a readable comic book story, in a process that must often feel akin to William S. Burroughs’ cut-and-paste creation of The Naked Lunch. Surprisingly, the result could just possibly be one of the most synergistic and pure collaborations on an all-ages book in the history of the medium.

Axe Cop is a book for kids, created by kids – even if one of those kids has just entered his thirties.

It’s an important distinction to make in a publishing climate focused more on the next blockbuster summer movie franchise, than on growing a dying market. Sure Marvel and DC, and even Dark Horse have paid some lip service to promoting all-ages material in the last couple of years but their governing mandate, has and always will be, increasing their profit margins. That’s just big business. Kids don’t buy comics anymore. They play video games and watch TV and if they read anything at all, it’s likely Harry Potter. What the Brothers Nicolle have achieved with Axe Cop, despite its exaggerated Looney Tunes-style violence and outlandish characters, is a pure all-ages comic book parents and children can both enjoy without feeling like they’re talking down to each other.

And that, I would argue, is a rare, precious gift indeed.

Axe Cop: President of the World #1, Malachai Nicolle (W), Ethan Nicolle (A). Dark Horse Comics, limited series, $3.50. On sale July 25, 2012.

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