Thursday, March 10, 2011

March Kiddie Lit Madness = AXE COP March 10, 2011

AXE COP: BAD GUY EARTH  #1 of 3  (Dark Horse, March 2011)  Story by Malachai Nicolle (age 6).  Pencils, Inks, and Lettering by Ethan Nicolle (age 30).  Colors by Dirk Erik Schulz  (age 27). 

AXE COP is a book that I really wasn’t paying attention to.  Then, while traveling on business in unfamiliar towns and with time to spare - - I decided to explore and find some area comics stores.  The result of that was  - -  I made a few impulse purchases.  One of those was INVADERS NOW  (what a great discovery!).   Another was AXE COP: BAD GUY EARTH. 

Axe Cop 1

These are the thought processes or stages I’ve gone through since first learning about AXE COP in the advance pages of PREVIEWS = 1) Not interested.   2)  Curious.   3) Skeptical.  4) Curious and impulsive.  5) Cautious.  6) Admiration.  7) Recognition and tolerance.  8) A brief return to mild skepticism.    

STAGE ONE = NOT INTERESTED.  When I go through a copy of PREVIEWS and decide what books I want to pre-order I have 3 primary considerations.  1) Do I want to read it because of writer, artist, character, story, etc.?  2) Do I feel that it will entertain me?  I’m long past trying to buy what I might consider “essential” books.  My budget won’t take it.  I got over trying to keep up with everything a long time ago.  Just looking for high quality good reads these days.  3) Yep, you guessed it.  Will it fit into my budget?  (Sometimes this then becomes a process of elimination and priority ranking.)   After reading the description for AXE COP: BAD GUY EARTH I thought.  “Cute!  This might be really cool.  And then again it might be really bad - - a script by a six-year old?”   Then I judged it by the three primary considerations above, and the answers were  =  1)  No.   2)  No.  3)  No.   

STAGE TWO = CURIOUS.   Another thought process occurs when I pick up the next PREVIEWS sneak peaks/ordering guide.  I look at what’s being offered this month and then compare what I’m interested in to what I ordered last month.  Sometimes it’s an affirmation of my good decisions.  Sometimes it’s buyer’s remorse - -  “why did I order that?  What was I thinking?”   Sometimes it’s decliner’s regret - - - “why didn’t I order that?  I might be missing something worthwhile.”   Curiosity made a return visit and I thought that way about AXE COP.  Still, I didn’t bother to explore the web site for the internet comic - - where it all began in January 2010.  No.  No.  No.  I passed it up a second time.

STAGE THREE = SKEPTICAL.  And a little cynical.  As I kept hearing this book referred to, etc.  I thought about it some more.  This time, I became skeptical.  How can this possibly be written by a six-year old?  Dark Horse wouldn’t publish just any old crap because a youngster wrote it!  They still have a quality reputation to maintain.  The story must surely be fixed up by a “ghost writer.”   I resisted both impulse and curiosity and passed yet again.

STAGE FOUR = CURIOUS AND IMPULSIVE.  Curiosity is a very compelling force.  When I’m travelling on business I try to use evenings spent in hotels to catch up on paperwork.  However, after a few nights of this I need a break from the paperwork.  It usually doesn’t work out that my free night is a good night for television programs.  So, then I’m looking for something to read.  While visiting a comics store I pick up AXE COP, flip through the pages, and you know the rest.

STAGE FIVE =  CAUTIOUS.  As I begin to read I have two new concerns.  One, fueled by buyer’s remorse is that this will be an absolute piece of crap.  Two,  stemming from my earlier skepticism is that this could be an absolute  hoax. 

STAGE SIX = ADMIRATION.  As I begin reading this book I realize that it probably is written by a six year old.  If you observe young children aged 4-6 playing with certain toys - - like action figures, army men, super hero figures, cowboys and Indians, dinosaurs, cars and toy planes - - and then listen to them as they play – you’ll find they often will create a fantasy world where all these disparate elements peacefully co-exist (or not) and they start to build spontaneous stories around them and have the toys interact in imaginative ways.  If you try to participate with them you can suspend your belief system temporarily and follow their logic and thought patterns.  It’s the beauty and simplicity of youth along with unfettered imagination.  So, I see how a six year old could create a world like AXE COP that could be translated into a comics storyline.  It’s absurd.  It doesn’t make sense.  But I can follow it the same way I’d accept and go along with a child’s imaginative play world.  Kudos to the imagination of young Malachai Nicolle.  Bravo. 

axecopbge1p1

What also helps make this book even more enjoyable is the art work by Malachai’s much older brother Ethan.  It’s perfectly cartoonish and well-done and would fit right in beside Boom Studios line of Kid’s Books, etc.  Brother Ethan has a neat style and some obvious skills in understanding and depicting Malachai’s visionary world.

While this story came from the mind of a six-year old it reflects an uncanny knowledge of government and society for that comprehension level.  And while it’s still absurd it does have a flow.  After reading the background of the creators in the end pages I understand better.  Ethan is taking Malachai’s conceptualizations and fleshing them out into a story.  He’s the ghost writer.

STAGE SEVEN = RECOGNITION AND TOLERANCE.   The internet comic where this all began got a lot of attention and press which made Dark Horse notice, and then this comic comes out which should also gather a lot of attention and press.  That’s got to be good for the comics business and perhaps brings in some new readers both young and old. 

Do I like this story?  - - - No.  - - - I was amused but started to get tired as it neared the end of Issue #1, actually hoping I could stop reading soon.  Is it horrible?  No, and far from it.  I can appreciate the work that went into it.  It’s clever and wacky.  Does it make me want to continue with this series?  No.  Will I pick up the trade paperback collection of the web comic that Dark Horse also published. No.  Will I read the comic on the web site?  No.  While I greatly respect what I’ve seen here, it’s not going to continue to entertain me.  I accept and tolerate AXE COP and definitely feel there is a firm spot for it in the comics marketplace. 

If you’ve read this far hoping that I’d eventually get to a more factual review of this book and summarize the story and characters - - I’m sorry to disappoint you.  You should just check this out on your own  - - and approach it with no expectations. 

STAGE EIGHT = A BRIEF RETURN TO MILD SKEPTICISM.  I’ve come to this ending point, and now some doubt creeps back in.  Is this just a big goof by first, the creators of AXE COP and then Dark Horse, who they let in on the joke and agreed to take it even further?   Is the entire creative team adults?  Maybe this is writer Tim Truman and artist Carey Nord stretching their legs and having some fun on their break? 

4 comments:

  1. I have not read Axe Cop yet, even though it's been getting lots of favorable attention -- including a card game! (Munchkin Axe Cop) -- and I've had the site bookmarked forever. I even bought the trade of the webcomics, for some reason, which I'll try to make time for over the weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  2. OK, I'm about 30 pages into the trade and I have to say they had me at "Axe Cop became Axe Cop With Lemon". Ethan's "Ask Axe Cop" commentary is great too: "The guy sneaks around at night in a black cat suit and kills bad guys in their sleep. Some heroes might see that as sort of cheating, but Axe Cop likes to keep things simple and efficient." Mike, I haven't seen the Dark Horse issue but Ethan explains his and his brother's "process" pretty clearly in the trade, which I think will reassure you that they're authentic. (Maybe the commentary is on the web site with the original strips too; I haven't looked.)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I guess my article is mis-leading. I do know that the creative team on this book is genuine. I was just poking a little fun at it with my sarcastic comments, especially the very last one.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I finished the book, and when I got to the back I was kinda dreading the 45-page story because it seemed like the concept only worked in small doses. But damned if they didn't pull it off; the long-form story was fun, engaging and even had a little character development. Looking forward to more.

    ReplyDelete