Jul 25, 2013

Webcomic Spotlight: Axe Cop

By Paul Krueger


Pablo Picasso once famously said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”  A child’s imagination is an incredible, pure thing that is, for the most part, irrevocably lost as the world binds it with more and more notions of the way things should or should not be.  But before that happens, a child’s imagination may perhaps be the most powerful creative force in the entire world.

What in holy mother of fuck was that, ask ye noble reader?  That was Axe Cop: the brainchild of a child’s brain.

Axe Cop’s creative team has a unique working relationship.  Writer/plotter Malachai Nicolle is an eight-year-old boy (five when the series began) who invented the Axe Cop persona, his supporting cast, and his weird world during sessions of playing pretend with his older brother, series illustrator Ethan.  Ethan, an accomplished comics artist, decided it would be fun to act as a stenographer to Malachai’s imagination and release the results online as a way of testing the waters before he began his own webcomic.  Years later, Axe Cop’s taken on a life of its own, and Malachai’s mind thankfully shows no signs of maturing anytime soon.

The story is simple enough: one day a cop finds a fireman’s axe and becomes Axe Cop: an incredible badass who’s a lot like a normal cop, except he charges into battle yelling, “I’ll chop your head off!” and then usually making good on his promises.  His partner is Flute Cop, who quickly becomes Dinosaur Soldier, then Avocado Cop, then Uni-Avocado Cop, then Drag-Tri-Ghostacops Rex.  The two of them encounter everyone from Sockarang to The Best Fairy Ever, to Wexter, Axe Cop’s pet T. Rex with gatling guns for arms and robot wings.  The rest of it’s pretty hard to pin down, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that a lot of bad guys will die.

But anyone can string together a bunch of splashy ideas to get the internet excited, right?  In order to sell this, the project requires some serious art.  Happily, Ethan proves more than a match for his brother’s limitless creativity.  Axe Cop is a mustachioed, lantern-jawed hero who looks like he could believably walk away from a fight with Chuck Norris.  And despite the increasingly silly nature of his companions, they all take themselves perfectly seriously.  That dissonance between their absurd world and their deadpan acceptance thereof creates a comedy gold mine (probably one that has a bunch of giant robots at the bottom of it, knowing this comic).

As someone well-versed on narrative structure, it’s become increasingly difficult for a story to surprise me.  Even when I don’t know where a plot is going, I kind of know where a plot is going (seriously, it’s not much fun to watch movies with me).  That’s why Axe Cop has so quickly jumped up my list of favorite webcomics, and really favorite things in general--there truly is no way to predict where a given strip is headed.  Every time I think I have it figured out, it laughs in my face and bellows to the rest of the internet that it’s going to chop my head off.  Seriously, how on earth do you foresee something like this?

The questions all pop up at once: how does Lobster Man even know about Axe Cop and his team?  Why does he have a dog’s ass?  How did he time things so perfectly that he’d be there right when Axe Cop and co. went looking for the Moon Warriors?  What kind of database is able to tell you a bad guy’s exact location, pinpointed to a tree?  And that doesn’t even touch all the questions raised by part two, or any of the parts that come after that.

But that’s the thing: if you have to ask questions like those, you’re missing the point, and you’re probably reading the wrong webcomic.

Don’t like to read?  Well, never fear, because Fox is eager to validate your willful ignorance!  As part of its new bloc of animation, Fox has adapted Axe Cop into a television series that debuted last Sunday, and begins its regular timeslot this coming Saturday, July 27th.  Parks & Recreation’s Nick Offerman will voice the titular law enforcement official, with a supporting cast that includes heavy hitters like Patton Oswalt, Peter Serafinowicz, Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks and Giancarlo Esposito, and Offerman’s own wife, Megan Mullally.

Of course, it’s a long time until Sunday, and surely you’re not all going to Comic Con.  Don’t make the same mistake people make when they watch Game of Thrones without reading the books first.  Flip through the back issues.

Or I’ll chop your head off.

Axe Cop is written by Malachai Nicolle and drawn by Ethan Nicolle.  It updates every Tuesday.  It may be found here.

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