If you spend any time reading webcomics, there’s little doubt that you’ve been exposed to Axe Cop. Two years ago, 29-year old artist Ethan Nicolle began drawing stories invented by his five-year old brother Malachi. The two created one of the most creatively bizarre universes in comics, with machine gun T-Rexes, exploding lemons, bat warthogs, moon ninjas, and whatever a “liborg” is. The series instantly acquired a massive fan following: it was like nothing anyone, including myself, had ever read. The webcomic is ridiculous and funny and consistently clever, and certainly worth a look.
However, many people felt the joke got old after a while. In webcomic form, the story often moves slowly, and after a while there is too much of a buildup of toilet humor for most people I know. I never stopped reading, but I know several people who did. But all this changed when Axe Cop got picked up by Dark Horse Comics. Ethan and Malachi created a print-only series called Bad Guy Earth, which was released this month in a deluxe trade paperback edition. And it was completely awesome. Without a doubt, Bad Guy Earth is the best comic book I’ve read this year.
In Bad Guy Earth, the intrepid Axe Cop and his sidekick Dinosaur Soldier are under attack from not only evil psychics from outer space but also the “normal police,” who are convinced that Axe Cop is breaking all the cop rules. For the first time, Axe Cop is presented with villains who pose a real threat, and the story is long with a humorous twist on every page. How do you beat a space ship? With nunchucks made of semi-trucks! How do you defeat a sorceress who rides a gorilla who rides a lion? By turning into a fire minotaur! The logic in this comic is this level of crazy throughout, and there is literally never a dull moment. If you can read a scene in which a planet of baseball players takes on a planet of Vikings without smiling, you are a strange and sad individual.
Ethan pulled out all of the stops with the art: every character, even minor alien bad guys, have more style than any crowd scene I’ve seen in anything in DC or Marvel. This is also the only episode of Axe Cop to be presented in full-color, which definitely helps with the light-hearted tone. The comic is really a joy to read and look at, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
If you’ve already purchased the individual volumes of Bad Guy Earth, the trade paperback version offers a few extras. In addition to the advantage of having all the episodes together, Ethan has also provided a massive making-of section that features sketches and plot outlines of how the comic came to be. Considering that Axe Cop is written like no other comic, it’s fascinating to see how Ethan is able to bring a young child’s ideas to life. His sketches are incredible, and certainly worth the price of the collection if you have any interest in cartooning. And if you haven’t read Bad Guy Earth yet, seriously, what are you waiting for? If you don’t read it, the bad guys win!