In a world plagued with sickness, disease, and danger, it’s down to Jason, one of many Ax-Men, a group of skilled hitmen, who swaps his doctor’s coat and scalpel for a holster and body armor who is tasked with hunting down and eliminating anyone unfortunate enough to be infected with a mysterious deadly virus in an attempt to stop its spread and save what remains of humanity. An interesting take on the whole “Virus outbreak” story which doesn’t exactly go full on Zombie apocalypse but is full of emotional weight and interesting dilemmas.
The first issue of Ax-Man, written by Ryan Little, with artwork from Briane Andan, Yuri Pinzon, Nikki Powers, and edited by Cody Coulombe does a pretty good job of introducing our main character Jason despite him not being named or even explained for most of the issue. As for the overarching story, however, it only really comes into play in the last couple of scenes when we discover what this new strain of virus could be used for in the wrong hands. I would have liked to see this and the world in general built up a little more but despite being left with way more questions than answers I do appreciate the sense of mystery Ax-Man has around it. Speaking of that virus, that is what interests me the most about Ax-Man. It doesn’t seem to turn people into Zombies but rather just disfigure them in some utterly grotesque and brutal ways which don’t seem to have a cure. Keeping the infected people’s humanity intact creates a unique moral dilemma for Jason as he is killing what are more like sick patients rather than the undead. Seeing him deal with his line of work and seeing different stages of the virus in this issue was really interesting and set up a nice mystery for future issues to explain.
Unfortunately, Ax-Man is a little low on the character front. Jason is the only real character given any depth. Luckily Jason is a very interesting character who is a little more than your generic super soldier or action hero. Seeing him first as a nameless, faceless soldier just doing his job to then later learn more about him including his history as a doctor was a really clever way of adding a whole other layer to his story. Watching as he moves through the hospital, where the majority of this issue is set, almost like an emotionless android dealing with any infected he comes across without hesitation was a very effective way of certifying Jason as a total badass. That mixed with his later comments about him being a doctor and wanting to cure people rather than kill them was really cool and mixed nicely with the overarching moral dilemma I mentioned earlier. He does what he does to protect those who are still left but is there a better way to cure the infected people rather than eradicate them? An interesting question that normally isn’t asked in stories such as this and so I respect Ax-Man for having the guts to tackle it.
As for the other characters in Ax-Man, we see Jason’s Doctor friend, along with Ian and his business partner discussing how powerful such a virus could be if the wrong people got hold of it. Thats literally it other than a few unnamed infected we see along the way. A little disappointing that these characters weren’t explored a little more but Jason is Ax-Man’s star and it shows with how much time is dedicated to him. As cool as he is I really hope to see more time given to some of the other characters in the future.
I absolutely love Ax-Mans overall artistic style. The comic is always very dark with deep blacks, reds, and greys making up its color pallet which really help sell how dark and dirty this plague-ridden world is but also how dark Jason’s job is. The comic also has a very angular design to it from the actual shape of the comic strips to the sharp and jagged style of the effects the virus has on the mutated patients. It’s gory, gruesome, and fantastic. As for the action, Which the first issue has its fair share of, it is once again very graphic but never over the top or annoying but instead stylized.
Overall I really enjoy Ax-Mans main Ax-Man, as well as its unique attempt on the, tried and tested ‘deadly virus causes apocalypse’ storyline. A nice break from the generic zombie outbreak story. I would have appreciated a little more world building and learning more about the rest of Ax-Mans cast of characters would have been cool but Ax-Mans debut issue introduces just enough to intrigue me in this universe and leaves me hungry for answers which we’ll hopefully discover in future issues. If you are interested in learning more on Ax-Man check out the lead writers Twitter @mrryancomics for more information and updates on publishing.