By C.M. Punk, Cullen Bunn, Scott Hepburn, and Matt Milla
If ever there was a character Marvel had no idea what to do with, it’d be Drax the Destroyer. When he was originally created he was a quiet, reserved destroyer that had more in common with Martian Manhunter than any other hero. That was before he got mutated into a giant, caped version of the Hulk-in-space complete with the classic Hulk lexicon of “Smash!” only with the added benefit of being able to destroy a planet and fly through space unaided. Since 2006 and Marvel’s Annihilation event one might charitably describe Drax the Destroyer as “Space Wolverine” complete with huge knives and no shirt. They even borrowed Drax’s shoulder tattoo patterns from Dakken, Wolverine’s villainous son. So, the fact that Drax is getting another quasi-reinvention in the wake of Marvel’s relaunch and the massive popularity his character enjoyed in Marvel’s 2014 hit movie Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t that surprising. At this point reworking Drax the Destroyer is basically just tradition; what is surprising is just how great Drax turns out to be.
Drax, which has possibly the greatest logo of Marvel’s relaunch, with the X in Drax’s name actually being formed by his blades, comes to us courtesy of one C.M. Punk. Mr. Punk is a wrestler by trade who has done a small handful of writing for Marvel comics before jumping into Drax. It’s an odd choice admittedly, but by the same token James Gunn made magic out of throwing fellow wrestler Dave Bautista into the part and the comic turns out to be great, so maybe Wrestlers and Drax just go together. Drax is most similar to fellow Guardians of the Galaxy spin-off comic Groot in that they’re both about the team’s most stoic members going through a pretty wacky adventure driven more by comedy than standard issue superhero adventure or even pulp sci-fi weirdness. However, where Groot’s comedy was derived from throwing a character with the most likable demeanor but most limited vocabulary imaginable into the big, wacky weirdness of the Marvel space universe, Drax is more about what a super-soldier killing machine like Drax does in his off-hours. That’s seriously the whole plot of the comic, seeing what Drax does when he’s not superheroing around with the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy. This ends up making things relatively plotless which turns out to be a major boon because the lack of direction and plot are actually Drax’s greatest asset. So much of the story is defined by Drax desperately wanting to destroy (as that’s basically his only function), but constantly being left with nothing to break. It’s a maddeningly ingenuous wrinkle to dig into that shows an incredibly brilliant understanding of the character from C.M. Punk and co-author Cullen Bunn. This does have the effect of there not being much to discuss in the comic but that’s okay, not all content needs deep, multi-layered symbolism and character drama to be good; sometimes it just needs to be really funny and well paced.
The artwork, by artist Scott Hepburn and colorist Matt Milla, is another huge draw for the series. Hepburn is incredible, a real talent for the kind of exaggerated and energetic visuals Drax calls for with a lot of influences drawn from James Harren. In fact, if it weren’t for the friendlier and more comedic designs to some of these panels you’d be forgiven for actually thinking Harren was the artist for the comic, especially with how angular and distended a lot of the characters can end up looking. Normally that might be a problem, but in this case it works, everything already has a jokey and unreal tone about it so the more unreal visual palette only serves to complement the silliness of the story. Milla does a great job with coloring, a perfect blended of dulled “space colors” for the background to create a sort of omnipresent magenta haze that’s punctuated by the harsh greens and reds of the various characters on hand.
There really isn’t much more to say about Drax other than it’s well written, well drawn, gets the character, and all this quality is wrapped around an exceedingly funny main joke premise. There’s really nothing deeper or more complex to what makes the comic as enjoyable as it is, it’s just a very funny book that’s exceedingly accessible and unique in the current Marvel landscape of doom, gloom, and crisis. Sometimes all a book needs to be is funny and fun and this is one of those times; Drax is a real winner and one of the best new comics of the Marvel relaunch.