“Drax” #1 was one of my most anticipated books of the new Marvel initiative. As a wrestling fan, it was really exciting to see the Best in the World, CM Punk, co-writing the series with Cullen Bunn with art by Scott Hepburn. The character, a deeply focused warrior who feels his work should speak for itself, seems tailor-made for Punk, whose final on-screen years in WWE exemplified just that. The guy loves comics; during his WWE years, he would yell “It’s Clobberin’ Time” every time he walked to the ring. While his love of the medium shows in this first issue as it jumps between splashy violence and small comedic moments, it ends before anything really gets going, feeling more like a setup for the first issue than a first issue itself.
The writers set the book up for success early on, appealing to fans ready to see Drax feed some knives to some weird aliens. He arrives in a very Image-style splash page from Hepburn, who displays a Manga-like flexibility in matching the tone of the script. Meanwhile, Punk and Bunn take the character back to his main focus in the comics: killing Thanos. However, it’s tough to spend the story with Drax, who feels lost, unfocused and frustrated for most of the issue. If this were a subplot to a larger story, it would be a good point to come back to for comedic relief, but spending most of the time with a silent, unfocused protagonist makes the story suffer because it creates a lack of conflict.
The book is filled with many small moments, which is an interesting choice for a character who typically sees big action. The wrestler-on-the-road parallels Punk and Bunn draw here are entertaining, like Drax trying to find a tiny spot on the map in a beat up rental car. In between these moments, Punk and Bunn keep the character mostly silent, which hurts the story. It doesn’t have to be a team book, but Drax definitely needs a supporting cast; the best moments come when Drax is put-upon and getting his buttons pushed. This is an easier thing to keep up when there are other characters who can do that to him.
Hepburn is a good choice for the book, designing a great-looking Drax who works as both a detailed gladiator and a loose caricature. There is some Humberto Ramos-like style here as well, with exaggerated characters who are well choreographed and visually engaging. This could be a definitive look for the character. Matt Milla keeps the colors incredibly bright, pouring on neon hues of green and purple and balancing it out with cool blues and grays. It lends more attitude to the art; if you like the power of the image on the cover, then you’ll enjoy the rest of these pages.
It’s a shame the traditional publishing model dictates that major superhero stories debut as monthly installments before moving to collected editions, because the pace of the issue — which feels like it could lend itself to a much longer story — would benefit from having the whole thing told in one go. Twenty pages isn’t a lot of room to tell a whole story, and this first issue proves it.