Superheroes are admired for their bravery, their willingness to sacrifice themselves without a second thought, and their ability to achieve monumental feats that humans can only fathom in their imaginations.
"We had no need to fear him, only what was left of him."
Mark Waid's latest graphic novel, The Rise and Fall of Axiom, takes that premise and examines how our own inaction can at times be our worst enemy. Axiom and Theena represent safety and hope, and are perfectly happy to help keep the peace, but what happens when humanity's recklessness, a by-product of always having a superhuman safety net, ends up unraveling the very people who are trying to help.
It's a vicious cycle, and Waid deconstructs what makes a hero, but he also addresses why the human race doesn't always necessarily need one.
Waid has broached the subject matter of a hero falling from grace before in Irredeemable, but that is where the similarities between the two end. There's a level of compassion and empathy in Axiom that is nonexistent in Plutonian. There are moments of shock of course, but Axiom's actions are closer to that of someone lashing out from an emotional hurt than any sort of malicious intent.
While Kyle is actually the book's protagonist, when the two ultimately come to blows the reader is in many ways conflicted. Axiom isn't outright evil, just misguided, and honestly in the midst of a breakdown. It led to some truly compelling moments between the two, which all built to a worthy climax.
Artist Ed Benes brings a sense of scale and gravitas to the proceedings that only he is capable of and lends an authenticity to Axiom in particular. We know that Benes can draw an action sequence, but the best parts of Axiom involve the more emotional moments, and that was a welcome and pleasant surprise.
Waid and Benes deliver a story of what humanity is ultimately capable of, and The Rise and Fall of Axiom simultaneously shows us at our best and our worst. It's a story worth telling and is definitely a story worth reading.
Rating 4 out of 5 Stars
Written By: Mark Waid
Penciled By: Ed Benes
Colored By: Dinei Ribeiro
Lettered By: Dezi Sienty