Writer: Brandon Thomas / Artists: Khary Randolph, Emilio Lopez, and Deron Bennett / Image Comics/Skybound
Since issue #1 of Excellence, multiple people have independently hit me with the “Have you read this new comic?!?” The deserved buzz is growing, as more folks dig into this comic created by Brandon Thomas and Khary Randolph. For good reason, this is one to watch. The aesthetic, energy, and narrative are as tight in #2 as you’d expect. The comic uses a time-jumping style, paralleling experiences from Spencer Dales’ distant past, near past, and present. This has some strengths and some drawbacks, but ultimately gives a forward leaning feeling to the whole comic. There’s so much history, all leading…where?
Two: Me and You
The set up at the end of #1 was pretty clear: GG, the giver of the best fades and the most valuable tricks in the book, is dying. Spencer wants to use his powers to save her. His father sees more risk in that than reward and refuses. None of this is particularly unique. You know from the start that no matter what happens, Spencer has no idea what he’s in for. You know the world will counsel him to chill the entire F out. You know he will ignore their advice and go off filled with righteous rage. The power in this comic is in how that story is told.
The story dives deep into what kind of person Spencer is, his rage, his combative style, and his inventiveness. He’s a hero, but also a brat, the kind you hope learns his lesson so you can root for him whole heartedly. That conflict, that complication, is what makes him so entertaining to follow. He faces down one obstacle after another with a relentless conviction. He climbs the The Column, faces down his opponent Aaron, almost reaches the heights of The Aegis, only to come face to face with The Overseer. What sort of being The Overseer is isn’t clear, but we know from the time jumping that trying to save his GG isn’t the first time they’ve met and fought. But will this time be the one where Spencer succeeds? Cliffhanger!
The art is smooth, filled with a frenetic impulse, even when Spencer is standing still. But really, things are rarely still here. Capes flutter. Magic crackles. Eyes shift and roll and express. This is a comic in a unique style that, if it can maintain, is deserving of a spot on your Black art shelf. The backgrounds are pretty spare, but as a character study, that puts the focus where it should be: on Spencer, his father, his conflicts with other men.
On that point, there are thus far no additional women in this comic — just Spencer’s mom and grandmom. And I’m not 100% sure his mom has a name thus far. I’m thinking there’s an intention behind this absence. Hopefully that intention becomes clear in the next few issues, or I have some serious questions about what Excellence means when half of us aren’t in it.
Currently, however, I’m willing to hold on for the reveal. The worldbuilding is fun and feeds all my fantasy needs. I want to know what happens, why, who gets saved, who doesn’t. Also, there’s a code in each issue. I love this stuff.
8 flying pyramids out of 10