Writer: Brandon Thomas / Artists: Khary Randolph, Emilio Lopez, and Deron Bennett / Image Comics/Skybound
Excellence is a comic all about the details. It demands of the reader the same kind of attentiveness that the creative team is showing, moment by moment, panel by panel. The world-building is second to none, but it is novelistic in the way it is built. I say that because you might want to give Issue #2 a re-read before diving into #3, when I read them back to back, the story slammed home.
This issue opens with Spencer tracking down illegal mages, who are using homemade unsanctioned wands. This is where it is important to read that intro page, that is on every issue but easy to overlook. There are rules to being a mage and consequences for breaking them. Remember these rules; 3 of the 4 come up in this issue.
There are also other violations, slipped in on other pages. Those are important too. Spencer has a violation — attempted theft of a classified object — which is what landed him on police detail instead of out protecting an utterly undeserving white person. His frenemy, Aaron is in the middle of the worst violation, romantic interaction with his charge. This presents Spencer with a chance. He can bring Aaron in and get his old status back, but is bringing your brother in for such a crime an honorable thing to do?
The Aegis really keeps these brothers at each other’s throats, and Spencer’s dad is no help at all. Whatever happened between Spencer and Aaron when they met the Overseer, it left some serious scars. The violence of their interaction raises questions about the violence of the Overseer himself. We know some of what happened, but there’s more there, for sure.
Another detail to keep your eye on, each page of action is sign-posted with Spencer’s age. Track that, or you will get lost.
In a conversation with the Excellence team, they promised that the art would only get better as everyone warmed up. I have not been disappointed. As I mentioned on Twitter after the last issue, I’m in love with the whole aesthetic of this comic. It is like Thomas and team asked: “What if Black folk had embraced Art Deco, Egyptomania, and Afrofuturism at the same time? But still loved Jordans and hoodies?” They take that premise, and then lay the weight of the plot on top of that. It all rises to a mythic/parable level.
If you can keep up with the time shifts, then this is a great comic to read.
8 quickies out of 10
Reading Excellence? Check out BNP’s other reviews here.