Excellence #1 Review A Comic That Lives Up To Its Name
• Khary Randolph Emilio Lopez (Cover Artists)
I had no idea who Brandon Thomas was before reading Excellence but now he has my full attention. I'm generally not a fan of stories involving magic or sorcery but this is probably one of the coolest takes on the genre I've ever run across. The fact that all of the named characters are Black is also special to me because I don't usually see "My Folks" in fantasy settings.
This story centers around Spencer Raymond Dales and follows him from birth through his development into a young man. He comes from a line of Magicians tasked with protecting humanity. The bulk of the issue is split between world building, Spencer's relationship with his family and his trials.
The World-building is excellent I dare you to read this issue and walk away not wanting to know more about the setting and how this system works.
The art from Khary Randolph is on point. The pencils are very expressive and energetic. Khary makes every panel look interesting whether he's conveying an action sequence, intense emotion or something as mundane as Spencer getting his haircut by his grandmother.
I've seen Khary's work over the years and it's really cool to see that he's continued to evolve in his craft. This is probably the best work I've seen from him and if this is the shape of things to come I can't wait to see what he comes up with over the course of this series. Khary is perfectly complemented by Emilio Lopez' colors who shares credit in breathing life into this world.
All in all, the art direction is solid and you can feel the synergy between the creatives involved here. It definitely comes through throughout the issue.
It's' also awesome that we're looking at some truly inspired designs for these characters. Khary gives us a variety of Black faces embracing the full lips, kinky hair, and general swag that we're associate with. Most Black characters in fiction are conveyed as cool but these characters take it a step forward and feel natural.
I also really appreciate that I'm making a bigger deal about race than the book does. It never even comes up. It's actually a breath of fresh air to see Black Characters that have identities and personalities that aren't just extensions of their melanin count. Especially when tokenism is rampant all over the mainstream comic book industry. I know it's only the first issue but I feel safe with these characters and their portrayal.
The book is primarily about Spencer's coming of age but it's also about family. The family dynamic pushes the narrative and it will be interesting to see how these relationships shape the series as time goes on.
There is an excellent quote from Brandon on the letters page that stuck with me most of the day after reading this issue.
"How do you create a real, enduring mature relationship with your children when you were denied the best example?"
I had a very strained relationship with my father that ranged from distant, to dismissive to apathetic. When I had my children my goal was to be a Great Father but it's kind of hard to be great when your baseline example for what a good father kinda sucks.
The quote hit me to my core because I was never able to reconcile my relationship with my dad. He died and I don't even remember if he got to meet his grandchildren.
Typing that last line was rough and another reason I appreciate the script here. Excellence doesn't feel like a gimmick. There is some legit passion in the concept, art and storytelling, and it comes across on every page.
With all of these positives in place, I really can't find fault with this book. Excellence is a fine single issue and one of the best starts to a series I've read in a very long time. This is a quality product. What Khary and Brandon have produced here is beyond impressive.