Excellence #2 Review - Like Father, Like Son
Updated: Jun 1
• Khary Randolph Emilio Lopez (Cover Artists)
One of the saddest parts about reviewing comics is that you'll regularly hit a string of mainstream comics that get a lot of attention but are ultimately mediocre. Reviewing these books are a chore but you push through because you're a reviewer, it's kinda your job.
On the other hand, you'll review a good book or great indie comic and nobody will read the blog or check out the comic. It feels like you're writing for no one, and that even though you're spending time on a quality product, your audience would rather you spend time ragging on Tom King or the next ill-fated Captain Marvel relaunch.
Brandon and Khary have put together a straight forward coming of age story and blended it into a fantastical world of magic and intrigue. The story is mature, nuanced and the art direction is immaculate. If I had to compare this issue to a genre film the nearest comparison I came up with was Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Spencer, the lead character defies his father and the rules of the order to steal a healing spell that may potentially save his grandmother. It's a relatable situation especially for anyone that has lost a loved one. His father rejects the idea and due to Spencer's youth and rebellious streak, he sees his father as a coward.
Because the setting has not been fleshed out as of this issue it's not readily apparent which course of action is the correct one. What is apparent is that Spencer's motivations are entirely guided by his emotions which in many cases can lead one down a path of destruction.
The writing for the issue is particularly strong with our characters and their interactions. There is also some very clever worldbuilding done on this issue. I loved the use of color in this book. There is a scene between Spencer and his father where it's established that in a specific location you can tell the power level of a magician by the colors that manifest when they are in proximity.
This is a cool reveal that would only work in a visual medium. It means that you'll be able to anticipate a character standing or threat level simply by which colors appear on the page. It's a great use of passive storytelling. It also works in the same way that lightsaber color can generally be used to identify a character's role within the Jedi order or Light/Dark side affiliation.
Doubling back to Spencer, he's a good kid, but he's an asshole. I can relate to the guy but as I'm reading the book I want to reach out to him and say, dude, take a breath. He's a typical teenager, he thinks he knows everything and although he has some valid points, his bullish attitude will more than likely do more harm than good as the series progresses.
Aside from Jamal Campell's work on DC Comics Naomi, I've never seen African - American characters rendered this gracefully. Typically you see this sort of imagination in Afro-futuristic settings. Excellence feels like the world outside of your window. If you live in the hood, these are the guys you see around the block, at church or the barbershop.
There are even elements of Afro-Futurism throughout the comic. Some of the panels in this issue are so well executed I could see a clothing line springing up inspired by this artwork an some of the dialogue. Perfectly complementing the linework and script are Emilio Lopez's colors. Although the overall tones lean heavily on greens, tans, and golds, every page is still striking. Lopez's color choices are spot on and work during quieter moments and also offer a nice contrast to the action beats as the pace picks up and spells are being cast.
In short, Excellence #2 is a great read. The story is extremely interesting and the art is amazing. I'm about four issues behind and will assume that the trade is out or will be soon. In any case, give the book a shot it's easily one of the best series to be released this year.