REVIEW: ‘Excellence,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Is there more to Magic than meets the eye? If you were to go by recent magical fantasy fiction, not really. In a world where Harry Potter reigns supreme, there’s a surprising lack of diversity when it comes to the ways we deal with magic and those who wield it. But there are those creators who experiment with the genre as seen in Excellence #1 from Image Comics and imprint Skybound. The book is written by Brandon Thomas, with art by Khary Randolph, colors by Emilio Lopez,  and lettering by Deron Bennett.

The story follows Spencer Dales, the first son of Magician Raymond Dales. Spencer is born into a world of a secret society of black magicians. Known as the Aegis, these sorcerers wield the power to reshape the world. From behind the scenes, the Aegis push those with potential for greatness to achieve it. They act as guardian angels, bettering the world for others, but never themselves. 

From a young age, Spencer struggles to manifest his magical abilities. This drives a wedge between him and his father, one that not even years of magical training can fully heal. When finally given the chance to prove himself before the Aegis and his father, Spencer dives headfirst into his trials. But he soon finds himself in the Aegis a broken system. Will he have the strength to make the Aegis excellent?

What I admire most about Excellence #1 is just how much it sets in motion. Within the confines of a single issue, Brandon Thomas walks us through the life story of Spencer Dales, fulling impressing upon us how much he has to prove. From the character’s somber narration we get the sense that we are watching a tragedy in slow motion, which give the book’s world-building an almost Shakespearean tone.

Like any good drama, Excellence #1′s heart lies in it its characters and their fraught relationships. The unspoken tension between Spencer and his father permeates the issue, seeping into every scene between the characters like lemon juice into an open wound.

Of course, characters are only one element of what makes Excellence #1 tick. Another major success is the book’s style. Designed with an Afro-Futurist aesthetic, the world of Excellence #1 is brimming with bold colors and harsh shadows. The technicolor magic burst from the page through dynamic splashes, which pushes us further along the narrative. Artist Khary Randolph also illustrates all of her black characters with authentically captured facial features and hair texture. For a book devoted to exploring Black excellence and the toxic trappings of Black patriarchal systems, that authenticity goes a long way. The same goes for Brandon Thomas’s dialogue, which rolls with unabashed ease.

Made entirely by creators of color, Excellence #1 promises a complex journey into magic and family. There’s much more to say about this series, so check it out and join the conversation.

Excellence #1 is available in comic book stores everywhere now.

Excellence #1
4.5

TL;DR

Excellence #1 promises a complex journey into magic and family.

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