What if there is a secret collective of magic users who intervene in peoples’ day-to-day lives, providing a “shield” to those considered worthy? This is the conceit of Excellence #1, the new title from Image Comics.
Spencer Dales is born into a powerful family within a magical society called the Aegis. Their purpose is to use magic to better the lives of those with greater potential. That becomes a problem, though, as Spencer ages and his powers fail to manifest, straining relations with his family and causing an anger within him to grow.
The core of Excellence #1 is the relationship between our protagonist and his father. It’s a classic formula; we see their relationship sour and take a tense, more adversarial dynamic as Spencer grows older. You feel for Spencer as he suffers through his father’s rejection. At the same time, you want to see the two reconciled, even as the distance between them grows.
Excellence #1 falls squarely within urban fantasy, and the worldbuilding on display is one of the book’s strong suits. We don’t know a lot about this world by the first issue’s end, but writer Brandon Thomas allows us to peak behind the curtain, offering us just enough to follow. What we see is the foundation of a very interesting world, making readers look forward to see it further developed.
There’s a clash developing between Spencer’s idealism and his father’s reverence for tradition and legacy by the book’s end. This sets up the main conflict of the series, reflecting the divergent worldviews that will guide them in future issues. As the story progresses, this rift will likely widen, especially if the imagery presented on the book’s final page is any indicator.
From the first page of Excellence #1, Thomas lays out the four key rules of this world. Thus, one can assume they will all be broken many times before the story’s complete.
Khary Randolph’s artwork is absolutely electric in Excellence #1.
The book’s aesthetic takes elements of Afrofuturism, anime, and other styles, grafting them into something all its own. Angles are sharp and crisp, giving the work a sleek, stylized vibe.
Beyond the design work, though, Randolph also does an excellent job laying out the page. His illustrations carry incredible energy as characters move with poise and grace, dancing from one panel to the next. The book has a solid flow to it, drawing the reader’s eye easily from panel to panel.
Emilio Lopez’s color work plays a big part in bringing the work to life as well. Colors are extremely vibrant, yet there is plenty of contrast and fine detail in the shadows. He uses color as an accent, matching the emotional pitch of each scene.
Excellence #1 is a strong start for the new series. Highly recommended for this week’s new picks.