Excellence #1 Review: A Book That Lives Up to Its Title

The world of magic can be quite surreal, and to get the most out of it one needs to be grounded by something or someone else. Thankfully that's certainly the case with a new series from Image Comics titled Excellence, where writer Brandon Thomas, artist Khary Randolph, and colorist Emilio Lopez bring an amazing world of magic and wonder to life with the emotional and familial weight to give that wonder its impact. Excellence lives up to its name in spades.

For those unfamiliar, Excellence puts fans in the shoes of Spencer Dales, the youngest in the prestigious Dales family. Everyone knows of several traits that run in their family, and for the Dales that talent happens to be magic. As anyone who's... well, been born knows, every family also comes with a certain amount of expectations, and that's where the real magic in this story is born.

Thomas takes us through the life of someone not living up to a predetermined bar, one they simply had no control over but also one they strive to clear. That internal struggle is conveyed in a genuine way, as any reader will empathize with all the conflicting feelings one feels when met with that challenge. On the one hand, you want to tell those judging you to kick rocks, yet on the other, all you can think of is proving them wrong. Spencer is the living embodiment of that, so gone are the more angsty hallmarks of other characters, and in their place stands a quiet but palpable understanding and resolve.

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(Photo: Image Comics)

It's a breath of fresh air, but perhaps the most refreshing thing about this issue is how the family is portrayed. When Spencer's father and mother argue, it isn't in the oft-cliched way we see parental figures at odds in other stories of this type. When they argue they sound real, as if you just happened to awkwardly walk in at the wrong time, but so far they haven't noticed you. The same can be said for the delightful exchange between Spencer and GG, who within a page or two immediately convey how special and honest their relationship is. While my Grandmother (or Nana as I called her) would start praying if I started cussing that much, the dynamic was in many ways the same, and it just reads as completely genuine.

Crazily enough we haven't even gotten to the magic stuff, but that's the best part of the book actually. Thomas builds the foundation of this world early on in a rather streamlined fashion, allowing the reader to quickly understand and start learning about the characters that live in it. The magical fights don't disappoint either, but it has much more of an impact when you're wholly invested in your lead and those that believe in him.

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(Photo: Image Comics)

Just as important are the visuals, and Randolph and Lopez deliver there too. The character's expressions tell whole stories by themselves and again only heightens the impact of the flashier moments. Even when magic isn't being used the book doesn't shy away from bold colors, punching up each page with vibrant reds, greens, and yellow, and giving each group a different color allows battles of magic to shine in even more dazzling ways.

This book doesn't go where you think it will, but wherever it goes, we're on board. Excellence isn't just a title, and you definitely owe it to yourself to give this book a chance.

Published by Image Comics

On May 8, 2019

Written by Brandon Thomas

Art by Khary Randolph

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Colors by Emilio Lopez

Letters by Deron Bennett