The story of Excellence and Spencer Dales is a thrilling and compelling tale, filled with unexpected twists and plenty of misdirection, though all of these swerves seamlessly intertwine to transform an ember of rebellion into a full-blown revolution. It has been magnificent to watch unfold. Writer Brandon Thomas and artist Khary Randolph continue to reach the exceedingly high bar they established in the series' earliest issues—tackling systems of race, class, and oppression with a modern magical twist that cannot be seen anywhere else in comics. Excellence #8 maintains that high standard but throws in a few welcome twists and one massive revelation by the issue's end, though none of it distracts from the comics' foundation and soul.
Half the fun of Excellence is watching the elaborate game of chess between Spencer and Aegis, and the growing presence of Chief Investigator Hill introduces yet another wild card into the mix that affects both sides in unexpected ways. Thomas uses Hill to not only spice up the main conflict, but also as a way to ground Spencer, bringing him back down to Earth a bit both in terms of the character and how readers see him.
There's been an air of invulnerability about Spencer across the past few issues, and Hill introduces some much needed opposition worthy of this protagonist, someone who poses a threat to Spencer but from whom he can still learn valuable knowledge. The reveals here will only heighten that dynamic in future issues, too.
Before we move any further, the artwork of Randolph and colorist Emilio Lopez must be commended. The first half of this issue focuses on two people conversing in a small room, but Randolph and Lopez constantly change things up as the story moves from panel to panel, shifting the scene's focus, highlighting unique angles, and steering your eye with bold color choices, and that's still when everyone remains sitting.
Once the spells start flying the visuals let loose accordingly, and it's a delight to watch two spell casters battle it out. Randolph and Lopez find new ways to bring these magical throwdowns to life in every issue, and things are no different here.
Up to this point the Aegis has been depicted as an oppressive agency looking to maintain control of the populace through magic and the allowance for people to access it, though there have been some hints at racial motivations. This issue does away with any ambiguity regarding the Aegis' motives, views, and methods, and the parallels between the series and many of our current societal conflicts should be apparent to any reader.
Because the Aegis' true motives are made clear, the focus is shifting from a story of a young man overcoming his own demons and familial fractures to one of a young man not satisfied with accepting the answers given to him about what life should be. That said, it doesn't sacrifice any of the traits and depth that made this series so compelling in the first place, instead using that foundation to provide a unique and worthwhile prism from which to view our own conflicted world.
Excellence has lived up to its name for some time now, and while the story has only grown more ambitious, it has yet to miss a single step. The series blends its fantastical world of magic with the all too real issues of race and oppression we are confronting today, resulting in a comic book that demands your attention, and it's time to pay attention.
Published by Image Comics
On July 8, 2020
Written by Brandon Thomas
Art by Khary Randolph0comments
Colors by Emilio Lopez
Letters by Deron Bennett