Created/Written by Brandon Thomas, Created/Art by Khary Randolph, Colors by Emilio Lopez, Letters by Deron Bennett.
How are we here again? The best of the bunch. Excellence continues to set the standard for an indie title with bite, with grit, with something to say. Brandon Thomas and Khary Randolph continue their spellbinding tale, hopefully with no end in sight. “Change and Die” hints at major shifts in the Excellence universe. Transitions happening now are sure to be felt in issues to come. The aftermath of Aaron and Spencer's duel has left literal mind-shaking consequences for young Spencer Dales. A connection has been forged between the two, linking them more like brothers than ever before. While the mental connection grows ever stronger, the physical isolation of Aaron and his resistance to Spencer builds.
Thomas handles introspection with the best of them. Putting the reader in the head of Spencer as he contemplates his actions, his words, his vows, and the meaning of it all. Are convictions enough? Is it harder to admit change? To evolve? What is the cost of being yourself, if being yourself leads you down a possible wrong path?
Excellence is bathed in magic, in rules, in fantasy. Yet, it is the touching, effective humanity within its core characters, that is so astounding. Spencer struggles, but continues on, clever plan in hand, towards his goal.
Raymond Dales guides a new character, Monique, in his quest to find redemption within the eyes of his son. What lengths will he go to? What cost, if any, is too high? The Four Walls stand. Though, as Raymond maneuvers, it becomes clearer that the rules of Excellence are not as infinite as previously displayed. A regrettable confession weakens the heart and sends Spencer into a rage, capable only of a young man trying to find his way in life.
Monique adds to the fire, rippling through the book, immediately establishing her power and agency. Thomas hinted at the slow burn of the female perspective, and it pays off in spades now. Those who criticized Thomas for making an all-boys club, this reviewer included, have nothing to fear. Thomas has big things in-store and the issue ends with a bang.
Randolph continues his steady and most likely overlooked and understated work. Each line of action and anguish of thought is given equal weight and measure. Lopez gets to play with a new palate courtesy of Monique, and it ends up being fantastic. Dynamic yellows dominate and whirl about the page.
Excellence is a book that demands your attention. Whether re-read by panel, page, or issue, once is not enough. The true magic is in the emotional, connective tissue weaved through all the characters. Agency is king in this world of magic.
Excellence #5 from Image Comics is on sale September 18, 2019.