Created/Written by Brandon Thomas, Created/Art by Khary Randolph, Colors by Emilio Lopez, Letters by Deron Bennett
Doing a magic tale in 2019 is a bold move, one that creators Brandon Thomas and Khary Randolph plunge into tenaciously, intimately, and full of promise.
In Excellence, Thomas eschews the pitfalls of the imitated “Harry Potter” scene and instead embraces the humanity, the emotion of magic, centered around family and legacy. Spencer Dales is the son always yearned for, and yet, once in the world, is not the son expected. This dynamic, finding his place in this family, and his position within his father's eyes is paramount to the story.
Family legacy is a central theme in Excellence, the expectations from those that have come before you, balancing with the burden of forging your own path. This narrative creates a very intimate story, and while the action is bombastic and fulfilling, you'll find yourself rereading the tender, minute interactions between the characters.
Spencer Dales is a late bloomer in the world of magic, feeling every bit a disappointment, he bristles against his father, the anger is real and palpable. But as with most adolescents, he straddles the desire to make his family proud with an equitable wish to shove their expectations in their faces. As we see Spencer mature in this premier issue, it's impossible to not recall tumultuous times within our own lives. This is thankfully balanced by interactions with GG, Spencer's grandmother, someone who truly understands his frame of mind. Thomas deftly creates a loving, realistic relationship in Spencer and GG. Herein lies Excellence's true magic, the relationships Spencer has with his family. Even the communication between Spencer's parents is filled with realism. Arguments are uncomfortable and heavy.
The trails Spencer faces, and ultimately the roles magic and he both play in the world are a bit of a twist. I won't spoil it here, but it definitely lends itself to greater world-building. The magic within this world is familiar, yet offers enough promise and intrigue to keep the reader wondering what happens next. Sparks do not fly from wands alone; the relationship dynamics between family members, especially Spencer and his father are far more combustible than any spell.
When the magic starts Randolph provides incredible direction, providing action sequences which fly off the page. As Spencer struggles in his trail, you see the doubt creep upon his face, you see resolve build. Randolph also shows a talent for drawing quiet scenes, filled with small nuance and adept expressions conveyed in the smallest of facial expressions. This is also wonderfully accompanied by Emilio Lopez's colors which have a bit of a matte palate, grounding Randolph's dynamic designs. Color designates different magical fractions within Excellence, and it'll be interesting to see how this figures into the story moving forward.
Excellence comes not with brash, loud proclamations of destiny, or showy battles, but rather a quiet, understated whisper. The importance of choice lingers throughout. A great choice is to pick up this book. Thomas and Randolph have created something par excellence.