Writer: Brandon Thomas
Artist: Khary Randolph
Colorist: Emilio Lopez
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Publisher: Image Comics
All my life, there was (amongst others) two constants in my life: Hip-Hop and comic books. The musical backdrop for some of my favorite comic characters to read about has always been some sort of boom-bap hip-hop. My childhood and adolescence was filled with Adamantium and beats by DJ Premier. I witnessed Sentinels fall while Method Man (aka Johnny Blaze) Brung Da Pain. I saw full-on Maximum Carnage break loose while Cypress Hill told me how to kill a man. Redman said it was Time 4 Sum Aksion when Spawn took to the alleys of New York in 1992. It has been a long time since I had those feelings while reading a comic book and even longer since I felt a complete connection between the two mediums. What we have here, in Excellence, is the perfect synergy of the two and with Brandon Thomas’ writing & Khary Randolph’s art being in sync, it just reinforces what EXCELLENCE already is: Bold & Fearless.
We are four issues in and everything about this comic is exactly what I want in a comic. Our antagonist is a late bloomer progeny of a Magician Family who’s purpose is to remain in the shadows unseen, to protect and guide individuals who are “Deserving” of their protection and guidance by influencing their lives to their highest potential, but never for themselves. After using magic spell forbidden to him, he is punished by way of changing his job responsibilities. He is forced to chase down petty spell dealers and his only way to get back his job and his family’s honor, is to catch a man who would be his brother, charged with breaking the number one rule of their society of magicians. Issue 4 gives us the confrontation between the two in beautiful and bright colored fashion.
There are tones of tradition and family being questioned by right and wrong, the necessity of breaking rules to protect the ones we love, the desire to change a broken system that effects the very dynamic of family, and our antagonist is just like many of us: just wanting to prove that he’s worth a damn. Brandon Thomas weaves an intricate tale of family and duty set in the backdrop of Hip-Hop’s birthplace, New York. A tale of a son who was never enough for an absentee father, despite how powerful that son may be. I love the importance of family in this story. Behind our hero’s rage, is a place where he loves those most important to him. His “no bull$#*+” attitude is reminiscent of young Nasir Jones at a recording studio in Queens, ready to release Illmatic. That New York State Of Mind runs deep in Spencer’s core and it shows in his relentlessness. I can not wait for his progression in character as he dives deeper in to the hole of changing a broken system.
The art is visual storytelling through the eyes of a graffiti artist. But this isn’t your cliché, stencil Banksy wanna-be art. This is the bright colored bomb on the side of a subway train. Vibrant colors coming at you fast in almost every panel, defining the mood of the character it highlights. Khary Randolph’s work in this series easily propels him to one of my favorite artists creating in the industry right now and I’m excited to see how much more he has in store for us, in the form of wizard-on-wizard violence.
This issue is just like the ones before it, consistent and unpredictable. And to quote the late Prodigy if Mobb Deep “... there’s a war going on outside no man is safe from/ you can run but you can’t hide forever.” And just how big will the blast radius that Spencer and his brother creates will be? That all remains to be seen. With Thomas and Randolph at the helm of this, that blast could be enough to shake the world.