Relationships with parents can be complicated. Expectations on either side, of what a parent or child should be, can often lead to conflict and misunderstanding as children grow older and become their own independent person. If parents strive to shape their child into what they wish that child to be, yet the child takes a different path, does the fault lie with the parents or the child? Is anyone at fault? Spencer Dales, protagonist of Excellence, comes from a prominent magic-wielding family, from a father with high hopes for a son who will continue the family line. However, what happens when Spencer displays little to no magic ability?
Excellence portrays a secretive group of magicians known as the Aegis, operating under the nose of an unsuspecting populace. Interesting glimpses of the comic’s world are referenced in magical rules, hierarchy, and families, though the exact nature and purpose of the group are left open for now. It is clear that the group values tradition, secrecy, and order, but to what end? They seem to help the public, considering it a sacred duty, assisted by knowledge of possible future events. Yet, only the ‘deserving’ will be protected. How do they determine who is ‘deserving’? I really enjoyed the world building, which promises conflict to come in future issues for rules broken on the comic’s first page.
Though Spencer comes from a prominent magical family and is assisted by his father in testing out magic, his father’s support, and seeming love, dwindle as his childhood passes with him barely casting a spell. Paternal love turns to anger and loathing, shaping a childhood irrevocably. Fueled by rejection, pain, and rage, Spencer breaks through the barrier and manifests magic, ten years after his peers. To pass from a rook magician to a patron magician, he must first pass the magical trials or risk failure and the potential end of his family’s line.
Excellence is the work of writer Brandon Thomas (Horizon, Noble, Voltron) and artist Khary Randolph (Livewire, Tech Jacket, We Are Robin). Despite the focus on magic and action, Excellence is, at its heart, a story about a father and son and their unfulfilled expectations for one another. Spencer seeks acceptance and love from his father, who is so intent on preserving his family’s name that he views his own son as an outcast. Brandon Thomas’ writing is strong, offering a good balance between magic, mystery, and the mundane of everyday life and familial relationships. Khary Randolph’s artwork is a perfect fit for the comic and I love the character designs and depictions of magic. He has previous experience in animation, which certainly shows in his panel work.
Excellence #1 offers a strong beginning to a tale of the breakdown of a father and son’s relationship, set in a shadowy magical world this issue has barely scratched the surface of. For readers interested in solid world building and heartfelt family drama, Excellence should not be missed.