June 10, 2012

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Extermination #1

Created by Matt Gagnon
Written by Simon Spurrier
Illustrated by  Jeffrey Edwards
Boom! Studios

What just might be worse than being one of the last men left on the planet, faced with death from a collection of horrific aliens?  Being stuck with a former arch-enemy whose worldview could not be more different!  There's been an extermination and now Nox, the inflexible hero, must partner with Red Reaper, a man with no morals at all.  It's a tale of survival and a test of wills in this new book from Boom! Studios.

On its face, I should have no interest in this comic.  I am not big on alien invasions, especially ones that foster complete hopelessness.  The two protagonists are clearly meant to be analogues of Batman and a cross between the Joker and Lex Luthor.  Had this been from anyone other than Boom! Studios, whose comics I will always try due to an overall high quality across the line, I might have given this a pass entirely.

That would have been a horrible mistake.

Writer Simon Spurrier takes Matt Gagnon's idea and really runs with it, starting with engaging dialog that evokes an old Chuck Jones script right on page one and draws the reader right into the action.  We're shown right away that we have an unlikely partnership in these two characters who are forced together by the situation, and only after that does Spurrier give us the hook--these two used to be mortal enemies, with views that could not be more different.  As we explore the universe a bit, it's clear that the ways of a Batman-like hero just won't work in a world turned upside down, and why the Red Reaper is initially happy with Nox's change, I wonder just how he'll deal with a hero whose moral code just got turned off.  Nox's grin (drawn perfectly by Jeffrey Edwards) makes me think Red might have gotten a lot more than he bargained for.

I absolutely love the pacing of this story.  We are introduced to so much across the comic that it feels like a full issue but never once did I get the impression that Spurrier was info dumping on the reader.  There's plenty we don't know, which I hope will be explained over time.  Why did two people with no powers survive while those who were arguably far more powerful survive?  How did this invasion happen?  When did they form an alliance?  There's so much to tell, and I hope that Spurrier relates it in the same manner as this issue, with timely switches between past and present and absolutely no decompression.

There are so many things this comic does right in terms of the script, from clever dialog to the fast-paced action, but it wouldn't work without Edwards' sharp artwork.  He's asked to do a lot to bring the world to life performs the task perfectly.  We get a sense of desolation from the backgrounds, while the technology that remains is finely detailed.  Nox and Red weave in and out of the panels seamlessly and fluidly, and his aliens are extremely creepy.  Though all of this creates for strong storytelling, Edwards's best strength are his faces, which match Spurrier's dialog step for step, especially in the case of Nox.  There's a feeling of John Cassaday (who does one of the--no lie--nine! covers) in the art, but also a bit of Todd Nauck mixed in.  It's a great selection for this story, and I give the editors credit for matching writer and artist so well.

Action-packed, full of jokes despite the dark premise (I love the running gag about "language"), and with a high concept that's got so much potential (What if Batman had to work with the Joker to survive?), Extermination is a must-read and gets my highest possible recommendation.  I can't wait for the next issue!