Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Extermination #2: "The world hit puberty like a %$@*ing meteor, boy."

Extermination #2
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Jeffrey Edwards
Colours: Blond
Cover A: John Cassaday
July 18, 2012
Boom! Studios

I picked up the first issue of this series on a whim back when Boom! Studios were offering this and Higher Earth #1 for $1/each, and was completely blown away by what I read.

Issue #2 continues this trend, making Extermination one of my new favourite ongoing series, and this is only the second issue!

For those of you who haven't heard of this series before, here's a quick recap: Nox, a highly ethical, and intentionally stereotypical Batman analogue, and his arch-nemesis The Red Reaper, an evil genius who spent most of his career being constantly foiled by Nox, are forced to band together after an alien invasion exterminates nearly all life on Earth. The two travel across the scorched earth, in search of other survivors, battling aliens and trading shots at each other as they attempt to adjust to their new lives after civilization's total collapse.

This issue opens with Nox and the Reaper fighting off an alien horde, and then joining a group of humans whose survival is dependent on their leader, a psychopathic Nazi serial killer and former villain of Nox. Enraged that a group of people would willingly follow such a leader, Nox argues with the Red Reaper, who points out the ludicrous inflexibility of Nox's "ethical straitjacket" given the reality of their situation in this new, post-invasion world.

Issue #1 touched on a similar theme, when Nox restated his refusal to kill, even after most of mankind has been exterminated, but this issue develops this theme even further as Nox and the Red Reaper come to learn exactly how the band of humans have been able to survive. Though I should have seen it coming, I was still shocked by the revelation when a character from the flashback scenes in the first issue makes his gruesome reappearance in the post-invasion world.

I love the interplay between Nox and the Reaper, who has become one of my favourite new characters, and is the real star of the book. The Reaper is a total failure of a villain, the kind of campy evil genius whose plans are always foiled at the last minute by the hero, but now that the end of the world has already happened, he relishes the opportunity it has presented to redefine himself, not necessarily as a hero, but someone capable of surviving at any cost.

Jeffrey Edwards art is quite good, for the most part. He is particularly skilled at drawing action set pieces and scenes of mass destruction. I do have a few criticisms though. The faces of characters minor and major alike often lack definition, and the quality of the figure drawing is inconsistent from panel to panel. 

In some panels, characters look expressive, proportional, and well-detailed, while in other panels they look like an awkward mess. It's distracting when characters lack pupils and other features, or their frames look awkward and sloppy compared to how they were composed just a few panels before. 

These issues aren't a deal breaker, as this is a very attractive book with some excellent colouring from Blond, but the inconsistency of the art reduces the effect of what is otherwise an entertaining and gripping read. 

What really sets Extermination apart is its unique combination of pitch-black humour, camp superheroics, a grim post-apocalyptic scenario, and the intriguing ethical dilemmas its characters must face. The elements that make up Extermination may seem familiar, but I am unable to compare it to anything else.  

I hadn't heard of Simon Spurrier or Jeffrey Edwards before reading Extermination #1, but they've got my attention now.

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