For reasons smarter than we like to admit, BOOM! Studios persistently mines the superhero genre for new, untapped ideas. Generally, it has worked: Irredeemable was a success, new ongoing series Supurbia is starting off decently and now we're presented with Extermination, the brainchild of Matt Gagnon, EIC of BOOM!
Our setting is an alien-ravaged apocalypse devoid of life save for two men, our characters: hero Nox and villain Red Reaper. A classic odd couple pairing, the environment forces these two into a relationship rich with candor and reluctant dependence. The idea is novel, and in the hands of Si Spurrier and Jeffery Edwards it flourishes into a comic rife with possibility.
The strength of the book is its mismatched duo. Nox is a clear Batman allegory (with a bit of Steve Rogers in there, I think), and R.R. is an amalgam of Doctor Doom, Green Goblin and Lex Luthor. He is the book's workhorse; he's savvy, oddly charming and spouts off quips rapid fire. The tension between he and Nox is rife, even if they do seem comfortable with each other. Throughout most of the issue Nox's obsolete moral code is challenged by his old foe and as R.R. points out: the dark hero is a walking contradiction (case in point: he has a strong code against all killing but carries guns). Nox is surprisingly boring, but by the conclusion of this premiere issue there are hints the creative team is looking to buck expectations and give the character a challenge to overcome.
The world building aspects are there, and words like "dreamforming," "husker" and "whinedrone" indicate a deeper mythology crawling underneath the main action. The script is tidy and does not go into what exactly happened to this place (never mentioned as Earth or dated with a year), but it is apparently devastating and all-encompassing. The major flaw of the story is the split narrative. All parts told post-disaster are nearly brilliant, and brim with action and great lines, but are sided with vibrant flashbacks set in the "world before." These vignettes detail an unspecified battle between Nox and Reaper, and it's typical superhero fare with a tad more violence. It's filler, adding nothing but fluffy context that was delivered on the first page when we were introduced to a pair of costumed individuals on something called a Bladecycle. Everything in the flashbacks could have been revealed through tight exposition, and frankly, the quality of the comic is better, from story to art to lettering, in the post-disaster scenes. Edwards is much better suited drawing the gnarly psychedelic aliens and haggard landscapes than cowls and capes. Colorist Blond spreads his wings within the terrors of invasion, but does nothing special with the typical saturated feel of a '90s superhero bit. The art in this comic is seriously Jekyll and Hyde, and it might be the script's fault.
Forreal though, Red Reaper. That guy is badass. He kills it this comic — figuratively, literally, again and again. He is a standard maniacal villain with a touch less crazy, and he feels a little like Spurrier's previous work with Marvel's Dr. Nemesis. Unlike Nox, he has accepted the world around him and doesn't take his role as baddie as seriously anymore. The book is very much about survival and adaptation, and the dynamic between realist bad guy and the hero with superpowered morals highlights that. Unfortunately, only one side is doing the narrative legwork right now.
Check out Extermination if you're looking for a lively twist on the superhero genre. It's violent, funny and inventive, and if it builds on a strong start it might turn into a keeper. For a dollar, it's definitely worth a shot.
Jamil Scalese is just like you — an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.