Review - Extermination #1

Extinction level events never bode well for the targets of the event. When those targets happen to count superheroes and villains among them, well, then the extinction part becomes a bit more difficult to pull off. This is the case in BOOM! Studios' new work Extermination #1.

Extermination #1 is written by Simon Spurrier and illustrated by Jeffrey Edwards, with colors by Blond and letters by Ed Dukeshire. It's got a whopping nine covers, featuring the talents of John Cassaday, Trevor Hairsine, Michael Gaydos, James Harren, Frazer Irving and Paul Azaceta with Matthew Wilson.

In such events, the unlikeliest of partnerships can be formed. Nox and Red Reaper are a superhero and supervillain, both at the top of their respective games. They've teamed up in the wake of the massive infestation of Earth by an insect alien race, fighting to maintain their lives and preserve what's left of the Earth.

That's more or less the gist of the first issue as far as story goes. The real meat though lies in the characterization of Nox and Red Reaper, two arch-enemies in a past life. Nox is definitely Batman inspired, while Red Reaper is a blend of Joker and Ozymandias. They represent the more or less traditional dichotomy between good an evil, Nox refusing to kill and Red Reaper seeking to push him past that point.

It's tough to launch a new series, as you're setting the table for future issues. Spurrier chose a different path in Extermination #1, choosing instead to make the events the comic is named for be the backdrop. The first issue is character development for the most part and it really works here.

There are flashback scenes interspersed throughout that show the history between Nox and Red Reaper. The first flashback is a little jarring because it happens unexpectedly and without warning. After that though, you know when it's happening and it really provides the current partnership between Nox and Red Reaper into context. Again, these scenes are quite surprising and sort of stilt the pacing of the comic.

The illustrations by Edwards are a little gritty. For a comic where insects invade the planet, such grittiness works well for the work. Nox's appearance is visibly derived from both Batman and The Phantom, while Red Reaper's is a little more of the upscale villain type.

Calling out the similarities isn't a knock on Edwards' originality, but it does deserve mentioning because the similarities are so striking. The pair are very much capes and tights characters and pose an interesting defender against the alien invaders.

While the flashbacks are jarring, Blond uses color choices that help in keeping up. The language used to make the transition is a little clumsy, so it's nice to see the color changes as another means of keeping track of the point in time.

There's some good stuff happening in the first issue. It's not your traditional first issue in the sense that it doesn't set the table perfectly for the reader. Instead, it shows you the players at the table and let's the table set itself. It's a brave tactic that expects a lot of the readers, but it's also appreciated and works really well.

The aliens seem to tap into some of humanity's greatest fears and their origin is left sort of vague. This gives you something to look forward to as the series progresses, finding out just who they are and what their motives really are. The series looks to have potential.

Extermination #1 is in stores June 6 with interiors below.