Simon Spurrier won my long-distance respect and dedication for making X-Club such a fantastic good time, and someday I'll be able to write about him without first mistakenly calling him Steve Spurrier, who is Head Gamecock. So when I glanced at Extermination #1 on the shelves, I gave it a second glance after mistakenly thinking it was a Midnighter riff at first, and when I saw Spurrier's name, I quickly put it into my stack, not knowing what I'd get when I read it, outside of amusing dialog. That goes quite a long way, but it turns out it didn't have to shoulder any huge burden, since the concept behind Extermination is a pretty interesting one.
What if civilization was destroyed, and the only two people left on Earth are a superhero and his archenemy?
Meet Nox, a capeless, pointy-ear-less gun-toting Batman allegory who fancies himself a detective, refuses to kill, and gets pissy about foul language. He's riding sidecar on the bladecycle of The Red Reaper, a "mincing, megalomaniacal science-tyrant." Thankfully, not a lame Joker riff, but more like an evil Dr. Nemesis, and we all know how much bombastic fun Spurrier's Doc N was to read. You better know – I just told you about it in the link above. Anyway, they're trying to shoot a shiny rainbow "whinedrone" out of the sky, deal with its telepathic defenses and then the giant beast it heralds, all while bickering with each other about everything. This monster starts "dreamforming," for example, and Reaper dodges its attacks while complaining loudly about how campy that term is, suggesting "warpsmithing" or "dimensionfucking" instead. That's the kind of book this is. Yay.
No, we don't quite know what's happened to the world, the exact nature of the apocalypse we're post here. What we do know is that there are monsters, and that Nox and Reaper have been riding together for long enough that "the old days" of their typical superhuman enmity (some of which we see in flashback form) seem like another lifetime ago. The focus of the first issue, besides establishing the setting, is that Reaper is pushing Nox to realize his 'no-kill' principle is entirely outdated in the face of these "telepathic alien murder-monkeys" and "creepy zombie mystery-monsters," the latter of which apparently eat children.
Nox tries to hold on to the past, saying "without values, there's no point going on." Reaper's response is "Having values isn't the problem, boy. It's simply that yours could use a contextual update." The horrors they see, especially with the first human being they've come across in weeks now being eaten by a husker, as well as Reaper's wheedling with his pragmatic, dogmatic logic push Nox over the edge, and it looks like he likes how it feels.
Spurrier's writing is entertaining and snappy, even in the face of all this darkness, keeping the overdone post-apocalyptic genre from becoming stale and turgid like it often can. The art from Jeffrey Edwards is also top-notch, with some really whacked out creatures, and a very polished look, and the colors from Blond really help differentiate the "idiot's dream of bold colors and childish choices" that was the past and the bleak hellscape of the present.
Extermination #1 has me on board for the long haul, with absolutely no reservations. It's going to be messed up and dark, but it'll be amusingly so, and black comedy is wonderful when done right.