You might think Extremity #1 is gross and violent, what with the dismembered people on the cover. You’d be right. But inside is a story that hits hard and fast, and sets up a dark, character-driven story that looks really promising.
Extremity #1 (Image Comics)
The girl on the cover, and the main character of the story, is Thea, a warrior and chieftain’s daughter in an intriguing sci-fi/fantasy world. She was an extremely talented artist before her home was attacked, during which she lost both her mother and her right hand. She has hardened in the years since. Unable to draw like she used to, she is looking for revenge against the people who took her mother and identity.
With about half of the issue consisting of a brutal, bloody battle, Daniel Warren Johnson, both the writer and artist, doesn’t have much time to lay the foundation for his story. What he does establish is really compelling. Thea’s struggle to regain her identity is instantly relatable; part of growing up is grasping such a fluid, elusive, and fragile concept. Making things even more difficult is the unforgiving world she lives in. The realization Thea makes in the last panels of the book creates a perfect launching point for her to start rebuilding herself. Or not; we’ll have to see. It’s really excellent, efficient storytelling on Johnson’s part.
The cover art is indicative of the issue’s long battle scene, so go in prepared for that. In the context of a dark story about loss, vengeance, and coming-of-age, I think the gory carnage is justified. Johnson does an excellent job with the non-action scenes as well. His close ups of Thea and her family are incredibly emotive and really make you see what these characters are going through. The last few wordless panels in particular are almost heartbreaking. The rest of Johnson’s art is very detailed and helps pull you into this dirty, low-tech sci-fi/fantasy world. The scrappy warriors wear mismatched armor, and the ship they fly looks almost cobbled together from scraps. These are desperate people. The synopsis likened it to Mad Max, and Extremity strikes a very similar visual tone.
Finally, I think it would be impossible not to mention the sound effects in this book. Johnson integrates sound effects into his art so naturally. From the small scratching in Thea’s notebook to the giant, bold “krunch” of a battering ram, Johnson uses simple, evocative words that are impossible to ignore. Rarely do I read sound effects and really hear them, but reading this it is impossible not to hear how this world sounds. They bring the immersion to the next level.
Extremity is a book that I went into wearily, worried that it would be all blood and guts and little else. Thanks to a creator who is telling an intensely personal story (he even writes about it in a brief letter at the end), this book is much more. It’s a dark, violent, colorful, loud story about a girl just trying to find herself. I’m really looking forward to seeing where Thea goes next.