“What is in the taste of blood that soothes you?”
Hey, this is D.C. back to throwdown on a series that I’ve had difficulty formulating into words. Let’s talk about Image Comics’ Extremity.
Simply put, it is a tale of war and revenge, helmed by Daniel Warren Johnson.
From the beginning Johnson produces an engaging and sad story. The art is appropriate, showing a mixed world of old and technological. It is also brutal and dynamic in its action sequences. Mike Spicer’s colors complement and even enhances the events and emotions that drive the story.
Johnson’s script weaves great insight into the lore, history and characters of this new world. The first issue gives the appearance that protagonist Thea and her tribe, the Roto, are an oppressed people after the Paznina and their queen brutalize their homes, take their land, and kill their families. Thea loses the most important thing to her, aside from her mother: her hand and her skills as an artist. Because of this, Roto leader Jerome’s sense of loss and desire for revenge can be sympathized and empathized with. You can understand his role as leader (termed “Abba”) and his attempts to harden his children Thea and Rollo to the realities of war.
At least, Jerome’s own realities.
With the introduction of the second issue, however, the validity of Jerome’s hardship, and that of the Roto tribe, is no longer clear. Issue #2 shows that Thea’s dismemberment is in fact revenge on the Paznina queen’s part for her own daughter’s disfigurement. It is no longer certain who are the true oppressors and who are the true oppressed–aside from the innocent like Thea–as is often the case of war.
The revelations of issue #2 made me far less sympathetic with Jerome’s character. Johnson skillfully writes Jerome as both sympathetic and unsympathetic. Jerome shows love for his family and pride in his role, but his obsession with revenge is damning. His unflinching “eye for an eye” approach–to the point of torture and sacrifice innocents–is more reprehensible by his grooming Thea into the role he no longer sees Rollo strong enough to inherit. Roto tribesman Hobbie was right, if not ominous, in his exchange with Thea: there is a light dimming in Thea’s soul, and her father, for all of his love, is bringing her closer to his darkness.
In spite of all that, I love the realism in Jerome’s character.
From here on out, Extremity is an simple and somber lesson of war, and how revenge begets revenge. The cycle is clear to Rollo, who shines in the series as the intellectual, emotional, and historical counter to his father’s pragmatism and drive for revenge by any means necessary. Rollo’s perceived weakness towards slaughter is so clearly his strength, even as he part ways with his clan.
The biggest worry is Thea. She’s a relatable protagonist, as we see her constantly struggle with reconciling her three parts: her past and potential as an artist who shared her talent as a mode of optimism; her present and growing brutality, groomed more so by the father and her own rage; and her future potential as either a destroyer or as a creator. Will her father allow her to be what she was grown to be, or what he needs her to be?
What will her father do when she chooses what she shall be?
Extremity is a ugly tale that emphasizes the cyclic nature of war and hate, its effects on all who endure it, and how these victims become what they need to be. Daniel Warren Johnson is top notch in this story that is just seeped in emotion and strong characterization, and I look forward to seeing what Johnson has in store for all of these characters.