Written by Si Spurrier
Drawn by Jeffrey Edwards
Published by Boom!
The funny thing about the world ending is that it never quite gets around to it. The apocalypse is never tidy, never elegant and it always, without fail, leaves loose ends. What those loose ends are, how the survivors struggle to keep going or, as commonly, struggle to work out whether or not they should even bother, is the subject of some of the definitive post-apocalyptic pieces of contemporary fiction. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road , Stephen King’s Cell and Max Brooks’ World War Z all spring from the same question, one none of us want to answer and one we all know, sooner or later, we’d have to ask ourselves in this situation:
When do we give up?
Extermination doesn’t ask this question explicitly, but it hangs over every page. This is the way the world ends, with something impossible unfolding from out of nothing, slaughtering us all and it taking far too long for anyone to notice or do anything about it. The world is broken, civilisation lies in shattered ruins and even the weather has been curdled, perverted into something to be used against us. We’ve lost, it’s over and Nox and Red Reaper both know that. A superhero and a supervillain, clinging to that relationship, those definitions as the last tattered remnants of the world they knew.
Nox is an American detective, a man who has no problem beating people but will not kill, even in the face of the end of the world. Reaper, on the other hand, is a flamboyant, laconic English supervillain with a fondness for theatre, no problem with the murder of any and everyone and a barely contained glee at the fact he gets a world full of alien technology to play with. They’re Vladimir and Estragon with extra violence, two men who were diametrically opposed to one another and utterly co-dependent at the same time. An American and an Englishman, a thug and a brain, a hero and a villain, alone at the end of the world.
Spurrier cuts between the shattered present and the past, apparently on the night the invasion began, to show how the two men have changed as well as how much they’ve stayed the same and Edwards cleverly mirrors this with a subtle change to the art style depending on whether we’re in the past or future. Dialogue links the two time periods and the script does a neat job of showing not only what happens after the world ends, but how it ended in the first place, hinting as it does, at the roles these two men have played. Likewise, Edwards’ art does a great job of showing how broken everything is and contrasting this with the gaudy, and increasingly tattered, costumes the two men both wear and define themselves through; two tiny splashes of colour in a world drained of colour and life.
Shot through with jet black humour and ideas with a wonderfully broken pair of leads, this is a very strong debut for what looks to be a great book. It’s also, as is Boom!’s policy with first issues, one dollar. At this price and with this quality of work on display, you really should check it out. The end of the world has rarely looked better.