Depending on your familial background, returning to university, or perhaps attending for the first time, can be a period of difficulty. Perhaps you feel that you are someone entirely different on campus, then you are when return home. Or, perhaps you have a gift, talent, or interest that is appreciated but not understood outside of the university space. For me, beginning university is a time when I struggle to reconcile who I am, who I want to be, and who I used to be, but, it also a time when I am able to express myself in a deeply satisfying way.
In the 12-issue mini-series Extremity, writer and artist Daniel Warren Johnson, along with colourist Mike Spicer perfectly capture, albeit on a grand scale, the anxieties of personal change within the contexts of family, tradition, and belief. Based on the concepts of self-expression, tradition, and personal gifts, the premise for Extremity is simple; what if the one thing that defined you was suddenly taken away?
The story of Extremity follows Thea, a young artist of the traditional Roto Clan, who loses her arm during a violent altercation with the technologically advanced Panzina. During the battle Thea also loses her mother and the resulting conflicts threaten to tear Thea’s world apart. Who is Thea if she cannot create? How will her family mend, when Thea’s father becomes lost in revenge? Who will Thea become if she turns away from the art that defined her and towards the violence that consumes her people?
Taking place in a world of floating islands and massive flying ships, Extremity brilliantly contrasts the power of technology with the wonder of natural beauty, within a fantasy setting. Johnson’s art, combined with Spicer’s colours, is breathtaking and spans everything from massive aerial battles and giant lumbering beast, to subtle differences between tribal communities and the soft beauty of memory. Easily one of my favourite comics in the last few years, Extremity is a deep, thoughtful, look at how the world moulds us and how the decisions we make shape the world.