Bernardin, Marc, Adam Freeman & Afua Richardson. Genius. 2015.

Every generation has it’s military genius- so what happens when it’s a teenage girl from LA?

Deliberately provocative, this story sets up the tale of Destiny, a black seventeen year old orphan who has a vendetta against the police who shot and killed her parents when she was a child. We get some of her back story, as a detective pieces together the escalating violence in South Central Los Angeles to a  “Suspect Zero” who he believes in the mastermind behind the gang wars. He correctly has figured out that the gangs have aligned behind a central leader, and are now building their arsenal to fight the corrupt LA police department.

That this book came out a few months after the Ferguson MO shooting, and had most likely been in production before it, was very timely. The Black Lives Matter movement is represented within the story, with opposing viewpoints. A full page spread shows the media voicing different perspectives and some dialogue that I felt was spot on was, “What we have here is a people, not unlike this country’s forefathers, oppressed by the rule of tyrannical men. Why was it okay for the white settlers to rise against the British but not okay for today’s minorities to do the same?” Unfortunately, I felt this thought provoking statement was canceled out by other cartoonish viewpoints and actions in the story, and the chance for an honest debate about political and racial issues was lost.

I tried so very hard to have a suspension of disbelief so I could just enjoy the scope of the book and not get bogged down in details, but there were a few glaring questions. How did Destiny train her militia? How did she afford all the technology that Gerald used? How did she afford and acquire all the sniper rifles, guns and bomb making materials? How did she bluff her way into the police building without proper credentials? Surely, Destiny knew the final outcome, so were her deadly military maneuvers truly the work of a genius or a sociopath?

The artwork was a mixed bag for me. I felt it was overly stylized, and some of it was obviously computer generated. It was dark hued, with some panels bleeding into the next, otherwise having black borders. An effort was made to show a range of looks, with different body types, skin colors and fashion represented. However, Destiny was overly sexualized, with a gratuitous book cover.

Ultimately, I do give a tepid recommendation to this comic, for it gave me a chance as a white suburban mom to broaden my mind about ethical and racial issues that I normally am not exposed to. While far from perfect, this series is worth looking into further to see if the writers finesse this culturally relevant story.

-Nancy

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