Written by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman
Illustrated by Afua Richardson
Published by Image Comics
Genius is, at its core, a tale of revenge. A lot of kids grow up around a militarized, hostile police force and get lost in the system, and many of those kids grow up angry and potentially violent. This comic wants to show what would happen if one of those kids happened to be on an intellectual par with Hannibal or Alexander the Great.
Destiny Ajaye is a genius at what she does, which is a form of insurgent warfare directed against the LAPD. She has effectively united all of the gangs in Los Angeles under her control after spending years as one of the leader’s girlfriends, using that time to study all of the key players. After her men shoot up a group of cops, the LAPD prepares to descend in force on her hideout, which she naturally expects them to do. Officer Reginald Grey has been studying the changes in the LA gang world and has concluded that somebody has united the gangs. His profile gives us an idea of Destiny’s background: parent killed by the police, neglect from state agencies, and a willingness to camouflage her abilities while she moved into position. The LAPD’s attack goes exactly as Destiny predicts, which leads to some messy consequences.
To me, there’s a not-so-subtle critique of the drug war at play here. The war on drugs has militarized parts of the inner city, giving the police no relationship with the inhabitants beyond hostility. The political message here is interesting, because Destiny is an enemy that the system created and now has to contend with. For those of you who loved The Wire, there are some similar themes at work here: police brutality, a drug war that keeps getting worse as both sides dig in, and criminals who at times are sympathetic.
In terms of storytelling, not making Destiny the main narrator was probably a good decision. It would spoil too much of the comic to give her away all at once, and it’s interesting to see Grey to decipher the mastermind behind all of this chaos. Destiny’s endgame will be interesting to see. Is she just going for the LAPD, or is there some greater plan? When it comes to the artwork, I’m not quite as wild. There are a few panels in which the characters look really stiff. Still, I’m looking forward to the next issue.