I decided to give Genius a shot after learning about its premise- Destiny, a teenage tactical prodigy raised in South Central Los Angeles unites the city’s gangs in a war against the LAPD. Unfortunately, so far Bernadin and Freeman have spent the majority of this issue and the last focusing on Destiny’s military skills during the ‘south central siege’ while providing little reason for us to care about her and her supporting cast of gangbangers. I’m glad to see a comic other than Ms. Marvel led by a minority female, but it’s unfortunate that in an effort to make Destiny a badass Bernardin and Freeman also make her a cold and distant person who’s ultimate goal is unclear to the reader, providing us little reason to root for her success. Given an origin story marked by tragedy in just a few pages of the first issue, this issue focuses exclusively on the South Central Seige while introducing a media element to the comic in the form of news anchor Izzy who’s desperate to score her network the scope on the war between Destiny and her soldiers and LA’s swat team. Rounding out the cast is Destiny’s tech guy Gerald and Grey, an LAPD detective that tagged along with SWAT and originally suspected that someone had risen among the gangs to unite them.
At the close of this issue, it remains unclear what story Bernadin and Freeman are trying to tell with Genius. They seem interested in exploring what it means to be a criminal in contemporary America with corrupt cops being the catalyst for much of the comic’s action. This is most evident in a video Destiny makes that goes viral with her neighborhood’s average residents sharing their own stories of victimization at the hands of corrupt police officers. However, I’m not sure whether someone unfamiliar with the LAPD’s infamy for corruption would feel much sympathy towards the gang members mowing down cops with a combination of assault rifles, rigged toy helicopters and proximity mines. Part of the problem is that the comic has yet to provide a corrupt police officer for us to dislike although that may be amended with the National Guard’s promised entry into the battle next issue.
On art Afua Richardson does a great job of visually distinguishing the several gangs involved in Destiny’s siege. Even more interesting though Richardson includes several details that provide authenticity to the setting such as the inclusion of a Dave Chapelle quote on the side of a rocket launcher, or Gary rocking a Chocolate Rain shirt. While the delay in Genius’s release may impede a reader from understanding some of Richardson’s references (the title was originally slated for 2009), they provide the comic a flavor that’s often lacking in the dialogue, which often reads like a bad Spike Lee impression.
Genius may not end up breaking new comic ground, but it’s great to at least see creators attempting something not often seen before. Whether Destiny becomes as famous Khamala Khan is yet to be determined. However, with the threat of a coup next issue, I’ll be certain to check out how Destiny handles it all next week.
Writers: Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman Artist: Afua Richardson Publisher: Image/Top Cow Price: $3.99 Release Date: 8/13/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital