Review: Top Cow Genius Volume 1

Entertainment Earth

Genius Vol 1 Siege
Top Cow Productions
Writers: Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman
Artist: Afua Richardson
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Cover Art: Afua Richardson & Nelson Blake II
Graphic Novel Softcover Collecting Pilot Season #1 & Genius #1-5

Winner of Top Cow’s 2008 Pilot season, Genius is 5 issue mini-series taking place in modern day Los Angeles. Genius isn’t the typical good versus evil, hero vs. villain comic book. It’s not about being a hero at all; it’s a story about surviving.

In 1992 a series of riots, lootings, arsons, and civil disturbance occurred in Los Angeles County, California; following the acquittal of police officers on trial regarding a videotaped and widely covered police brutality incident. They were the largest riots seen in the United States since the Detroit Riot of 1967, the largest in Los Angeles since the Watts Riot of 1965, and the worst in terms of death toll after the New York City draft riots of 1863. In this story after decades of both institutional and overt racism it would lead to a tipping point and one person would rise and start tipping things back. She would unite all the gangs in L.A. and secede a few square blocks of South Central from the Union by force. Her name is Destiny Ajaye and she’s 17 years old.

With the recent events that have occurred in Ferguson and Baltimore, Genius was almost a foreshadowing of events. Maybe not on that level and maybe it is giving the creators too much credit, but the signs have been there for many, many years. Genius is a story that will hit close to home a lot of levels. Destiny Ajaye is considered one of the greatest military minds of this generation, well that’s according to Detective Grey who is an analysis for the LAPD. He had been studying patterns and behaviors of the gangs in South Central in an area called “The Crossroads”. An area that is no stranger to gang violence, but sees an increase in focused aggression against the cops. Not just random acts, but thought out military strategies. As we see in the opening scene of Genius, Destiny has every gang in the neighborhood following orders like they were Marines. A squad of 8 police officers are taken out within minutes, and within an hour she takes out an entire SWAT team like they were a bunch of amateurs.

Destiny isn’t just some kid from the streets who has some uncalled for grudge against cops; her pain goes much deeper than that. As a child of 8 years old her mother was brutally gunned down in front of her in their own home and all she could do was stand there and watch as officers went in and out of her house which was now a crime scene. From that point on she planned, she plotted, she waited for the right opportunity to make her move. With a genius level intellect you would think a child like that would stand out more, but Destiny made sure to not stand out as standing out got you killed. She’d only reveal her true self to those she trusted without question. One day the opportunity she had been waiting for came along once every gang was gathered in one place and were tired of  all the killing not just by their own hands, but by the cops as well. In one show quick show of force Destiny had every gang under her control and from that point on that’s when things began to change. And as the story unfolds in each issue things not only escalate but change the entire landscape of the series.

Courtesy of Newsrama

The creative team behind Genius did an excellent job with this story and the art. While you may think of Destiny Ajaye as the hero, with her actions she is more villain than hero. In one point in the story she lets the people of the neighborhood tell their story on the only platform they can speak out, the internet. But that is more of a strategy to hurt the LAPD’s reputation during the course of this war. For every character they introduce, they introduce more than one side to that character giving everyone depth. You find yourself not just rooting for Destiny, but for the change that she and everyone involved so desperately wants.

The artwork is on a level on its own. Going back to what I said about each character given depth in their personalities, each character is fleshed out in their own distinct way. It’s loose, vibrant with a touch of funk and hip hop drawn in. The art defines the setting as if it were taken from an actual neighborhood and placed onto the paper. Afua Richardson, Marc Bernadin, and Adam Freeman do an excellent job in not only having a great female lead, but having a female lead who is as real as any other human being.

This is definitely a book worth picking up and adding to any library. This mini-series will definitely have who wanting this creative to come back to do more books like this. As I said before it touched on issues that not a lot of other books could touch in a way that really shined a light on the struggle that both sides of the conflict are facing and still facing in to this date. I give this book 5 stars. This book contains blood, violence, and harsh language so please be warned before picking this book up and giving it to a child.  

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