From Pop Syndicate...
Comic Books: 1 comments: 06/20/2008 ShareThis
By James Donnelly
A modern-day warrior genius is a gang-banger. Uh-oh.
Every once in a while, there comes along a comic that I’ve never seen before that I’m entirely unfamiliar with whose creators I’m entirely unfamiliar with, but I open up the front cover anyway to take a look and something about it is so perplexing and unusual that I have to buy the damn thing. Some of you may already be familiar with Top Cow Publishing’s ‘Pilot Season’ marketing idea. It’s essentially the ‘American Idol’ of comics. You read ‘em, you vote for your favorite, and whichever two (in this case) are the most popular become a series. Normally, I hate these things. They’re mostly cheesecake-heavy art with very little emphasis on those trivial little things like, say, dialogue, story or character. But that kind of thinking is very close-minded, so when I went to the shop this week, I decided to pick up one of these ‘Pilots’. It’s for a comic called Genius.
And I was floored by it.
When you open the book, the first thing you see is a police officer being shot to death against a backdrop of mathematical formulas and equations. There is a very tense standoff in South Central Los Angeles between three LAPD officers and what appears to be one lone young black woman named Destiny, who has just killed the cop. They demand her surrender (which seems a little unusual for LA cops…) which she denies, and a split second later, two more cops are shot by snipers. The third is left alive to tell the tale of how this neighborhood belongs to Destiny and the police are no longer welcome. She then rallies the neighborhood in a St. Crispin’s Day-style speech and makes her case that no one in the neighborhood ever needs to dial 911 again. If there’s trouble, she’s the one to go to. Meanwhile, back at the local precinct house, Detective Reginald Grey is trying to explain his theory that war is brewing on the streets, and not a simple turf war. An out-and-out war between organized gang members and the police. The police rush to the neighborhood where their comrades had just fallen only to find that they are completely outnumbered and outgunned and most importantly out-thought by the mysterious Destiny, who is a comparative modern-day warrior genius on the level of Alexander the Great and Hannibal. And with the easy defeat of the 40-odd cops that show up in the neighborhood, the war has begun.
I really wasn’t so entertained by this comic as I was left mostly speechless by it. But honestly I don’t think that this comic is meant to be entertaining per se as much as it’s meant to be thought-provoking. Watching cops getting killed by the truckload by gang-bangers is not many people’s idea of a good time, and I can see how this comic would turn a lot of people off. But the writing, art and story is very captivating and visceral. Writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman (who worked on titles I’ve never heard of like The Highwaymen) do a very solid job juggling a tough subject. The violence in the comic doesn’t seem cathartic or joyful that you might see in other titles. It packs a bloody punch that is akin to a Brubaker or Millar book. In many ways, it’s like it’s daring you to keep reading it. And this is a comic that could very easily come off the rails by having Destiny ending up having a benevolent agenda of some sort. It has a kind of Wanted feel to it, and as that comic did its job to not let Wesley end up becoming a good guy, I hope that Genius keeps that level of commitment. Also artist Afua Richardson does some very slick but realistic work here.
This is not a comic meant for everyone, but for people willing to be exposed to some unusual ideas and some very hardcore storytelling, it’s going to be a very intense ride.
Written by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman
Art by Afua Richardson
Letters by Troy Peteri