Review by Ian Keogh
Irrespective of anything within, Top Cow are rather shooting themselves in the foot with a title logo that’s very difficult to work out. The reason for the bling-style design is apparent within, but a barely readable title is no selling point.
Inside, Destiny Ajaye is introduced, seventeen years old, yet persuasive and accomplished enough to unite the warring gangs of Los Angeles and focus on what they now understand to be their real enemy: the LAPD. Police analyst Reginald Grey has been sifting through information for several years, and suspects a single powerful individual pulling strings. He just doesn’t know who it is.
Co-writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman supply all that information over the opening page, then cut to the present day situation of an all-out police attack on South Central Los Angeles with Destiny’s past and her plans for what’s coming. The writers have journalistic backgrounds and awareness of current technology and its capabilities, and prioritise Destiny’s effective understanding of social media influence as part of general military strategy. Post the Trump presidency Genius reads like a warning as well as an urban thriller. Bernadin and Freeman never forget the action aspects, though, in what’s a smart updating of film classic Assault on Precinct 13, just with the battleground switched. They rotate the narrative through several characters providing an overview of the streets and the political and tactical responses.
Afua Richardson’s art has pros and cons, although the good outweighs a few shaky figures. Much of the time her style is illustrative rather than panel to panel continuity, but the layouts convey a necessary cinematic urgency and a strength is distinguishing one character from another in a large cast. Some unconventional tics, such as the street art technique of outlining people in colours, won’t be to all tastes.
We’re given a complete understanding of Destiny’s background, and what would prompt her campaign, and enough wild cards are thrown in to ensure Genius doesn’t play out as an easy victory or total slaughter, with the problem set up at the end of the third chapter neatly dropped. The writers have their sympathies, so anyone looking for an even-handed rationale about the Los Angeles police’s fine record of rescuing cats from trees won’t find it here. The police featured are gung-ho idiots empowered by weapons, and the minority community’s attitudes toward repression are viably depicted.
Genius isn’t a story crying out for a sequel, but there is one in Cartel.