Review by Ian Keogh
Destiny Ajaye achieved what no-one believed possible in uniting the various Los Angeles gangs and organising them into a force capable of seeing off the police. She was just seventeen. Her tactical supremacy was fully shown in Genius Volume 1: Siege, which ended with her surrender and being driven away by someone representing a government agency. While the world believes her dead, Destiny is being schooled in the art of covert operations.
First, become used to new artist Rosi Kampe. Her art is traditional comics storytelling rather than the illustrative style of Genius’ opening volume. She’s good with detail, but her people don’t always look right, sometimes not put together correctly, sometimes very stiffly posed, and sometimes not to the right scale. Also striking the wrong note is the government agent constantly seen in a low cut blouse and flouncing around on desktops.
The synopsis alone indicates Cartel doesn’t have the same priorities as Siege. Co-writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman are smart enough to ensure Destiny isn’t instantly transformed from a tactical genius with social justice tendencies, but because of the strongly established social justice angle, moving Destiny elsewhere is compromised. Destiny is followed through her first prescribed mission, which is to take out the head of a Mexican gangster cartel.
A tense and dangerous atmosphere is generated via the use of Mexican gangs, and Bernardin and Freeman throw in a couple of good surprises, although include far too many scenes of her would-be controllers running around swearing in frustration. There is an element of social justice, but removing Destiny from her environment and transforming her into an action hero rips away almost everything that made her stand out from the crowd. An ending teasing into more Genius to come shows some hope, but there has been no more since Cartel in 2018.