Genius: Cartel #1 - Review

August 16, 2017 | Top Cow Productions

A woman with gun, an abuser dead on the floor, and his victims free – what a great way to open a comic. So begins issue #1 of new 5-part mini-series Genius: Cartel, sequel to 2014’s Genius.

After the striking opening image, the story instantly goes back in time to tell the story of how seventeen-year-old Destiny Ajaye took on the LAPD in her South Central Siege, as told in the original 2014 series. And when when I say she took it on, she masterminded the “greatest military mind of our generation” to weild the united gangs of L.A. like a weapon. And why? Because black lives matter. And no-one anywhere, ever should forget that.

Of course, it’s a right and noble message, but the reality of it (even in a comic) is that no-one who organises an army against the establishment is going to get away with it forever. But sometimes the establishment has the sense to let the enforcement of the law be shown to the public, while doing the right thing undercover – and that’s exactly what happens in this sequel series: While the world thinks she’s committed suicide, Destiny is taken to the Madrasa Institute to become greatest military mind of all time.

But things are not that easy. Destiny manages to get through the vast majority of her time at the institute with her cool intact; she’s the overly bright one that gets everything so easily that it doesn’t touch her, as it’s not personal. Which makes what the Institute does in order to make her the weapon they want so chillingly inevitable…

Writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman have produced some stellar work here: the story hits all the right political notes at exactly the right time, it’s well paced and keeps you reading. Although not perfect – there’s a couple of frames where the human proportions just felt off – Rosi Kampe’s artwork throughout is inventive and clever; she uses simple mirroring of the first and last frames to compare and contrast the adult Destiny with a her memory of childhood that was in deep danger of being thrown away in a cloud of cynicism.

It’s is a very strong start to a new series. The initial message – Black Lives Matter – is one that can’t be underlined enough; while I want to go on a political rant in support of this, sadly I’m here to review a comic. However, in my experience – and I read a wide range of comics – there are a very few good black female comic characters: Marvel’s Storm (of the X-Men), DC’s Vixen, Top Cow’s The Fox, Dark Horse’s Mystery Girl. There really should be an awful lot more.That being said, Destiny Ajaye looks very much like she has the potential to join the ranks of Storm and the other big names. I hope she makes it.

All-in-all, there’s nothing wrong at all with this issue, but I have a gut feeling that Genius: Cartel has a lot more to show for itself before the very top mark is given, so it’s a four out of five for this one. But do I want to read on? Oh yes.

Genius: Cartel #1 is available now from Amazon.co.uk and other leading retailers and comic shops.

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