A few weeks ago fellow Cannonballer, Vermillion, was posting pictures of the swag he was getting and thoughts he was having at the State of Black Science Fiction Con in Atlanta. One of the the things he posted about was Genius, and Genius‘ artist, Afua Richardson. Genius is about a young African American woman who leads her neighbors in taking back their Los Angeles neighborhood from corrupt cops. It arrived in the mail and I gobbled it up. But I’ve been sitting on the review because I didn’t know how to review it.
In the past few days, videos of the deaths of two black men at the hands of the police, and a sniper attack on Dallas police have dominated the news. Violence at the hands of the police is not new to black communities. Institutional violence against minority communities in the US is part of the foundation of our nation. With the rise of smart phones, police brutality has become more visible. In the past few years I’ve watched, or heard about, video of police grabbing black children and throwing them to the ground, and videos of police shooting black people or using excessive, sometimes deadly, force during an arrest. Those videos are awful, and making them worse is the infrequency with which they lead to any kind of indictment or conviction for the police officers in question. Time and again, in so many ways, the institutions of our country display disregard for black lives.
The idea that a black neighborhood might choose to fight back with violence doesn’t seem far fetched. In fact, the idea of a race war is a favorite and deep seated paranoid fantasy for white Americans. Thankfully, this is not a story told by white men. Genius‘ author, Marc Bernardin, did take part of his inspiration from the delusions of paranoid white guys playing paramilitary in the woods.
Here’s what he said about why he and his buddies were training deep in the heart of nowhere: “You don’t understand, all them gangbangers have been in combat, they all know how to shoot, they’ve all killed people before. They ain’t afraid of it. When the race war comes, they will have the advantage. So we gotta prepare.”
“They will have the advantage.” Another jiggle to the same light switch. This time, it turned on.
Bernardin and his writing partner, Adam Freeman, turned that paranoid fantasy into a story with a teen age black girl as the protagonist. Destiny Ajaye is a protagonist who knows she is the villain. Her ruthlessness and skill, overlooked because of her skin color and gender, are unleashed on the LAPD. Afua Richardson’s artwork is cinematic. Vermillion says Richardson is on the brink of exploding, and I can see why. Her images are memorable, often soft and sharp and dynamic in the same frame. Richardson’s Destiny is a sharp, angry woman who caries her leadership with confidence. She is the stuff of nightmares for those backwoods militia boys.
My primary complaint about Genius is that it was too short. I would have liked more story and character development. Genius is a movie when it ought to be an HBO series. I would have loved to spend more time with Destiny and her neighbors/army. And I would like to know what’s next. As far as I can tell, there are no plans for a continuation of Destiny’s story, and that is a shame. I don’t advocate violent uprising in real life, but I do think the comic book world needs more Destiny.