You don’t have to be Einstein to love Genius: Cartel!

Guestwriter: Stonie Williams

Writers – Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman
Artist – Rosi Kampe
Colorist – Brad Simpson
Letterer – Troy Peteri

This article was possible due to the gift of a review copy, QWERTY, and rolling natural 20s.

“Do you feel no pain?”
“I save it for my enemies.”

Genius: Cartel #1 cover © Top Cow

Genius: Cartel #1 cover © Top Cow

I’ll admit I’m not familiar with Adam Freeman’s previous work. After reading Genius: Cartel, I’ll be going back to pick up his work on The Highwaymen and Push. I am, however, a huge fan of Marc Bernardin. I find his opinions on entertainment to be enlightening. He thinks of things in a way I don’t and shows a point of view that, at least in my case, broadens the way you think about things. As a rabid Top Cow fan, I’m excited to get my hands on this series.

It’s hard to compare Genius: Cartel to anything else I’ve read or seen. The story follows Destiny Ajaye. Destiny united the gangs of L. A. in a siege to send a message. “If you forget that black lives matter, ever again, we will remind you with blood”. Cartel picks up with the siege ending and Destiny turning herself in to a government entity known as the Madrasa Institute. Destiny gave herself up of her own free will in exchange for no further action taken again her people.

Inside the Madrasa Institute, they try to mold Destiny into something they can use. She’s called the “greatest military mind of our generation”. The government can’t pass up the opportunity to use the genius for its own ends.

Destiny fights it, at first. She’s smarter than everyone in the room and she knows it. But give her something to fight for, and she could be a weapon you can point in a direction and see desired results.

Bernardin and Freeman very rarely slow down during this 5-issue arc. They use Destiny’s personal story as commentary and reflection of events in the real world. And they do so with class and grace. While Genius: Cartel feels like a response to world events, they don’t let Destiny get lost in that message. She’s a character you care about, sympathize with, and immediately become invested in. That’s important for a story like this.

Rosi Kempe’s art is fantastic. Nothing short of beautiful. Her characters are expressive actors. Even the background people have attitudes and a feeling to them all their own. I can’t get enough of the world that her art draws out of the story. Maybe it’s not so much the world, as much as it is the characters that inhabit the world that I’ve fallen in love with. I don’t doubt that Destiny could kick my butt, but I get the impression she wouldn’t like me very much. And I love her all the more for it. Brad Simpson’s colors pop and provide an extra mood to a setting that pulls you into a scene. Troy Peteri’s lettering is spot on, you almost lose it until it’s time to shine. Then it adds that punch to a scene that pulls the eye towards the action.

This series is one that will go down as a must read for me, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a young crowd. Plenty of violence and subject matter that would be well over the heads of anyone under teenage. Otherwise, I’d hand this book to about anybody. Not just a “strong” female lead, but one that’s smart first. Her strength comes from her mind and her love for her people. That makes Destiny stand out the most. Until next time, happy reading!

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