The Ballad of Destiny Ajaye: The Full Tilt of “Genius”
When art imitates life, it often draws comparisons, that no one saw coming, it usually lives in metaphor and allegory, but in most scenarios, never in direct comparison. So with what has come to the surface in the last two years on the national news, and the reemergence of Marc Bernardin’s, Adam Freeman’s and Afua Richardson’s Genius, a comic from Image Comic and Top Cow’s highly touted Pilot Season, from 2008, I saw it as just a matter of time, as the overt and institutional racism that people of a deeper melanin have faced and continued to face in the world , especially in America, the world and the media could no longer turn a blind eye to.
As the names of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and many others have flooded the public consciousness, police killings and brutality and institutional racism against black people and other minorities as well as barriers of economic disadvantage can no longer be ignored, and is taken to another level in Genius.
I must admit when I first read about the book’s premise, I immediately made instant comparisons to Sam Greenlee’s seminal classic The Spook who Sat by the Door, but by the time finished reading the first issue, I found myself comparing it to not only that but also to Ender’s Game, as I found an anti hero, that was not only the best hope for her neighborhood but for her people.
There are several touchstones throughout the book that not only raised my eyes but had me cheering for Destiny by the end of the book although her plan did yield the much desired results. The first thing that Destiny does to change the narrative of how things have been in her neighborhood, is to realize that the system , in which she has been marginalized, has never been in her favor, nor will ever work for her as the great Bell Hooks, once said,” being oppressed means the absence of choices,” as the reader soon finds out just how the system that surrounds Destiny and most people of color, is an unjust one, as the reader is introduced to the events in Destiny’s life, has lead her to this point, as she was just a powder keg, waiting to go off.
This is why the Black Lives Matter movement in America, has touched so many people all over the world, regardless of race, age and economic standing, as it is difficult to ignore the disparities, as many politicians often run on it, but many mostly never affect it. This is why Bruce Lee’s film classic, Fists of Fury, still resonates today, as the way the Chinese were treated by the Japanese on their own soil, to say at the very least, despicable. Reading those panels , actually gave me flashbacks, to things I experienced growing up, to times and events, that has shaped how I view people, how I interact with people who are different from me and how I deal with racism.
Unfortunately for my daughters, they had to find out just how different it is for them as well versus other kids of their same age, with more advantages, as they ran into roadblocks at an early age, actually when they were 7, which forced them to mature faster, than I would have liked, instead of having a normal childhood, much like what Destiny experienced, minus the gang life. Destiny, decides that her neighborhood, was no longer America, that in order for the system to work for her people was to secede from America, it was the three blocks of her neighborhood, and the gangs that inhabit the neighborhood, which she unites, something that actually happened in Baltimore. Something I don’t know if it would actually work, which immediately brought me to the militia occupation of a wildlife reserve in Oregon, as the question has been posed, if the militia members were black, would it be as peaceful? In fact, I think it might have gone the way of the way of the Wounded Knee Incident. This also reminded me of the series finale of Dark Angel, which if it continued on for another season, I think would turn out just like Genius.
The other touchstone that affected me while reading it, is that she openly started a war against the police, in fact, shooting LAPD in broad daylight, something that is very much incendiary in real life, but reminded me of King of New York , in which the character, Frank White, starts a war against the NYPD, something that becomes fatal for Frank but becomes revolutionary for Destiny, where she sees that violence is the only way to affect change.
This brings me back to the character of Destiny, a very influential one, with excellent supporting characters, and an antagonist, Detective Reginald Grey, equal in wits, within this power play, who very much reminds me of Fox Mulder in X-Files. Destiny Ajaiye is equal parts Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, but a good part Hannibal as well.
She is also very much a villain, as she very much believes that what she is doing is right, much like Dexter, who rationalizes his killings, as he kills only bad people, the same way Destiny, only kills those who she believes are harming her people. Another aspect of Destiny that I admired was that she is a natural born leader, one who inspires, as she brought a whole neighborhood and all the gangs in LA together, something I quite cannot say Batman has ever done, or could do, as she is something missing today, that past generations have had, a leader who attempts to speak for marginalized voices, something that Spike Lee sought to contextualize in the character of Lysistrata in Chiraq . I lastly undeniably must compare her to Malcolm X, not only the real life figure, but the one that Denzel Washington portrayed in celluloid, which brings me to that scene in the movie, where Malcolm visits that one man in the hospital, while the Fruit of Islam, stands outside in formation, in front of the police station:
The one where the the police chief , played by late great Peter Boyle, said:
That’s too much power for one man to have
But I remember watching an interview with Spike Lee, during the making of the movie, where he said he should rewritten that line to read:
That’s too much power for a black man to have.
That would had more of an impact, as Genius absolutely has had one me and other readers, as I believe it is definitely one the best books, not only comic book, but book, period, to speak of this turmoil that is part of the fabric of our country’s soul, as it is no mistake that from the initial issue in 2008, and the continuation of the story, in 2015, seven years later, the message and the issues contained within the story are still the same…. progress needs to actually happen.