Man. If this were any of the last three years, I would have failed at Comics February. But this year is Leap Year, and I am squeezing this post in just under the wire, because I want you to read Genius. And, I mean, I love Comics February as well. Just mainly I cannot understand why Genius hasn’t gotten more (and by “more” I mean “all the”) attention.
Genius, Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman, and Afua Richardson
Shitdamn, this book was good. I’ve had a medium reading year thus far — nothing that I’ve hated (although see below re: puppy), but also nothing that I’ve wanted to shove in the hands of every single person I see. Genius is a book I want to shove at everyone.
Seventeen-year-old Destiny was born with the military and strategic mind of an Alexander the Great, a Napoleon — but she lives in an area of Los Angeles that is torn apart by unchecked drug violence and police brutality. So (as you would) she unites the gangs and secedes from the country.
If you are thinking “How did they ever get a comic book published that’s about black kids blowing up large swathes of the LAPD?”, you and I are thinking along the same lines, friends. At first I felt uncomfortable with it, but then — revolution against an oppressive power is a staple of our story-telling, and it’s hard to argue that Destiny and her compatriots don’t have a legitimate, revolution-worthy grievance, when LAPD officers (and cops all over the country) can shoot unarmed black folks with no repercussions at all for their employment status, and we’re just all supposed to write it off as the cost of doing (crime-prevention) business.
Afua Richardson’s art is beautiful, the story is ballsy as fuck, and I dearly hope that we can expect another volume of this audacious and brilliant comic (not least because I want to know what comes next for Destiny).
Honor Girl, Maggie Thrash
A graphic memoir of a summer spent at camp in which Maggie Thrash developed a crush on an older camp counselor. The art was lovely, the writing and characterization were achingly true to what it’s like to be fifteen, but — have we talked about my thing about imbalance of power? I cannot deal with stories about older authority figures developing crushes on their charges. The nineteen-year-old camp counselor, Erin, doesn’t do anything technically not-okay with Maggie, but I just am not comfortable when those boundaries are being nudged. You know what I like in mentor-mentee relationships? NICE CLEAR BOUNDARIES.
(Yes, I did know some girls in high school who were sleeping with our algebra teacher. Why do you ask?)
The Arab of the Future, Riad Sattouf
A comics memoir of growing up in Syria and Libya, with a father who fell under the spell of various dictators’ cults of personality. I warn you now that a puppy gets spiked with a pitchfork and has its head cut off in this comic. I noped on out of there as soon as that happened, but it was late in the book, so. There you go.
The Gigantic Beard that Was Evil, Stephen Collins
Dave lives in a place called Here, where everything is orderly. Across the sea is a place of chaos, called There. One day, the chaos of There starts to assert itself on Dave’s very own very face.
No, I get it. It’s because you shouldn’t have too many rules. If you have too many rules your life will be boring and hemmed in, and that’s why ladies who like spreadsheets have to learn a Valuable Lesson about Lightening Up and Enjoying Spontaneity in romcoms. I UNDERSTAND THIS PARABLE.
Like, Stephen Collins’s art is beautiful, and his panel structuring is a masterclass, but I read comics for the story too. Did we really need another book in this world with the message “Lighten up, office drones!”?