Sunday, August 23, 2015

Genius Comic Book: The Only Medium In Which Cops Have Actually Been Portrayed as the Bad Guys

I've been wanting to post on my blog about more of the issues  involving cops this past year. I, like everyone else have an opinion about what has been happening. From Michael Brown's death, Freddie Gray, the Mckinney Pool Party Cop Incident, Walter Scott, and the convictions of cops who have actually gotten taken to jail or are being convicted of murder, and the many others who continue to get off and found not guilty, or involved in a justifiable killing of another man. Or even the New York police department literally turning their back on Deblasio as he gave a speech for two officers that were themselves murdered in the line of duty. But plenty has already been said about this.

As all these incidents were occurring, I found myself watching a film, I can't remember which film it was, but my mind started to wander and wonder, about cops in films. I started to wonder why there was never a film about bad cops. Yes, there are films about bad cops, they might usually be playing the villain to the hero good cop. And at times there's films about cops who walk the middle ground between good and bad, but do the bad to arrive at a the good. A great example of this would be in a show like The Shield. Or more recently on True Detective, where you see (in both seasons), at least one of the main characters assaulting someone in order to get information that will lead them to their next clue. You see similar things in comedy films or shows about cops, the way they threaten someone in order to get laughs, when in reality these things actually do happen to some people. It's not so funny if you watch Ken Burns documentary, The Central Park Five.

All of this is to say that you rarely if ever see a film in which cops are just bad, vile villainous people who violate our civil rights, and get away with murder in barrios. Even though as we have been seeing this past year, that there are many that behave that way. To my memory I have never watched a film where cops are being actually killed as part of the plot, because they are evil & horrible. There is a sense that only cops can kill other cops in films. In Street Kings, Keanu Reeves played a cop that walked that fine line, and at the end of the film is still a hero, because he killed other dirty cops in some kinda intricate plot that I forgot about. But we never see people that are having their rights violated or being assaulted, and having family members killed ever take up arms against the cops to dole out justice. It's interesting to see that nobody in Hollywood ever picked up on this. I think there's been such a serious belief that cops can't do any wrong, and that only other cops could ever bring other cops to justice, because our justice/judicial system works (?). And if that's how Hollywood portrays cops, then you better believed that's how the rest of the nation thinks about cops also. They can't do any wrong, maybe we did something wrong to get our rights violated, or you know, killed.

So, that long drawn out diatribe, is because I noticed this about films, but I did find a medium where you see people in the ghetto taking up arms against cops, it was in a comic book. The comic book is Genius, written by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman, with art by Afua Richardson.

Here's a plot summary:
"What if the greatest military mind of our generation was born to a people who are already supremely conditioned to wage war, who know nothing but violence since birth, and must continually adapt to new predators in order to survive? What if the second coming of Alexander the Great, of Genghis Khan, of Napoleon, of Patton...what if it was a teenaged girl from South Central, L.A. named Destiny? And what if she decides to secede three blocks of the 'Hood from the Union? Who is going to take it back from her and her army of gangbangers? Who CAN?"

The only reason I read it, was due to the revolutionary undertones. I really hate being a critic. But there's that part of my brain that read this, and I was thinking okay this is good, but then there's these other things that aren't good about it. 

It is first and foremost unique in that it's what I mentioned, a neighborhood taking action for themselves against a police force that abuses it's power. No bones made about it in this book, it's a war between people in the ghetto and cops. 

I'm not sure if this was the first writing effort by the creative team, but the story overall was a bit off. I get that they were trying to make Destiny the main character, this great military mind, but even in that regard the story is a bit off. What I cared for more was this character that sees wrongs occurring in her neighborhood, she usurps power from the local gang leaders, then consolidates power, and turns the attention to a common enemy - the police. If that would have been the story, it would have worked on it's own. But I had sense that they were trying to make Destiny an exception in the neighborhood, as if she were born special, and that only she could bring her neighborhood to the point they had arrived. As if nobody else in the neighborhood could have gotten fed up and decided it was time to go to war against law enforcement. But it is possible, that because the book was written by a couple of white guys, they were only thinking in terms of, "hey you know what would be cool? How bout we make her the greatest military mind of her time, but heres the twist . . . BUT she was born in the GHETTO!." And from there the writers are imagining other stories that can come out of this, or the conclusion or climax (Spoiler Alert) and how she will be sought out by her own government or shady secret organization within her government in order to sponsor her and use her for their own interests. But at the end of the story, we never know if Destiny's actions will lead to change in the neighborhood or for reform of the police department not even a panel with some characters looking enlightened by the actions this character and others in her neighborhood partake in. Destiny does ask that the government to give the people in her neighborhood immunity if she turns herself in. There is that. But what about the police department? Will they be investigated?

On Twitter I asked the writers if there will be a followup to their mini series, and in response they said they are working on it. I'm genuinely interested to see what they do with Destiny's character. I'm actually wondering if they will return her to her neighborhood, or if it was simply a novelty that was supposed to lead to "bigger" things, like Destiny leading a battalion into middle east to secure U.S. oil interests. Maybe some of the loose threads will be tightened up in the second volume.

In the meantime here are some of the more interesting scenes in the series issues:

This is from the Genius Pilot Season issue published back in 2008 (Available on Comixology for free). Pilot Season was done by Image Comics imprint Top Cow comics to test books out in the market. A few books would be released, and fans would buy the issue(s), and then vote on which offering they believed deserved it's own ongoing series. Genius did not get picked up in 2008 for an ongoing, It would later be published as a mini series on August 6th, 2014, a few days before the death of Michael Brown (August 9, 2014). The opening page above is just incredible for me. Going into the series, I didn't know what to expect. That first page I was thinking okay, this is very different in comparison to other narratives about cops. And as is it turned out it wasn't because it was about cops, but about the community that the cops terrorized. 

Then the pages that followed, kept it coming, and we are introduced to Destiny, the military genius. Hence the title.
I found the above page interesting, due to the exchange between the character Chavonne and Destiny. Destiny is speaking formal English instead of slang. I don't know why, but this page kinda threw me for a loop. In later issues it is shown, that Destiny is well read, but I'm not sure what the writers were trying to do here. She can exist in more than one space due to her ability to keep it real with her language or be formal (which she later uses in a different space)? Theres that cynical part of me that digs a bit more, because the writers are Anglo, and I can't help but wonder. Overthinking it? 

The cops are very one dimensional. They're getting killed off without remorse, and of course it makes me think about how cops, possibly view some of us in ghettos or barrios, really most of us as minorities might be one dimensional and that might be why are quick and willing to shoot us in the back, and leave us laying out on the street for hours, without remorse. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it.

The end of the Pilot Season issue. Destiny making it very clear, that winning one battle against the cops was just that, they are just getting started waging war.

I really dig the image of a young Destiny with the gun, having already made the decision that she was going to wage war, and everything she did was simply training to prepare her for it. And it is apparent by the captions, that she decided to act a young age.

One of the better scenes in the book, acknowledging the reality of what going to war means. After a battle some of Destiny's men try to turn on her, but she uses her words to diffuse the situation. 

Another great image.

I mentioned earlier about Destiny shifting from one space to the next based on her language. Here's the other scene, now more formal in order to infiltrate the police department, which the writers acknowledge as social engineering. Great scenes like this where the writers seem to be thinking about some deeper issues are few and far between.

Showing the media getting involved, but also showing the other side of the story. That of the community, living in the ghetto and being terrorized by the police.

And probably my favorite page of the series. Destiny speaking to her audience and letting them know this could happen anywhere at any moment. And maybe this had more impact on me due to recent events. We have seen people getting fed up with police brutality and cops getting away with murder;  the people have begun to wage war against law enforcement, at times through peaceful protests and at times through violence.


Excuse the white background and the font on some of this, I don't know what I did, but couldn't fix it.

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