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REVIEW: 'Genius: Cartel' #1 (of 5) by Adam Freeman, Marc Bernardin, and Rosi Kampe

"Seventeen-year-old Destiny Ajaye took on the LAPD in her South Central Siege and paid for it-not with her life, but with her freedom. Now, Destiny is sequestered in the Madrasa Institute, a government school for prodigies. But will she use her gifts to wage war at the military's behest-or is she already planning another revolution?"


GENIUS: CARTEL #1 (OF 5)
Story: Adam Freeman, Marc Bernardin
Art / Cover: Rosi Kampe
Colorist: Brad Simpson
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Published: August 16, 2017
Diamond ID: JUN170655
Digital : $3.99
Print: $3.99

Score: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

As you can imagine it hasn't been an easy transition from street-level revolutionary to government think tank subject. Destiny Ajaye is frankly too smart, too many steps ahead of the class to find the black ops simulations stimulating. It also drives her crazy that her field boss doesn't listen to her suggestions resulting in disastrously executed operations. But what is a teenage prodigy to do when your only choices are either jail or this government school for eggheads? Destiny knows they're just testing her in the hopes to weaponize her brilliant military mind. 

The people in charge of the institute are playing the puppeteers, a deadly game of psych-ops, trying to manipulate Destiny into the cunning military mind they want her to be. Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman alternate the story a bit jumping from one point of time to another. We know Destiny will eventually lead a mission against a cartel, I mean, it's in the title. How she gets there is where the sausage is made and the writers smoothly shuffle the chess pieces around creating a tension-filled drama that leaves you guessing and shocked by the end. It's a well-executed bit of storytelling that makes 'Genius' an immersive experience. 

Rosi Kampe takes over the art duties from the first volume artist Afua Richardson. There's no drop in quality as Kampe presents a fluid and well-paced layout with great detail and clean line work. It's all enhanced with Brad Simpson's varied color schemes, often soft and pastel to darker richer hues. Simpson sort of bends light and shadow with each setting relying on blues, purples, oranges, and reds. A lot of the story is told in Destiny's face and whether she is showing frustration, boredom, or anger, Kampe's expressions say it without a single word. 

'Genius: Cartel' is a great opening chapter that encapsulates Destiny Ajaye's story arc entering this miniseries and then taking a clever approach to her training as a strategical savant. Freeman and Bernardin have created a complex character that's treated as a lab rat that's too smart for her surroundings. Things are going to boil over as Destiny and her handlers are bound to clash in this riveting and smart thriller. 

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