By Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman, (Writers) and Afua Richardson (Art)

Genius, part of Top Cow’s “Pilot Season,” tells the story of two people on different sides of a brewing war. On one side is the next great military mind that just so happens to belong to a young minority woman. She has been organizing and training gangs in her neighborhood in order to start a war against the United States that, if successful, would establish the neighborhood as truly her own. On the other side is an ex-sharpshooter who is now a detective for the city police. He has just pieced together years of data to conclude that battle lines have been drawn without them having any knowledge of it. He knows a war is coming, must convince the department of the threat, and find out who exactly is Suspect Zero, the mastermind behind the plan. Simply put, this is quite a compelling set up.

I have to say that I am incredibly impressed with this debut of Genius and will be quite disappointed if this story isn’t given a chance to be told. As is customary for the “Pilot Season,” there is the unfortunate uncertainty about the books that debut and it would honestly be a shame to see this excellent set up go to waste. The concept, writing, and artwork come together extremely well and, while it has a few shortcomings, I couldn’t ask for a whole lot more from a brand new (potential) series than this.

The writing in Genius does an excellent job setting the stage for the upcoming war and introducing the reader to the key players. Destiny/Suspect Zero and Reggie are great characters to base the conflict around, mostly because they compliment each other well even though they never share a scene together as a result of them being on opposite sides of the conflict. While it would have been nice to get a little bit more inside the mind of each of the characters, enough is established to keep the story moving at a fairly quick pace. If I have any major complaints about the writing it’s that all the supporting characters come across as stereotypes. The neighborhood seems to be filled with racial stereotypes, because of both the artwork and the writing, and Reggie’s boss comes across as a gruff cop cliché in almost every way. While it didn’t really detract from the story at hand, some may find some of the characterization a bit offensive. Other than that, the writers did a great job building a foundation to work with.

The artwork in Genius is quite the treat. It is stylized, but gritty and has a very distinct look to it. The colors are vibrant, the action is brutal yet realistic, and the characters feel alive. Afua Richardson’s style is perfectly suited for this type of a book and it really feels like she truly made it her own. Certain touches, like the way she shows Destiny’s thought process, are simple, yet effective and impressive. If there is a downside, it is that she focuses more on the characters involved in the action as opposed to the action itself and it creates confusion from time to time.

I sincerely hope that Genius gets a chance to continue. The stage is set for what could be an epic story and I really want to know more about the central characters. If you spot this one at the comic shop, pick it up. It is a unique, mature story that will probably hook you like it did me. (Grade: B+)

-Kyle Posluszny