One of the best -and most angriest- graphic novels to come out in the last year, Victor LaValle’s Destroyer is both a great modern take of, and a politically topical sequel to, Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein. Destroyer has two dual narratives going for it. Frankenstein’s creation is still on the loose in the present day, while Dr. Josephine Baker, the last living descendant of the infamous scientist, has used her ancestor’s discoveries and current technology to resurrect her murdered 12 year old son, Akai. But the original creature’s path of destruction & mass death, and the mysterious government organization that both released the creature and is trying to apprehend (and possibly murder) Dr. Baker, threaten to undermine her work. And what part does Akai’s father/Josephine’s ex play in all this?
LaValle’s story touches a number of current topics, including immigration, racism, Black Lives Matter, and the consequences of revenge and greed, among others. The original creature is depicted as a pitiless, nasty being who causally causes mass murder, while Dr. Baker is a angry, vengeful parent who still hasn’t gotten over her son’s awful (and pointless) murder by a police officer, and who’s letting her anger blind her to events outside her existing situation. The government agents are close minded tools, and only Akai shows any kind of sensitivity and optimism (no doubt due to his age). In the final (and slightly rushed) confrontation with Frankenstein’s original creature, Akai discovers what he’s really capable of.
The excellent art by Dietrich Smith & Joana Lafuente helps drive LaValle’s riveting narrative from start to finish. Speaking for myself, I’d love to see where Akai’s path will take him in the future. The violence may be too intense for some readers, Victor LaValle’s Destroyer is definitely recommended for ages 16 and up. (And if you want to reread Shelley’s original novel, check out this recent annotated edition!)
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