A Quick Review Of Victor LaValle’s Destroyer

The legacy of Frankenstein’s monster collides with the sociopolitical tensions of the present-day United States.

There is something mesmerizing in a retelling that captures the essences of an original property while elevating it to the modern zeitgeist. Victor LaValle’s Destroyer, a graphic novel written in collaboration with illustrator Dietrich Smith, is such a piece.

Following Dr. barker, a brilliant scientist propelled forward by the loss of her son Akai to police violence, Destroyer is an examination of the grief that white supremacy creates, and the turmoil that is in turn born from that grief. It is, when applied, a force to be reckoned with, and when left to fester it is unpredictable and destructive—but rarely is the harm ever truly healed or the source eliminated. Through the lens of Frankenstein, Destroyer unmakes the original Frankenstein mythos and reevaluates it in a way that makes creation stem less from individual hubris and something more akin to desperation. When everything that Dr. Barker loves is dismantled, she takes it in her own hands to rebuild, reclaim, and ultimately repurpose her suffering.

Watching Dr. Barker’s descent into her grief (because I can’t justifiably call her reaction to her son’s death madness) felt almost indecently voyeuristic, which could be a commentary in and of itself about how we treat Black trauma. While Dr. Barker is not a hero, neither is she the villain. She, like so many, are the product of a violent system. And whether or not you agree with how she reacted to that system, it’s hard to say that her reaction was wrong.

The depth of Destroyer is potentially underpinned by the length of the series, which is six issues (or the chapters that make up the full bind up of the graphic novel.) This could have been mitigated by the exclusion of Frankenstein’s original monster ever appearing on page; Dr. Barker’s story and its reflection on anti-Blackness in America certainly could have carried those pages.

The Epilogue

The world is, as always, a tumultuous place. While we escape into books in our downtime, we should always be mindful of what’s going on in our uptime. Nigeria has been going through a multi-decade crisis with SARS, a special police force that abuses its power by terrorizing the people of Nigeria. Being based in America, it’s imperative that we not ignore global police-based injustices, especially ones born from colonialism and imperialism that ours and other governments have been a part of. Below I have links where you can learn more, find information on donations, and additional sources from those living in Nigeria.

End SARS Carrd
Contextual Primer on the Youth-led Anti-Police Movement in Nigeria
Nigerians to Keep up #EndSars Pressure
Young People are Using Social Media to Drive Nationwide Protests Against Police Brutality
End SARS Talk with the Black Prose Book Club and Noria from Chronicles of Noria

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