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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I Have Thoughts… | Her Infernal Descent Review

In my quest to read more graphic novels, I was really excited to get my hands on Her Infernal Descent, a modernized retelling of the Divine Comedy. Unfortunately, my excitement for the novel started and ended with the premise.

Let’s get into it.

The Run Down

Her Infernal Descent follows mother and wife, Lynn, after the accidental deaths of her husband and children. Visited in the depths of depression by the spirit of William Blake—a call back to Dante’s visitation and guidance by the poet Virgil—Lynn descends through the layers of hell on a quest to retrieve her family’s souls. She encounters the prolific Judge K who turns out to be Franz Kafka, the great beast Cerberus with five heads instead of three, and the lord of hell himself along the way in her journey to bring her family back.

Continue reading “I Have Thoughts… | Her Infernal Descent Review”

March Re(ad)cap

Soo, let’s get it out there quick that I did not read a lot in March. The TL;DR is that I was sick for a majority of it, so that hurt my reading more than helped it.

C’est la vie.

I did, however, get through a couple of things, and what I did read in March made me very, very happy.

Books I Finished

The one book at I actually finished this month was also one of my most anticipated books for this year, written by my best friend, Caitlin Lochner. I’ll be talking about it more later this month, but suffice to say if you’re looking for an exciting YA in the vein of The Hunger Games with X-Men vibes, you should definitely take a look into it. I’m just saying. The main characters, Lai and Jay, are two of my favorite, and the casual representation throughout the book is perfection.

Books I Started

So Her Infernal Descent is technically a roll over from last month, but I’m counting it here since it’s an on-going read of mine. I decided to poke through my shelves and backlogged TBR and that’s when I realized that I had yet to start on my New 52 Static Shock, and that Battle Royale has been collecting dust on my shelf since the dawn of time.

Next Month

I intend to finish the books that I started this month (and possibly get a little bit ahead in my Goodreads book challenge since I had been ahead of my goal by… five books?) and possibly crack open a couple of the hard backs that I’d hauled at the start of March–I have Swing Time by Zadie Smith and The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton collecting dust on my shelf, so those are good contenders for a fresh read.

Here’s to a (better) readerly month, friends.

A Puzzled Review | A Walk Through Hell Volume #1

Ever picked up a graphic novel that was as intriguing as it was confusing and left you sitting there like wtf?

Let’s talk about A Walk Through Hell, Volume #1


When two fellow agents go missing inside a Long Beach warehouse, Shaw and McGregor are sent to investigate. But what they find waiting is far from routine, as the local police have already discovered to their cost. Before the night is out, our heroes will encounter terror beyond their most appalling nightmares—in a place where the night may never end at all.

A Walk Through Hell Vol. 1

It’s hard to know where to start with this graphic novel, so I think I should start with the things A Walk Through Hell Volume 1 succeeded at:

Premise, Themes, and Characters

Premise:

A Walk Through Hell as it is in its first volume follows two FBI agents along a dual-timeline of events, one beginning with the investigation of a series of grizzly child disappearances, the other being the disappearance of two fellow agents in a mysterious warehouse that turns out to be more than it appears. They end up trapped there as the story bounces back and forth between the investigation and their haunting and downright gory journey through the warehouse. A fever dream of confusion, paranoia, and suspicion follows them. Is the warehouse and its horrific contents even a real place? Are they dead? Being punished?

Shaw and McGregor certainly don’t know, and by the end of volume one, neither will you.

It’s cop thriller meets psychological horror in a melding of themes that would butter any horror/thriller fan’s biscuit, converging in a weird, twisted plot line that reveals a monumental secret and is loaded with gore, time-relevant political and social commentary, and the lingering question over whether or not the best intentions justify horrific means.

Themes & Characters:

Throughout A Walk Through Hell, I thought the characters fit really well into these elements, particularly the two main agents Shaw and McGregor who end up being interesting ideological foils to each other. Shaw, who is still hung up by their previous case and on a steady roll to burning out while being fairly done with everything going on around them. Then there’s McGregor, who is more idealistic if not acidicaly aware of the current social climate that has himself (a gay man) and other marginalized people in the shitter as far as social standing goes. I liked McGregor and Shaw as a team; it plays up the old-hat, new blood dynamic that a lot of cop dramas go for, with a fresh take on it. While McGregor and Shaw certainly are meant to represent certain archetypes, I enjoyed the depth they were given and they bring out each other’s best and worst traits, playing up each other nicely.

Side by side the jarring investigation Shaw and McGregor work through is relevant sociopolitical commentary: women in male-dominated fields, gay men in those same fields, racism and the rise of fascism in a supposed democratic nation, are among the day-to-day hell hurdles that Shaw and McGregor have to deal with in addition to the actual hell they experience in the warehouse, and like any good horror/thriller, I felt the nods to bigger themes outside of gratuitous gore was a plus.

Where it all Falls Apart

Where A Walk Through Hell has an arguably interesting premise, compelling characters, and (very) pretty artwork, this first volume as a whole was all over the place. When reading a thriller, particularly one based in a police/FBI investigative atmosphere, there’s going to be questions unanswered, confusion, etc. It’s a part of the genre. The problem with A Walk Through Hell is by having two intertwined plot lines relevant to each other, writing needs to be tight and it was sloppy at best, which did not help for the cohesion of plot at all. At times this dual-timeline telling felt gimmicky at the detriment to fully enjoying the story.

Furthermore, its themes, in theory, are great but lack in execution. The presence of conversations about how McGregor feels about racism, for example, is appreciated, but ham-fisted as if to say ‘look, this story will have politics. Look at all the politics. Did I mention politics?’ Showing v. telling, etc., etc. For a graphic novel, I expect to be shown more than I am told, and I’m fully invested in the idea that the backdrop of the sociopolitical themes of A Walk Through Hell could have been smoothed out to feel like they actually belonged in the story as opposed to an afterthought or something sprinkled on top to make it a little more intriguing or patronizingly appealing to readers who are invested in sociopolitical issues outside of fiction.

Final Thoughts

A Walk Through Hell has promise, I’ll give it that. Despite the messiness of the writing in this first volume, I want to know what happens in subsequent volumes, which I think is a success to say that I’m still intrigued even if mildly put off by how disorganized the actual method of storytelling was.

Big thank you to NetGalley & Diamond Book Distributors for a copy of A Walk Through Hell Vol. 1


A Walk Through Hell is for you if: you’re into cop drama/thrillers with a heavy hit of horror, enjoy gore, like political commentary in your horror/thriller, want to be held on tenterhooks while you read, and eat up psychological foolery.

Warnings for this Volume: Gore, physical and sexual violence.


February Re(ad)cap

So despite having read basically nothing in January, I hit my stride this month with a nice selection of books that I was ecstatic to get through. I don’t think I’ve had a month in recent years that the reading left me feeling this content and fulfilled.

Books I Finished

This month was a good one for my reading. I got through four novels, two graphic novels, a poetry collection, and a novella. The real heavy hitter this month was Illuminae, sitting at over 600 pages of raw science fiction goodness, followed by Drops of Cerulean which decimated my heart.

I think the thing that I enjoyed the most this month about what I read was the variety in what I read, not just the kind of books, but the variation of genre, age group, and content in general. It was exciting flitting from one book to the next, almost resetting my brain for the next world to immerse myself in. I got emotional with Drops of Cerulean and The Color Purple, rekindled my love of science fiction with Illuminae, and learned that I might have a fondness for poetry with Sparks of Phoenix.

Favorite Book of the Month: Illuminae -heart eyes-

Continue reading “February Re(ad)cap”