Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"Genius" Original Graphic Novel Review

When I was going through Previews some months ago I saw that the publisher First Second had a book coming out that looked quite intriguing. The name of the book was simply the word "Genius", which didn't give me too much to go on, but I then saw that Steven T. Seagle was the writer and as I quite enjoyed his writing on the enjoyably-weird comic, "American Virgin," I knew this was bound to be good. Therefore, I acquired a copy, gave this a read and did in fact like it quite a bit.

 "Genius" is about a man named Theodore/Ted who is basically just that, a genius, but struggling at his job where everyone is super-intelligent (he's a quantum physicist) and has to crank out cool projects or face being fired. He does have a nice family consisting of a wife, a teenage son, and a young girl, but Ted finds it difficult to communicate with his family sometimes. The other complicating thing is how his Father-in-law lives with them, and despite being physically weak and not completely "all there" he does have a secret, one that could potentially be very useful to Ted.

Things aren't going the best at work for Ted.
Francis (the Father-in-law) was a bodyguard to Albert Einstein back in the days of World War II and claims that Einstein had a discovery so big, so earth-shattering, that he never wrote it down and told only one soul so that it wouldn't eat him up inside. As you've probably guessed, if Francis knows about this secret he's the one who was given it. Therefore, throughout the book we see Ted struggling at everyday life, and having even more trouble trying to get Francis to tell him the secret--if there even really is one beyond Einstein telling Francis about an affair or something simple like that.

One of the main reasons I enjoyed "Genius" was because Ted is a very empathetic character--if not without his flaws. Through us seeing his daily trials and sharing in his surreal dreams of wondering just what the big secret could be the reader really grows to care about our protagonist and his family.

Another thing I really liked about "Genius" is something I have not even discussed yet, the art. Provided by Teddy Kristiansen, "Genius" has an ethereal painterly look which compliments the more abstract parts of the book (when Ted dreams, or shows us concepts in science) beautifully. When we're in the "real-world" there is a bit more of a harder-looking edge to the art, with penciling being apparent, but it doesn't look too different from the more out-there segments of the book (which is good in that it looks nice, but bad in that sometimes it is hard to tell what's real and what is in Ted's imagination).
Ted dreams and imagines speaking with Einstein throughout the book.
My biggest criticism of the book besides the beautiful art sometimes being a bit confusing would be how the story handles Ted's daughter. Cece is a minimal presence in the book which is a bit saddening as it subtly hints that she too may have genius qualities during a drive with her father where she tells him about being teased for high test scores, but then that whole scene which could have led to an interesting subplot basically gets dropped until getting mentioned once more briefly at the end. Perhaps Seagle wasn't planning to elaborate on Cece's intelligence and just have the book indicate she's "got some smarts" but I was hoping maybe we could see Ted bond with his daughter over their shared intelligence--perhaps there could have been less plot with Ted's son and more his daughter. Still, these are mild complaints in the face of a quality piece.

To finish out my thoughts, "Genius" is a very enjoyable comic (original graphic novel, if you want to be fancy) that fleshes out its main character expertly even if it struggles in figuring out what to do with some of the secondary characters, either featuring them too much or too little. It also carries gorgeous art that gives everything an other-worldly feeling and makes even the dryer parts of the book interesting--such as when physics or other complicated things are discussed (I myself am terrible at math, so the fact I could follow along means they wrote this well). I would say Genius is definitely worth a read and would recommend you buy a copy or borrow/steal one from a friend. Look for it on shelves once it is officially released on July 9th.
4 out of 5 stars.

A copy of "Genius" was provided to me by First Second Books for review purposes

No comments:

Post a Comment