Josephine Baker (no relation to the Josephine Baker) lost her son Akai to a police shooting. In her grief, she uses her impressive scientific knowledge and skills to bring him back as a new, powerful being. Baker then sets out to take vengeance against her previous employer, an organization seeking immortality, and America, a country indifferent to her suffering as a woman of color. Meanwhile, DestroyerFrankenstein’s Monster gone berserkis cutting a bloody path through the countryside, and a confrontation between the two parties is imminent.

Victor LaValle’s Destroyer is a compelling combination of mad science and social commentary. Because the story makes jumps in time and weaves together the story of multiple parties, it requires some degree of concentration and thought to put the plot pieces together. LaValle excels at revealing detail to keep the reader turning pages as well as to help the reader understand the characters and give the story nuance. Readers who take the time to piece the story together will be rewarded by an interesting dichotomy between the characters’ emotional pain and the morality of their actions. Even as the narrative criticizes our society’s problems, it also points to the dangers of being exclusively driven by negative emotions and using violence to solve problems.

The characterization of the main cast contributes to the goals of the narrative. Baker is a compelling character who boldly criticizes the “angry black woman” stereotype. While other cast members tend to fade somewhat into the background, Destroyer’s actions forcibly contribute to the questions surrounding the morality of violence, and Akai provides a strong counterpoint to the other characters’ negativity.

Dietrich Smith and Joana Lafuente’s realistic artwork grounds the reader in this setting that mixes futuristic technology with questions about contemporary social issues. The realistic action and symbolic images consistently convey the concepts presented. Even if a scene’s place in the plot isn’t immediately clear, the portrayed action itself is not confusing. The artwork also effectively conveys both ordinary buildings and people alongside the futuristic technology and characters who are no longer human. For example, their portrayal of Akai balances the fact that Akai is biologically no longer human, yet remains a bright, sweet boy.

Victor LaValle’s Destroyer is an engaging story, and readers seeking science fiction stories that feature people of color will be particularly interested. Because the story gets grisly in parts, this book would be best for older teens and adults.

Victor LaValle’s Destroyer
by Victor LaValle
Art by Dietrich Smith, Joana LaFuente
ISBN: 9781684150557
Boom Studios, 2018

  • Megan

    | She/Her

    Features Writer

    Megan earned her MLIS from Simmons College and is currently the evening librarian at Bay State College in Massachusetts. She satisfies her voracious appetite for graphic novels and manga through regular visits to her local public libraries and puts her love of graphic novels to good use by adding to Bay State’s collection whenever possible. Megan maintains a personal blog, Ferret with a Strobe Light, where she discusses awesome books she’s read lately. When not engaged in reading or library work, she likes running, drinking tea, and working on her own stories and art.

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