Comics, Diversity, Race, Racism, Reviews

Real Life Horror Inspiring Fiction: Comic Review of Destroyer by Victor LaValle

Cover Art by Micaela DawnVictor LaValle’s Destroyer #1

Victor LaValle (Writer), Dietrich Smith (Artist), Micaela Dawn (Cover Artist)
Boom! Studios
May 24, 2017

Victor LaValle’s horror comic Destroyer is a six-issue series that is a new take on the Frankenstein mythos. The story is about a grieving mother and scientist who lost her son to a police shooting, who is now working tirelessly to bring him back. All the while Dr. Frankenstein’s original creature seeks to destroy humankind.

Panels of Dr. Baker Reliving a memory

At the core, this horror story is an allegory on grief, loss, and humanity. Dr. Baker is destroyed by her son Akai’s death and does everything in her power to bring her son back from the dead. She is a talented scientist who for years has made resurrecting her son a priority verging on obsession. She even goes as far as to invent the technology that eventually does pull him from the other side of the veil. This book is timely given the current strife in the black community over the constant police shootings and deaths of young innocent black people all over the country. Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Cameron Tillman, VonDerrit Myers Jr., Laquan McDonald, and I can go on and on, sadly.

With the tally of young black bodies on a constant rise, and no justice for any of their grieving parents, LaValle’s story of a mother bringing her son back and seeking revenge is a fantasy that unfortunately resonates strongly through the comics landscape.

Taking the original Mary Shelley classic and melding it with modern times, LaValle has created a great dialogue on the harshness of the world.

[pullquote]The creature soon kills everyone on board and disembarks on a journey to rid the planet of humanity.[/pullquote]

The comic opens with Frankenstein’s Creature sitting on an iceberg in Antarctica. He is taken by a baby whale into the water below, only to soon witness the whale murdered by a nearby whaling ship. The Creature, who detests humanity and the senseless killing, demolishes the entire ship. He soon sees another ship and boards it. Learning from the crew of the current dismal state of the world, the creature kills everyone on board and disembarks on a journey to rid the planet of humanity.

Victor LaValle set out to tell a story of a mother’s loss. Inspired partly by Mary Shelley’s loss of a child and subsequent writing of a book about conquering death, Lavalle took the pain he saw daily on the news, and like Shelley did with Frankenstein, channeled that into Destroyer #1. LaValle writes:

“She would create life, but she would use that creation for vengeance. Her grief, and rage would inspire only one goal, Destroy.”

Destroyer #1 is a comic book worth picking up. As a horror comic, it lives up to all the goriness you’d expect from a modern Frankenstein story. The art by Dietrich Smith is dynamic; each scene is defined by its great colors, from the greens of Dr. Baker’s lab to the desaturated blues of the Antarctic landscape. It’s a beautiful first installment of what I can only hope will be a fantastic series.

In a world where the countless murders of young black people go overlooked, LaValle’s Destroyer #1 is a cathartic tale of grief and loss; in the story of Akai’s murder, his mother might get the justice so many never received.