Vindication No. 1 review: Who is the real criminal here?


Vindication, a new series from Image Comics and Top Cow, should be a story about the consequences of bigotry. So, why is the central character a white cop?

Vindication No. 1

Writer: MD Marie

Artist: Dema Jr., Carlos Miko

Vindication No. 1 cover (Credit: Image Comics)

Turn Washington was convicted of a crime he claims he did not commit in the first issue of Vindication. He stands by that claim when ten years after being sentenced, he is let out of jail – finally, a free man. But life isn’t meant to be easy for Turn. He has hardly stepped out of prison when he is attacked by the man who put him there in the first place – Detective “Chip” Christopher.

Chip is adamant Turn is guilty and he intends to make sure that Turn is brought to justice. The situation is exacerbated by the wife of Turn’s alleged victim pleading with Chip to make him suffer for his crimes. As if Chip’s hackles aren’t raised enough, he is assigned a new partner, subsequently taken off a case he believes is connected to Turn, and IA are on his tail. Just when the chips are down for the Detective, a mysterious package arrives to brighten up his day.

Bigotry, racism, prejudice – these are words strikingly relevant in today’s age, never more so in art. With diverse voices being given the opportunity to finally create stories from their perspective, readers and consumers of art are placed in the shoes of marginalised communities.

With Vindication, creators Matt Hawkins and MD Marie are determined to tell readers a relevant story of systemic racism, yet it goes about it from the wrong angle. What starts off as Turn’s story soon changes tack and follows Chip’s really bad day. The reader is placed firmly in his shoes as he pursues his vendetta to convict Turn. Chip doesn’t want justice, he wants vindication; but we have seen this story before. And we’ve seen it told from this angle before, as well.

What would have worked in the story’s favour would have been to look at the world through Turn’s eyes – is he guilty or not? And does it matter when the cards are stacked against him? Despite attempting to convey a novel idea, Vindication comes across as clichéd.

Yet, the fact that a writer of colour is behind the story lends itself a sympathetic angle that might have been missing had the creators been solely Caucasian. MD Marie is restrained in the use of racially-charged language; in another author’s hands, there would have been a gratuitous conflagration of slurs that would have impeded the reading experience and the central message.

Panel for Vindication No. 1 (Credit: Image Comics)

A lot is packed into the first issue of this series including several character introductions, the central mystery, and the character dynamics. But it makes the story seem like it’s in a hurry to end, which is understandable given that this series is only four issues long.

Unfortunately, whatever positives can be gleaned from this first issue are buried under poor writing and inconsistent art. Marie is unable to make most of the dialogue or thoughts believable, neither does she imbue the two female characters with any personality other than being foils to their partners.

The art also struggles to keep pace with the rapid story – character’s faces and hair styles change from panel to panel, and several of the characters are indistinguishable from one another. The sepia-toned colour scheme by Thiago Goncalves adds an ominous atmospheric touch to Vindication No. 1, but it also makes the details a challenge to decipher.

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It is hard to imagine why the creators went with the route of a dirty white cop’s perspective for this series, but if Marie and team can avoid writing the characters as stereotypes, and leverage the topical narrative, Vindication could trump its many creative flaws to make for a gripping mystery, while also telling a poignant story. As a start, however, this issue was surprisingly disappointing.