Image | Top Cow
(w) MD Marie (a) Carlos Miko, Dema Jr. (c) Thiago Goncalves
With systemic and overt racism continuing to be a major issue in the world at large, coupled the strained relationship between police departments and communities of color, I had high hopes for Vindication. From the striking covers to the topical subject matter, on the surface it had all the makings of an instant classic. However, whereas titles such as Divided States of Hysteria or Infidel make bold statements in tackling controversy, Vindication is too scared to make a big swing, opting for a safe and underwhelming narrative.
For a book that is billed as “a taut police procedural unafraid to address police bias,” it leans more on the first part of that statement and not much of the latter. Yes, Vindication does open with Turn Washington, a young black man recently released from prison thanks to new, exonerating evidence, but then we are quickly introduced to Detective Chip Christopher, the story’s real protagonist. Neither of these two are likeable. It would be easy to make Turn a sympathetic character, but he is instead hard-headed and arrogant, and when he isn’t snooping around the homes of murder victims he’s hanging out with a less-than morally sound group of friends. Chip, on the other hand, is like every other police protagonist. He plays by his own rules and is rough around the edges. Internal Affairs is riding his ass, some may think he’s racist, but for the most part everyone thinks he’s a good cop. His name may be Chip Christopher, but it could very easily be Harry Callahan, Martin Riggs, or even Jake Peralta.
This is ultimately the fatal flaw of Vindication. Chip may not be going by the book, but he’s shown to be mostly right in his suspicions thanks in part to Turn’s own sketchy behavior. The ending is only resolved thanks to a last-second twist that comes out of no where. This deus ex machina clears everything up, allowing Chip to stop investigating Turn, Turn to stop acting super-sketchy, and even get a couple of dirty cops taken care of. There is so much that could be explored, but MD Marie’s script just can’t commit to anything of meaningful substance. Is Turn the victim of a society that has fundamentally failed people of color? Do police departments incentivize brutality rather than actually “serving and protecting” the community? Maybe, maybe not. The answers, or even a definitive position, are absent here.
Where Vindication does shine is the artwork from Carlos Mika and Dema Jr., who give this world a gritty, lived in feel. Los Angeles is often portrayed as a city of stars, or a crime-ridden wasteland. But this art duo does a great job capturing the world in between, where everyday lives are lived. Sure, there’s griminess, but also bright, seemingly safe neighborhoods where people walk around with relative comfort. The colors by Thiago Goncalves only aid in the world building. It’s just a shame that the writing does not rise to meet the art.
Vindication is a wasted opportunity. There is a lot of material ripe for exploration within the concept, but the story instead falls into the trappings of classic police procedurals. Stories about police brutality and systematic racism need to be told and explored – warts and all. Those types of stories do exist, but they exist elsewhere. Dislikable characters, no clear messaging, and an unearned twist ending make Vindication – a book for which there were high expectations – a disappointment.