Monday, November 4, 2013

Review: HB Comics' Vindication

Today I will be reviewing Vindication #'s 1-3,which is brought to you by HB Comics.

Vindication is the name of a superhero group, and the members are below:

* Speedfire - speedster with the ability to generate and manipulate fire.  Just think of him as a combination of DC Comic's Flash and Marvel Comic's Pyro.

* Pitchshift - able to generate sonic waves from his fists, but it takes concentration and a few seconds to generate the necessary sonic waves.

* Imogen - ability to generate light for various effects, including concussive blasts.  Using her powers for an extended amount of time eventually leaves her fatigued.

* Surge - team leader.  Ability to absorb energy, and is able to shoot it right back. 

* Barrier - Hulk-sized super strength hero with the intellect of a child. 

* Omega Virus - Vindication's villain with the power to control computers, including human minds.

For this review, I read Vindication #'s 1-3.  I have not read any other issues of this title, so what you read below are only of #1-3. Before I continue, it's time for the usual:



 If you have not read Vindication #1 and don't want what's in it spoiled for you, then 
STOP READING NOW! You have been warned! 

Most superhero teams start out as a deliberate choice; that is, the heroes at some point made the decision to band together to fight evil. But in Vindication, the heroes came together because of the villain, Omega Virus, brought them together.  Understand that Omega Virus didn't bring them together so that they might team up and kick his butt, they only teamed up out of survival.  To Omega Virus, these people are just lab rats and nothing more. 

Oddly enough, OV's arrogance works in the Vindication team's favor.  He constantly underestimates their abilities, and is even defeated because of it.  But isn't that how it usually goes with super villains - their arrogance being their undoing?  At the end, OV may have escaped at the last second.  Maybe.  That's how it usually goes with supervillains as well.  :-)

 But really, this story isn't so much about OV or his arrogance how it proved to be his undoing.  Rather, it's about the team of people forced together by circumstance, and whether they can become a team in the true sense of the word instead of a group of people brought together due to events beyond their control.  Vindication #'s 1-3 is an interesting start to exploring that idea. Let's look a little more into the individual heroes themselves.

Surge is the most experienced of the bunch when it comes to the action hero stuff.  He's also a tad short on people skills.  He was the leader of the group largely because he has the most experience, rather than him having any sort of innate ability to lead a group of people.  At times, he's impatient, and at other times, a bit condescending.  However, he's not beyond being reasoned with, as demonstrated when Pitchshift had to remind him that the rest of the group is basically having to learn all of this action hero stuff on the fly, so they're a bit scared and apprehensive when it comes to being ordered around by him.

And to his credit, Surge listens to Pitchshift, and tries to follow through on his suggestion.  A reminder: I haven't read past issue #3, so I don't know what happens to the group in later issues, so what I'm about to say next is based on what I've read so far.  And one thing that I hope hasn't occurred is that Pitchshift is permanently dead!  Yeah, you know what I mean - superheroes die, as Pitchshift did in this storyline, but they often come back.  And I hope Pitchshift comes back, because I think he serves a role in the group in keeping Surge oriented on his role as team leader. 

In truth, I think Pitchshift would make a great group leader once he gains some experience and develops some self-confidence.  Developing Pitchshift's personality to this end would be a very interesting subplot to follow for the Vindication series.  Now, this is not to say that Surge wouldn't be a good leader, but I think he serves the group better as a mission leader, rather than team leader.  His training and abilities are more geared to action, and not to the subtle nuances of human nature and psychology when it comes to motivating team members to action, even when they might not be motivated for action on a given mission.  In fact, we saw Pitchshift serve the role of being the kind of team leader that I think he can be when he had to cajole Speedfire into action when Speedfire was reluctant to follow Surge into action when they just met the guy (not to mention having just met each other!).  

That's what team leaders do, as opposed to mission leaders.  Surge helped the team to survive, but Pitchshift motivated them to work together so that they would follow Surge's lead and survive.  To me, this suggests that Pitchshift has that innate ability to "read" a person's personality - or in other words, he's a good "judge of character", as the saying goes - as he felt enough from Surge that he could be trusted with their lives, and Surge lived up to that trust.  But it took Pitchshift to convince the others to follow him.  On top of that, there must have been something to Pitchshift that made the others want to listen to him when he suggested they all follow Surge - which suggests again something of a leadership ability in him that registered with the others, including Surge.

So if Pitchshift is dead dead (that is, permanently dead), then there is already something of a leadership gap within the group that will make it harder for them to work together.  How the writers deal with this gap (that is, if Pitch is dead dead), will be interesting to follow, because Surge, as I said previously, is a bit impatient and condescending, and lacks some in people skills; all of which will make it harder for his teammates to follow him unless he deals with these issues quickly.  Can Surge fill that gap himself?  I believe that eventually yes, he would.  The question is if he'll do it fast enough before the abrasive side of his personality chases away the rest of the group. 

Imogen could serve the role that Pitchshift had played before he was killed.  Not as effectively, I don't think, but eventually she could develop some of the personality traits to fill the role of motivator.  But I don't think she has the sort of leadership skills that Pitchshift had to fill the role of team leader. Her role may be more along the lines of cheerleader, or in the case of Barrier, a foster mother.  In other words, basic traditional female roles. This does not mean that she can't fulfill those roles efficiently and effectively, but those roles don't generally lend themselves to the kinds of leadership roles that would be needed by the group.

Barrier, because of his child-like mentality, would not be able to serve any sort of leadership role.  His contribution to the group would be wholly dependent upon Imogen.  He trusts her totally, like a child trusts a mother, which can be a plus and a minus.  This puts a great deal of responsibility on Imogen to keep herself on an even keel personality-wise, because she could easily manipulate Barrier into heinous acts, if she asked him to do so.  Barrier's great dependency on Imogen is also what would hold Imogen back in fulfilling the kind of role that Pitchshift could have served, because she has to be thinking for two people.

Of all the members of the group, Speedfire is the most likely to leave the group.  Not because he doesn't like his teammates, but because he's basically a selfish, immature hedonist.  In fact, he almost left the group once already, and it was only guilt that brought him back.  The more danger he finds himself in, the more likely he'll feel that he needs to be elsewhere than in the group.  How much life-threatening danger will he tolerate before he decides that enough is enough?  That may be seen in future issues.  In any case, Speedfire is no candidate for leadership.  He's simply too selfish.

There's also the question of how much of his sexist attitudes that Imogen will tolerate before she decides that she's had enough.  There would also be a point in that his behavior would border sexual harassment.  There's limits to what Speedfire should get away with by the writers.  Imogen doesn't seem the type that's going to report each and every incidental grazing of her butt or chest, but she should also have limits of how much she'll tolerate from Speedfire - and Speedfire will need to learn those limits, especially if he's going to be staying on the team.

Before I finish up this review, let me say here that I am in no way trying to tell the writers what to write; especially in regards to Speedfire and his behavior towards women.  That's not my job.  My role is to just report on what's already there, and to give my impressions of what I've seen so far.  I know the issue of sexual harassment can be a touchy subject, and I don't want the fact that I brought it up in this review to mean that I'm now going to be going through future issues of Vindication with a fine-toothed sexual harassment comb. I'm just bringing up a logical consequence of the type of sexist behavior that Speedfire has already demonstrated. 

Now we come to the part of my review in which I ask the all-important question that is the make-or-break of a given comic and my interest in it.  That question is:  Do I want to know, "what happens next?"  And the answer is YES!  :-)

Again, the group was not brought together willingly, but by circumstance.  But can they still function as a team?  Can these people still be able to come together and function as a unit, instead of being just a group of individuals that happen to be together at the same place at the same time, but with individual and separate agendas?  Can their differing personalities still work together?  That's what I want to find out! 

My thanks to HB Comics and their great work.  I look forward to reading future issues, not just because I want answers to the questions I brought up above, but just because I'm a comic nerd.  You gotta appeal to the comic nerd in me first before you can appeal to me as a reviewer, and Vindication has appealed to both.  :-)

HB Comics, by the way, also brings you Lazerman, which I had previously reviewed.  Also, as part of Creators United, HB Comics now has its own link on my sidebar right over there.  --------->