CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 14. . . .December 7, 2012
Plucked from their everyday lives, five seemingly run-of-the-mill teenagers are offered an opportunity to bring an end to the long and destructive war between two opposing forces of superheroes. For James, Lana, Hayden, Emily, and Sam, this should be a wonderful honour and privilege, except for the fact that they are not so much being asked to participate, but are being forced, under the threat of death, to fight. With no leverage to negotiate and few options to resist such a demand, the teenagers reluctantly agree to become protégés for the Vindico, a team of outcast villains bent on defeating the League of Heroes.
Their training is both physically and mentally grueling, but with every day that passes, each protégé, much to the delight of their individual mentors, becomes increasingly accustomed to the new normal of living and learning the ways of the Vindico. That is, however, until the protégés come to know the true nature of the Vindico. Their instinct is to rebel against their captors and return home, but that will surely not sit well with the Vindico or likewise with the League of Superheroes who now consider them the enemy. Their concerns come to a head when the safety of one of the protégés is threatened. Emboldened by their new found powers and encouraged by their respect and loyalty for one another, a plan is hatched to save their friend even though it will place the remaining protégés in imminent danger.
The culmination of this climax is buried deep within the book’s final pages; it reads quickly (as does the novel as a whole), despite being held up with numerous and largely redundant combat sequences. These scenes are well orchestrated, nonetheless, and their existence is very much welcomed given that The Vindico is undeniably a superhero-themed action novel. Quiet moments, while in the minority, are utilized wonderfully throughout, adding important touches which make the characters genuine and largely likeable. Unfortunately, however, all five of the protégés fall into classic young adult archetypes—the good guy, the hottie, the joker, the computer geek, the shy loner are all represented. These stereotypes tend to lessen over time as each of the character matures, first as they adjust to their new supervillain lives, and again when they ultimately reject the Vindico.
Themes are well rationalized within the story; although they lack a certain sense of complexity and comprehensiveness. Morality, for example, is explored repeatedly throughout as possessing a quality of ambiguity; such a representation, however, fails to manifest itself within any of the story’s many characters—in the end, villains are evil and superheroes are invariably portrayed as perfect models of modesty and fairness. Greater experimentation in blurring the lines between good and evil, even among the five protégés, would have contributed much in the way of building story depth and richness and also a bit of intrigue and suspense for the reader. Other themes, including honour, loyalty, and friendship, are briefly, but effectively investigated. While instances of romantic love are featured, a greater focus is placed in exploring the bonds which develop between the protégés. A constantly revolving narrative, which bounces back and forth among the teens, allows these relationships to be explored from different points of view.
In all, Wesley King’s debut novel is an inventive take on a popular genre. Fans of more traditional incarnations of superheroes (and supervillains)—in comics, film, graphic novels, and elsewhere— will find The Vindico, with its lively action scenes and diverse cast of characters, to their liking. The book’s first five chapters—each is treated as a vignette introducing a protégé and describing that person’s kidnapping—set the tone of the book and will provide readers with a good indication of what to expect. Readers requiring a complex plot, overarching themes and a rich back-story, however, would do well perhaps to look elsewhere.
Andrew Laudicina, a MLIS graduate from the University of Western Ontario in London, ON, currently resides in Windsor, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.