Spoiler Warning: It should go without saying that there are spoilers in my reviews, so if you want to experience these stories and their surprises for yourself, maybe skip the rest of this article. Long story short: Faith #1 is good, and I think it’s a “must buy” for long-time and new comic fans alike!
I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Faith from her January miniseries, and issue #1 of her monthly ongoing series recently landed on shelves to a fair amount of applause among the comic book community. I haven’t had the chance to read the miniseries yet, but Valiant’s Faith #1 sure has me interested in doing a little digging into this character’s background!
Written by Jody Houser, Faith follows the titular character to a new city and a new identity. Assuming the alias of Summer Smith (love that classic name alliteration), Faith lives and works in Los Angeles while still maintaining her super-heroic pursuits.
Speaking of new identities, one thing I enjoyed about this comic is the “secret identity” trope, which is cleverly subverted. First off, two major characters apparently hide in plain sight as movie stars, one of whom is clearly a villain. This flies in the face of the stereotypical villainous alias, considering the amount of attention and press involved. But that’s not the best secret identity scramble – that award goes to Faith herself, because she is living and working under the assumed name Summer, while the public knows both her superhero identity of Zephyr and her real name of Faith.
So she’s a superhero with a public secret identity and a secret secret identity, just to shake things up. It’s not earth-shattering as far as genre innovations go, but it certainly adds a fun layer to the story, and a critical plot point for drama and complications in Faith’s life (lives?).
Houser provides a brief but necessary recap of Faith’s previous exploits, before launching into a story rife with uncertainty about her double life. Very little action takes place during the issue, but I didn’t really notice it because I was brand new to the character, so I was absorbed in learning about her and her world. Faith’s brief encounter with a burglar wielding some kind of power-scrambling weapon was certainly interesting, and will undoubtedly come up again in a future issue, but it’s not central to the story.
Anyways, Houser’s writing is clever, and while this first issue dips into the classic wells of the superhero genre (such as secret identities, etc.), it’s an entertaining enough set-up for future issues. The pacing is good, with moments of social drama/tension mixed in with normal day-to-day interactions with friends and coworkers. And the reveal at the end is particularly great, considering that it was foreshadowed by one of Faith’s allies a few pages earlier, making it that much more galling that Faith falls into such an obvious trap!
As far as the art goes, artist Pere Perez is joined by Andrew Dalhouse as colorist, with Marguerite Sauvage as the title’s fantasy sequence artist and Colleen Doran as the origin sequence art (the flashback scenes at the beginning of the issue). To me, perhaps the most important reaction that I had was to the character design of Faith herself. As someone who has read comics for the last 20+ years, I have a certain image in my mind of what a “superhero comic” should incorporate into the designs of its main heroic characters. I found Faith’s appearance jarring – not in a negative way, but in a way that made me examine my preconceived notions of what a female hero looked like.
Even knowing what to expect going in, it was interesting to see the various ways that Perez, Sauvage, and Doran drew Faith from different angles. They really show the realities of being overweight, and how it affects the shape of a person’s face, chin, and belly. The best part is that they are unapologetic about it – Faith never tries to hide her weight, whether she’s sitting at her desk, admiring herself in a mirror, or meeting her favorite movie star. It’s refreshing that, outside of a few possible insecurities, Faith’s weight doesn’t define her, either to herself or the people in her life.
One thing I like is Faith’s daydreams – Sauvage incorporates a cutesy style into these panels and scenes, which gives them a decidedly surreal and idyllic quality. In these scenes, Faith doesn’t see herself as a typical superheroine with tiny waist, long legs, and large chest. Certainly, she imagines herself as more shapely, even a bit slimmer, but not in a way that makes the reader think she pines to look like Wonder Woman, She-Hulk, Power Girl, or any number of other similar characters. These flights of fancy provide us a window into Faith’s self-esteem, and it shows us that she’s pretty happy with herself (with perhaps room for a few tweaks, but who among us doesn’t need a few tweaks?).
Anyway, that’s enough about Faith’s physical appearance, because while it’s novel, it wears thin (pun unashamedly intended) and becomes just another aesthetic element pretty quickly. More importantly, I also love her determination, specifically in the scene in which her powers are temporarily scrambled mid-flight. Like Captain America or the Punisher, she pushes through the pain she’s in and reverts to her training and instinct, like any veteran hero would do. Not only does she save herself from an ugly meeting with the pavement, she also manages to save her assailant from the same fate, showing that she has a mastery of her powers that reinforces the idea that she is a bona fide superhero.
Ultimately, I’m a big fan of Faith #1, and I’ll be checking out her miniseries while I wait for #2 to alight gracefully onto shelves next month. I think you should, too!
If you’re at San Diego Comic Con 2016 this weekend, you can get some firsthand information about Faith from series scribe Jody Houser, Valiant EiC Warren Simons, and Associate Editor Abraham Reisman by attending “Vulture Presents: Valiant’s Spotlight on Faith”! This panel is scheduled at 6pm on Friday July 22nd, in room 29AB! Personally, I’m going to see if I can’t sneak away to attend this, because I’m interested to hear what they have to say!