Just in time for the release of the on-going series, here is a spoiler-free review of Faith, Issues #1-4.
I’ll start by addressing the obvious, because it actually isn’t addressed, and I think that’s a smart move. Faith isn’t a larger woman who just so happens to be a superhero; she’s a superhero, and that’s all. And, personally, that’s how I think it should be handled. Very rarely is it ever brought up (in the story-line itself) that most superheroes are white males, unless, that is, the writer has some shocking point he wants to make. (There are examples . . .)
However, while I think not addressing it is a bold direction, it sadly rings a bit untrue in light of today’s society. How often have we heard about the young girl who has been crushed by comments made about her pictures posted on Facebook or Instagram?
Internet trolls will try to tear down a woman no matter how she looks. And, therefore, no mention of Faith’s size rings as dishonest, especially when the reality show her ex-boyfriend is a part of is thoroughly trashed on social media. And so this attempt to create a plus-sized superhero with the message “it doesn’t matter” is, on the one hand, admirable, but, on the other, just doesn’t seem like reality. (Although I don’t really read comics for their realism . . . 🙂 )
What author Jody Houser has crafted is a simple story that establishes a lead character and her supporting cast. Now, when I say “simple,” I don’t mean it as an insult, rather a mere description of the scope. Houser doesn’t attempt to break any new ground or redefine how the Valiant (this series’ label) universe works. There are bad guys who do bad things and the superhero Faith stops them. Now, the villains’ schemes could have potentially initiated further reaching plots, but as a new story introducing a new character, it isn’t necessarily a wrong thing to make that introduction as easy as possible.
Like many comics nowadays, there are a plethora of variant covers for Faith, which makes it difficult to discuss that aspect of the comic. The inside, however, is drawn by two artists, with Marguerite Sauvage drawing about three pages per issue and Francis Portela handling the majority of the artwork.
Sauvage pens the “fantasy” scenes when Faith daydreams, which function almost like the cutaway scenes on the TV series Family Guy, while Portela draws the main story-line. Sauvage’s art has a whimsical cartoonish look, and at times she draws Faith unnecessarily large. However, in these scenes, it isn’t just Faith’s body that’s exaggerated, but also her facial expressions, which helps to give the fantasy sequences a sense of unity.
Portela has a more crisp style that reminds me of a cross between Steve Dillon and Frank Quietly. While those familiar with both artists may think that a compliment, I think the biggest compliment I can give is that Faith and her alter ego – Summer Smith – are both drawn convincingly differently. Whereas Faith has a young, confident appearance, Summer Smith comes across as that woman from work in desperate need of a surprise makeover ala daytime TV.
It isn’t just that, however. Every character in the series has a distinctly different face. Whereas often in comics the only difference one can discern in between individual heroes’ faces is some kind of distinct feature. For example, Tony Stark has a mustache and goatee; Dr. Strange also has those plus white hair at the temples. The difference between the face of Clark Kent and that of Bruce Wayne is merely glasses. Otherwise, one could easily stand in for the other.
But not here. Each character in this series is drawn with distinct features as well as different ages and even ethnicities. This type of crisp art is refreshing from a mainstream publisher, when these days it has become far too common to find books with the kind of loose, almost sloppy art, that used to only be found in some independent titles.
That being said, I’m not actually a fan of Portela’s art on this book. Like Dillon’s, I don’t think Portela’s style translates well into superhero comics. There’s a particular unattractive quality to many of the females’ faces that comes across as something sinister. And while this helps to create a better divide between Faith and Summer, it is especially off-putting when seen on the lead character, and even more so when compared to Sauvage’s depiction of Faith in both her identities.
However, not being a huge fan of the art is not this book’s major flaw. Faith is a four-issue miniseries that does a poor job of making Faith’s world accessible to new readers. The lead character has three different names: Faith (her given name and the title of the book), Summer Smith (her secret identity), and Zephyr (her superhero I.D.). Also, unless you’re familiar with the Valiant universe, the reveal of the main villain falls flat. I, myself, only had a passing knowledge of said villain and only because I once watched a YouTube review about another villain set in that universe.
Further, I mentioned earlier that Faith’s weight is not addressed, but that might have been a slight exaggeration. In the first issue, Faith makes a pass at a character, who instead of responding, changes the subject. As a knee-jerk reaction, you assume it’s because of her weight, especially when it comes up again in the fourth issue. The character’s backstory gives any number of reasons why he may have reacted as he did. But you assume it’s the weight.
All this may seem as though I’m looking for things to nitpick, but as someone who has never read a Valiant book, I assumed Faith’s story would be a good intro comic. However, while you might not be entirely lost (each issue has a short re-cap paragraph on the inside cover), you may feel as though you’ve missed an issue or two.
So in the end, the main question is: Would I recommend this comic to others? Do the pros outweigh the cons? Yes, I believe they do. And if you’re looking for a good starting point, this might be as good of one as you’re going to get (unless you want to dig through a bunch of back-issue crates to learn about the Valiant universe).
By the way, if you’re interested in giving it a go, the Faith trade paperback will be released on July 5th for $8.39 at Amazon (which is $7 less than I paid for each issue individually, so you just might want to wait a few weeks. 🙂 ).
Have you read Faith? Let us know what you thought by replying in the comments section below. (Please review our Comments Policy before posting. Thanks!)
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