Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Colleen Doran, Pere Pérez, Marguerite Sauvage
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Review by Anelise Farris
Great strides have been made to diversify the literary scene, but comics, superhero comics in particular, often give readers only two types of female characters: the over-sexualized vixen or the manic pixie dream girl. While these female characters may vary in race and sexuality, they are regularly depicted as having the same body shape. This could be why Faith, who first appeared in the Valiant comic universe in Harbinger (1992-1995; 2012), and her resurgence this past year in a limited series that ran from January to April 2016 received so much positive attention. It wasn’t just comic geeks buzzing about Faith; major news and media sites were talking about her as well. The people talked, Valiant listened, and now Faith has been given her very own ongoing series—and for many, myself included, this type of female superhero has been a long time coming.
For the first time in the comic universe, Faith’s story is being written by a female writer: Jody Houser (who gave us the fantastic 2015 limited series, Orphan Black). Just as Faith challenges gender norms, Houser’s work serves to reiterate that women in the comic field clearly deserve more recognition. There is also a great team of artists that accompany Houser’s writing: giving us compelling full-page illustrations and uniquely-shaped panels. I really appreciate the detail-oriented art, and I especially enjoy the way the art shifts when Faith is daydreaming—becoming more cartoonish and “unrealistic.”
In short, Houser’s Faith succeeds because weight is a non-issue. Faith in the Harbinger series was subject to fat jokes and regular comments about her weight. Here, it is never mentioned. This is significant as this year we have seen a flurry of fiction focused on body image that unfortunately seems to (in my opinion at least) often do more harm than good. Faith was, pardon the cliché, such a breath of fresh air. And, I perceive that this is in large part due to the comic medium: readers are required to visually encounter/be challenged by her appearance—perhaps forcing some readers to work through their own biases or acts of self-deprecation as a result.
In this first issue (of what promises to be a series worth investing in), we meet Faith Herbert (aka Zephyr), who, true to superhero fashion, lives a double life: existing both as a flying, blue and white jumpsuit wearing psiot, and a red wig and glasses wearing writer for Zipline. While Faith does have to deal with normal superhero drama, like trying to establish relationships amidst all of the secrecy, she is not your typical dark, angst-ridden superhero; she is optimistic, compassionate, moral, and, best of all, she is self-assured. Finally, Faith fits right into what I look for in superhero comics: I want to see the characters as human—not just saving the world, but eating, dating, working, etc. (Hawkeye, 2012-2015, by Matt Fraction and David Aja comes to mind). In works like this, we encounter real, complex characters—not just a type—and that’s worth reading and talking about.
Buy it! If you’re looking for a new ongoing series full of lighthearted superhero fun and significant characterization, look no further. And, even if you are completely new to the character of Faith, Houser’s series is a great place to start. Plus, who can resist Faith: an unabashedly full-on geek girl dropping references here and there to Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Battlestar Galactica—speaking right to our geeky little hearts.