Ask me what I look for in a great comic series and I might have difficulty coming up with an answer. I like such a wide variety of stories that it would be difficult to narrow it down to a few basic topics. After reading Faith, the new series published by Valiant Comics, the answer comes to me much more easily, because this comic is exactly what I look for in a good story. It has it all: a funny, strong, confident main character, a healthy dose of humor, cultural references that keep it grounded, and a truly positive role model to round out the series.
This is the comic I always wanted but never really knew I needed. Now that I've read it though, I'm left wondering how comics could ever have been anything less than this fantastic? This series is brilliant, smart, and unashamedly real. Writer Jody Houser has her pulse on what makes Faith such a likable character, while artists Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage draw her with an air of realism that is often missing in the comic book industry. In short, it's what many readers have been waiting for in a new comic series for years. Well, our wait is finally over.
An Everyday Hero
Faith Herbert is the superhero Zephyr, a young woman blessed with flight and telekinetic abilities. She's recently moved to LA where she's taken a job at a popular website as a content writer, and adopted the secret identity of "Summer Smith" (she has a bit of a Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman thing going on). Faith divides her time between trying to keep her secret identity, well, secret, and fighting the forces of evil. Sometimes, those forces are true monsters.
Throwing these crazies out of the window is in no way an over-reaction. Who shoots at puppies?! It's nice to read about a superhero taking action to prevent less "Earth-shattering" crimes. Far too often comics are focused on stopping the end of the world, so it's nice to see a little grassroots crime-fighting. Quite frankly, this is probably what I would spend my time doing if I had superpowers, so reading about someone with powers like Faith's (doing good on a smaller scale) makes my heart happy. This is what makes Faith such a great hero — her powers aren't particularly spectacular in and of themselves, but she puts them to use in great ways. I would happily read an entire series titled "Faith Saves Puppies," and while there's so much more to this comic than that, the puppy-saving definitely endears her to me. #savethepuppies
My Would-Be Best Friend
Even more impressive than Faith's superhero actions is her everyday personality. Faith is not some goddess-like creature gliding through life effortlessly, never blundering, operating on a plane completely above our own. No, Faith is a typical woman, lazing about in bed in her comfy pajamas, discussing her favorite TV show with her friends. She wakes up late for work, she falls asleep in an important office meeting, she day-dreams about meeting her celebrity crush. This is far more realistic for the typical reader than the ethereal Wonder Woman or any other seemingly perfect female hero. Faith spends her days discussing pop culture with her co-workers (something I'm certainly guilty of), allowing readers to relate to the comic in a way many stories prevent.
So. Many. References. The fact that I'm from a generation that understands each and every one of them makes me far happier than I can say, but what's most impressive is that they feel organic to the story. Having made plenty of cultural references in my day (who hasn't?) this conversation feels like one I could easily have had with a friend (provided I was a superhero discussing my choice in secret identity names). Faith's conversations with people both in and out of her role as superhero feel completely natural. Too often, superheroes come across as stilted or even "holier than thou," seemingly above the rest of humanity. Faith is just a regular person who happens to have superhuman abilities. Her approachability makes her a far more engaging character than those that feel completely removed from the rest of us. The fact that she's witty and smart and so completely me is just icing on the cake. Faith, be my best friend please?
Realism At Its Finest
What makes Faith such an intriguing comic is that the story is very much grounded in the more mundane side of superhero work. Now don't get me wrong, she is anything but mundane, but the story shows us a different side of crime-fighting. We're so used to reading about heroes making these world-saving gestures, and being rewarded in return. Whether it's a parade, a statue, or their own "Day" in their city, many superheroes have been celebrated in their respective comics with all the fanfare one would expect after they've just stopped our planet's destruction.
Not Faith, though. Instead, with this story we get to see the "unsung hero" side of superhero work. Faith doesn't return to a massive celebration; instead, she returns to her everyday life as a writer.
Faith emphasizes the minutia of day-to-day life in which superheroes invariably must participate, but many comics often overlook. Even those heroes that have day jobs generally take part in fast-paced, exciting careers that take them to the far reaches of the world, propelling their stories in new and interesting ways (I'm looking at you Clark Kent, Pulitzer-prize winning writer). Faith sits in a tiny cubicle watching mind-numbing reality shows, being paid to skewer them. It's a bit off-beat, but the comic makes it sound anything but glamorous. Therein lies the hook: Faith is a superhero, but she's also a regular person just like you or me. She faces disappointment, she gets bored at work, she does everything you and I would do on any given day. The fact that she's a superhero is almost a backseat story to who she really is.
The Unspoken (But Not Unseen) Body Positivity
Throughout this post, there's one aspect of Faith I haven't addressed: her body image. Given how many people have applauded the positive depiction of a different body type, one would think that would have been the focus of my post, but not so. Why? Because it's not the focus of the comic. There are plenty of images in Faith of her body, any and all so-called "imperfections" plain to see. Unlike most female superheroes, she's not a size 2. Hell, she's not even a size 12. Faith is a full-figured gal who isn't ashamed of anything tied to her appearance. How do I know? Easy — she never once remarks upon it.
Faith is too busy living her life and stopping crime to ever dwell on any self-conscious feelings. She could easily have fallen victim to stereotypical writing, being cast as the shy, insecure type who is struggling to deal with a body type that's considered less than ideal, but Faith is above that. She never once addresses her body, and what's truly amazing is that nobody else in the comic does, either. In her earlier appearances in the comic Harbinger, demeaning comments were made nearly constantly, feeding into the belief that she's just there to be the butt of a joke. It's awesome to see that not only is she not being made fun of, but that not one character ever comments on her physical appearance, be it her weight or anything else. The emphasis is placed on who she is rather than what she looks like, allowing readers to appreciate her without her devolving into an overused trope with no real substance. Instead, Faith is a kick-ass character who just so happens to have a fuller figure that's a little closer to that of your average reader.
Take note, comics companies: There is most definitely a market for superheroes who actually look like your readers! Imagine the sales if readers weren't so intimidated by model-perfect images staring back at them from the racks of a comic book store. Just as comics need to widen their horizons and include characters of different races, ethnicity, and gender identities, so too do they need to break away from creating standardized images and embrace characters of different body types. Faith is a wonderful first step in that direction.
A Worthwhile Read
If you've ever felt annoyed by the sometimes cookie-cutter depiction of female superheroes in mainstream comics, look no further. Faith answers the prayer of any reader who's ever wanted a comic that openly addresses our ordinary lives. Sure, there's plenty of butt-kicking here too, but Faith is so much more than a straightforward superhero story. She deals with issues many of us face, whether they be past relationships, work stress, or new friendships. What's more, she deals with them in such a fun, relatable way that we can learn something about our own lives within the pages of this comic, all while having plenty of fun along the way. Faith will be your BFF from issue #1, and if recent reviews are taken to heart, she'll likely be around for quite some time.
Charming, relatable, funny and with a worthy message at its core about never feeling the need to change yourself to please people around you, Faith continues to be one the most fiercely likable superhero comics on the shelves today.
See how Faith compares to her other badass female counterparts in the video below:
Have you read Faith? What do you like most about her? Let us know in the comments!
*Note: All photos are from "Faith: Hollywood & Vine" TPB, which collects the 4-issue mini-series released prior to the main series.