Writer: Jody Houser
Artwork: Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage
Release Date: 27th January, 2016
Valiant superhero Faith Herbert – aka “Zephyr” – has been receiving her fair share of mainstream media attention lately following the announcement of her first solo miniseries. The fan favourite plus size hero is finally getting her chance to fly solo in this new four-part story, and we’ve been lucky enough to be able to take an advance look at the first issue before it hits the shelves next week.
Okay, cards on the table, I don’t really have much (read: any) prior familiarity with the character, so this review is being written from the perspective of a complete Faith n00b. With that in mind, it’s truly impressive that writer Jody Houser manages to form such a strong bond between the reader and the titular heroine by the end of this first issue. Faith is geeky, enthusiastic and just plain fun, and watching her juggle her real life and superhero responsibilities provides the meat of this first issue. We get to see her at home, in super-powered action and at her ‘day job’ as a mild-mannered blogger (what else?), and in every one of these environments there’s just something undeniably likeable about the character.
I’ll admit, I was a little concerned that I may struggle to get to grips with the character without knowing her history and back story, but this first issue served as a great introduction to Faith without feeling like I had to dig through back issues to fill in the blanks. Houser does reference previous events in the Valiant continuity, but does so almost as a teaser to provide a little extra flavour rather than as a list of “required reading”.
Smartly, this issue tells you everything you need to know about Faith; her life, her struggles, her outlook, and just how damn awesome she is. Her quirky inner monologue only adds to the charm of the character, as does her exchanges with her co-workers and her awkward Skype-flirting with “pet project” Archer (of “and Armstrong”). While it’s undoubtedly a great introduction to the character, there’s also a bigger picture at play here, with a shadowy conspiracy involving the abduction of would-be Psiots that provides a great hook – and a great cliffhanger – to spur the reader into picking up the remainder of the series.
The artwork here is provided by the team of Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage, with Portela handling the bulk of the present-day events and Sauvage handling Faith’s internal fantasy world; an idealised version of her superhero exploits rendered in a glossy, almost ‘romance novel’ style. Portela has a dynamism to her artwork that makes even the most potentially mundane exchange crackle with an extra sense of energy; Mimi, Faith’s boss at Zipline telling her to improve her output, for instance, is given an almost crazed sense of urgency by Portela’s fantastic depiction of the supervisor. Andrew Dalhouse’s colours round things out nicely, although they can be a somewhat harsh in places, making the occasional panel a little more glossy and shiny than it perhaps should be.
I’ll admit, the plus size nature of the character felt like it could be a recipe for some groan-inducing shoehorned positivity, but it’s handled in a wonderfully matter-of-fact manner where it isn’t anything close to being the defining characteristic of Faith. She’s a complex, fascinating and utterly relatable character who just so happens to be plus size, and this new series provides a perfect showcase for every nuance of her multi-layered personality.
Overall then, while this is first and foremost an introductory issue that sets out to establish the status quo for our beloved character, there are enough intriguing plot threads being dangled here to all but guarantee that this series is going to be a hit. Faith is yet another utterly brilliant character from a company that seems to thrive on brilliant characters, and this is an upbeat, positive and – above all – a truly fun book that deserves to be seen by as many eyes as possible.
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