Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Story: Brian Azzarello
Artwork: Maria Llovet
Letters: Deron Bennet
Release Date: 10th April 2019
Faith is a dabbler in the magical arts, a habit her friends reluctantly indulge as harmless fantasy. But when coincidences start to become a little too coincidental, it’s time to consider whether there’s something darker at play, and quite what will it mean for Faith and the world she has built around her.
“An erotic depiction of faith, sex, and the devil, in the tradition of the divine comedy”. This is the tag-line on the front cover of Brian Azzarello and Maria Llovet’s new five-part series, and I’ve included it because I’m struggling to find a more perfect description of this work of art. Faithless is an erotic (and I’m going to be using that word a lot in this review) supernatural thriller but it’s also, as you’d expect from Azzarello, so much more.
To be honest, I would have picked this up solely based on that tag-line but after a bit of light Googling, I found a press release from BOOM! Which pitches Faithless as an exploration of female identity in the modern world and an opportunity for readers to “reflect on the way they interact with their own personal realities”, and honestly, I think this is what elevates it from being a good concept to being a truly great story.
Now I said I’m going to be using the word erotic a lot, and I am, because there is something erotic to be found on pretty much every page. By erotic, I don’t just mean blatant titillation or outright pornography (although there is plenty of that to be found), it’s the eroticism of a simple glance, a look, a gesture, an exchange, which for me can have much more power. Yes, there is a serious amount of eroticism in the story but It’s never crass, and, for me, always feels like a natural part of being in the company of Faith.
Faith is one of those rare characters who is incredibly likeable from the start. She’s not perfect, she’s got her own insecurities and self-doubts, but the way she looks at the world and the people around her is truly charming, as is her desire to make the world a better place – even though her plan is to somehow do this with magic. The other character we get to spend a lot of time with this issue is Poppy, who is a complete contrast to Faith. Poppy is outgoing, projects an air of confidence and irreverence that is slightly shocking to Faith but at the same time very attractive. Their interaction, even in the face of tragedy, is fantastic to watch and whatever else you take from this issue, I hope you take away the same appreciation of the character development that I have.
I am trying very hard to stay out of spoiler territory here because what I really want to do is examine and gush about every single panel in this review. Luckily for you, dear reader, I have a word count to worry about so I’ll just finish off my discussion of the story so far by saying that we haven’t really got to the thriller/supernatural aspect of the story yet, but, having been a reader of Azzarello’s work for many years, and with this only being a five issue series, I’m expecting that this will ramp up very quickly and dramatically.
Maria Llovet has just shot way, way up the list as one of my favourite artists of 2019 so far. The world and characters she has created are beautiful and real, to the point where you can envision yourself actually meeting these people and spending time in their company. Stylistically, I have to say that I was really strongly reminded of the work of probably the greatest erotic artist of all time, Guido Crepax. I was also very much put in mind of the work of Sean Phillips in Fatale. As I said earlier, there is a lot of eroticism in this issue and it’s never crass, but it is breathtaking.
Llovet’s depictions of Faith’s own personal sexual explorations as well as those with Poppy are delicate and sensitive and so very, very human. There is nothing stylised about either the characters, emotions displayed, the interactions or the acts themselves, and that is what makes the imagery on the page work so very well. Hundreds, if not thousands of artists have tried their hand at erotic or pornographic artwork in comics and about 90% of the time, for me at least, it falls flat because the characters are so utterly one-dimensional and without any believable emotional connections.
Just for the record, there are parts of this story that don’t revolve entirely around eroticism and they are equally as well done, and from the perspective of the story itself, massively important in driving the overall narrative. As with my previous comments, there is something just so natural and organic about the way Llovet creates this world that there’s never a moment where anything jars or you feel taken out of the story by a sudden change in pace or storyline direction.
There has been something of a renaissance in the use of eroticism in comics over the last couple of years, and I have found that predominantly where it has been successful, in many cases staggeringly so, it is where women are either writing or are producing the artwork. Maria Llovet is also working on an OGN for Black Mask Studios who, in my humble opinion, turned out some of the best work by women last year, but you only have to look at the likes of Mirko Andolfo’s runaway hit Unnatural to see the trend of female writers and artists being given much more freedom to write amazing creator-owned stories that, whilst overtly erotic, are also stories that give voice to the real lives, experiences and struggles of women and their place in modern society.
As a quick note on the issues that are going to be released, there will be a standard cover for each of the five issues, and also a guest artist variant which will be more sexually explicit and polybagged for the sake of decency.
I have been lucky enough to read this as an advance preview. As soon as I finished it, I ordered the first issue in both covers, and put in pre-orders for the rest of the series. It’s also probably a testament to how good this first issue is that I also pre-ordered the Hard Cover collection, and that’s not due to be released for almost twelve months…
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek