Faith and the Future ForceIssues #1-4
Ulises Arreola (Colorist), Diego Bernard with Juan Castro (Artists), Jody Houser (Writer), Barry Kitson (Artist), Cary Nord with Brian Thies (Artists), Stephen Segovia (Artist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
Published by Valiant July 2017 – October 2017
I’m tired of universe-wide hero team-up books. It feels like there’s a new threat to the very fabric of whichever universe at least once a month, and reading that issue after issue is, quite frankly, exhausting. So when my trusted local comic store staffer handed me my stack of comics for the week and I found Faith and the Future Force sitting on top, I very nearly handed it back to him. After reading the four-issue run, however, I’m singing a very different tune.
Faith and the Future Force picks up with our heroine, Faith Hebert trapped in her cubicle, dreaming of the hero work she used to do, until time-travelling scientist Neela Sethi, or Timewalker, shows up asking Faith to join her on a mission to save history. Faith, fangirl extraordinaire, leaps at the opportunity, and follows Neela back to the American Civil War period where a toaster-shaped robot is vaporizing history before their very eyes. Despite her ability to fly and wield telekinetic energy, Faith quickly falls to the Do-Bot, leaving Neela and her travelling companion, a dinosaur-like woman called Ank flabbergasted. Fortunately, this is a story about time-travel, and Neela is able to get a message to her past self that Faith will need help.
Faith, Neela, and Ank recruit Faith’s teammates, the Harbinger Renegades, to join the fight. Finding that this team still isn’t enough to defeat the Do-Bot, the team goes forward (Backward? Directions and tenses are confusing when you’re time-travelling) to recruit heroes from across the Valiant universe, both past and present, to take the bot down. The Do-Bot, aside from being generally awful, has the ability to absorb the powers of his vanquished foes, leading to a total annihilation of the combined force. With one final hail Mary idea, Faith decides to recruit her arch-nemesis, Chris Chriswell, Hollywood golden-boy, to out-villain the Do-Bot in the series conclusion.
What makes this event both unique and successful is a combination of the optimistic tone and the sheer charm of its heroine. Writer Jody Houser is able to build trust and rapport with the reader from the first panel, which made me feel like I was hearing this story from Faith herself, probably over some Chinese takeout right before we marathoned Lord of the Rings. Houser imbues Faith with a well-rounded identity that is firmly grounded in nerd culture and then uses that identity to pull the reader deeper into the story with clever references and quips from the characters.
The feeling of intimacy and friendship is echoed through the visual style of this book. Despite it’s somewhat heavy subject, the color palette is bright, vibrant, and hopeful. In the moments where it seems Do-Bot will surely overtake our heroes, there’s still a brightness that is a constant reminder that although we might be down, we sure as heck aren’t out. Despite the fact that the art team is different in each issue, there’s a cohesion of style amongst the team that turns this fact into a footnote rather than a criticism.
Where the event stumbles is in issue #3, when Faith travels the expanse of the Valiant universe to recruit more heroes. The more characters that are introduced, the shallower they tend to be, and it felt like a misstep. The story slipped away from Faith, Neela, and Ank and settled around some of the new recruits who… happen to be launching their own individual comics in the coming months. It seemed disingenuous to introduce those characters only to sacrifice them to Do-Bot a few pages later, but also including the first pages of their upcoming issue #1s in the back. It didn’t sour the event, but neither did it serve it in a meaningful way. If this event had lasted more than four issues, perhaps there might have been more room for character exposition of the supporting cast. But again, in a market that feels like it’s saturated with long, drawn-out crossover events, a four-issue miniseries was a breath of fresh air.
I said at the outset of this review that I’m tired of universe-wide team ups to save the fabric of the universe, but if every team up left me feeling so connected to the humanity of the heroes as Faith and the Future Force did, then I might be willing to revise my stance. Faith may be the most-relatable superhero I have ever met. She watches Doctor Who, works an office job that she doesn’t exactly love, and fantasizes about Hollywood’s most eligible heartthrobs. The creative team was able to imbue this character with such life, and the comic with such self-awareness, as to make the reader feel like she or one of her friends could easily be Faith. At their heart, that’s what I think superhero comics are meant to do.