Jody Houser (writer), Francis Portela (artist), Marguerite Sauvage (fantasy sequence artist), Joe Quinones (recap artist), Andrew Dalhouse (colors), Dave Sharpe (letterer)
January 27, 2016
Disclaimer: Valiant provided an advance copy, and this review contains (very minor) spoilers.
Valiant’s new mini-series Faith stars a confident fat woman and, before it even debuted in comic shops, it became an advance sellout. That’s kind of a big deal. And now, one week after release, Bleeding Cool reports that “Faith #1 has the fastest third reprint scheduled in comics history.”
I rarely touch superhero comics and had never read a Valiant title before, but as soon as Faith was announced last year, I needed it. I discussed my hopes in an earlier piece here on WWAC, and those stood fast as I got my hands on its premiere. As someone who struggles to find reflections of myself in any sort of media, I craved it without knowing anything about the series other than her than her character design. As someone who is also invested in quality representation, however, I held that first issue in a trembling grasp. Would it live up to my admittedly high standards? After all, Faith’s marketing has only discussed it as being about a strong, confident fat woman, but that doesn’t mean a good book in itself. All that hype presents a challenge: will the actual story live up to what Faith and her audience deserve?
The first issue, though focused wholly on setup, gives me hope. It offers a glimpse at Faith’s current predicament: now split up from her old team and ex-beau, she pursues a fresh start in Los Angeles. Her superpowered self, known as Zephyr, is a heroic celebrity. Faith disguises her secret identity under a red wig so she can keep a day job and enjoy a largely mundane lifestyle in which she moonlights as a crimefighter on her own terms. I especially appreciate how writer Jody Houser highlights that aside the superpowers and fame, Faith is simply a woman who’s trying to take control of her life.
Something ominous brews on the side, but it’s secondary to the focus on building Faith’s character and world before she’s inevitably pulled into high-stakes conflict. But don’t worry—if you’re in this for a taste of action, it ends with a bang that promises much more along those lines in following issues.
Faith is fat, but it doesn’t really matter in this snapshot of her universe, and that was a solid move. Though I haven’t read any of her previous appearances, a common complaint appeared to be that her imaginative, fangirlish personality was played up to make a joke of her character in the past. That didn’t happen once in this revival. Her flights of fancy always felt fun, never belittling, and the fantasy sequences illustrated by Marguerite Sauvage are gorgeous. Faith has a great sense of humor as both a book and a character, but Faith herself is never the butt of the joke, and that is everything.
The only detail that pulled me out of the story is that the men in Faith’s life blend nigh-indistinguishably together due to similar Blondie McBeefcake designs. I had to stop reading a couple times and check back to make sure that these were actually new characters.
But it’s hard not to find that more amusing than anything. So often, it’s the women in comics who are drawn as if from the same stock reference, so it’s oddly refreshing for that to happen in the reverse. For now, I’ll just write it off and assume Faith has very, uh, specific taste in men.
I haven’t been truly invested in cape comics since I learned there were other more inclusive genres at least a decade ago, but Faith could be what brings me back. I feel optimistic, and that’s all I really wanted out of this first issue. I look forward to getting to know Faith and the company she keeps, and I hope she gets the interesting, fun, fulfilling story that she—and we—deserve.
Bonus reading: “Faith is breaking the rules for fat girls” over on Panels by Amy Diegelman. I could write a followup to my original reflection on Faith’s character design, now that I’ve seen it in action, but that piece articulates what Faith’s treatment means to fat women so, so well.