Posted by Don MacPherson on March 27th, 2008
Noble Causes #s 32 & 33
“Family Dynamics” & “Meltdown”
Writer: Jay Faerber
Artist/Cover artist: Yildiray Cinar
Colors: Ron Riley & Ryan Vera
Letters: Charles Pritchett
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US each
You don’t hear people talking about it much these days, but Jay Faerber’s Noble Causes is a super-hero series that merits attention. The market is overflowing with titles featuring costumed crusaders, and it doesn’t seem to support new series without recognizable characters and/or talent. Just look at Marvel’s The Order, a superb super-hero title with strong social commentary and compelling characterization; it’s been cancelled after only 10 issues, and its lack of “name” heroes is no doubt a factor in its demise. Now consider Noble Causes. It features a wholly original cast of characters with no ties to even lesser icons of the genre. And it’s the brainchild of a writer who, although he’s been active in the industry for several years, could hardly be considered a creative star of comicdom. Nevertheless, Jay Faerber has kept his unusual super-hero soap opera going steadily for more than five years now. With his 32nd issue, he’s endeavoring to reignite interest in the book, employing a five-year gap to introduce new characters and shift the tone of the book slightly. After reading the new issue and the next one as well, I’d say Faerber’s got a good shot at boosting readership.
It’s been five years since we’ve seen the Nobles, and the super-hero family has changed a bit. Doc Noble has remarried, bringing a couple of powerful and bright super-stepchildren into the clan. Zephyr has married a one-time super-villain, and Celeste, Rusty’s one-time wife, has remarried as well. Frost has been welcomed into the fold, and Surge, a cocky, impulsive upstart hero, is ready to introduce a new face to his family: his girlfriend, Amy. The Nobles are a more effective force for good than ever, though the heroes are all still adjusting to the new dynamics of the family. Little do they know that a plot has been hatched to destroy them from within.
Faerber’s had some recent success with a different kind of super-hero family book: Dynamo 5, also from Image. It’s a fun read, and its strength stems mainly from the old-school approach to super-hero storytelling. He brought some of that same energy to Noble Causes now. The more grounded soap-opera elements are less prominent, with broader, more exaggerated strokes brought to the character-driven subplots. When Noble Causes debuted, Faerber brought the heroes down to earth by bringing a regular person — a female love interest for the speedster hero — into the mix. That grounded element is no longer here (though Faerber misdirects in #32 by introducing a character who is clearly meant to be reminiscent of Liz Donnelly). To my surprise, it reinvigorates the title, making way for more traditional action and character dynamics. The new tone of the book seems a bit like the Fantastic Four crossed with the X-Men, though Faerber is freer to do what he wants as he’s not hampered by corporate concerns.
This series has something else in common with Dynamo 5 as well. For D5, Faerber teamed with a unknown artist by the name of Mahmud Asrar, introducing readers to a strong new talent whose enthusiasm for the genre shone through on every page. Faerber took the same tack here. Yildiray Cinar’s super-hero artwork is full an a fitting level of energy and personality. His work reminds me of Ron Garney’s and Tom Grummett’s styles a bit. Inconsistencies pop up here and there, as there are a few panels that look rougher than the rest of the book. Overall, though, the storytelling is solid.
The new character designs boast a sleek, modern look, but they also evoke memories of simpler times in the 1960s and ’70s. Cinar has incorporated a number of Kirby influences in the new designs, and they’re sharp. At the same time, they’re not exactly iconic. There’s no distinct image that stands out as a symbol of the Noble brand. It seems to work, though, maintaining the emphasis on the group dynamic rather than any one hero or idea.
Faerber’s script is an accessible one. There are a lot of characters in key roles in this story, but at no point was I lost. Succinct narrative captions introduce all of the heroes and their connections to the Nobles clearly. There’s plenty of pep and personality in the dialogue as well.
The opening scene in #32 really sets the tone for the new direction. It features a colorful collection of super-baddies divvying up some loot. They’re reminiscent of classic DC villains, and the sound trouncing they endure at the hands of the Nobles is just a lot of fun to watch. It’s full of action, and there’s a real sense of excitement and wonder at play. Faerber adopts a more over-the-top approach with this new take on the characters, but it’s really not that dramatic a shift from what he was doing before. 7/10
Note: Noble Causes #32 is slated for release April 16.