Faith and the Future Force trade paperback
Writer: Jody Houser
Artists: Stephen Segovia, Barry Kitson, Diego Bernard; Juan Castro, Card Nord & Brian Thies
Colors: Ulises Arreola
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artist: Kano
Editor: Warren Simons
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Price: $9.99 US
My knowledge of any incarnation of the Valiant Universe is limited; the only Valiant-related title I ever followed with any regularity was The Second Life of Dr. Mirage in the 1990s. As for Faith, despite her significant rise in popularity as a character in the latest Valiant relaunch, I really had no knowledge of her other than her non-traditional body shape for the genre and the fact that she can fly. I’ve been curious about the character, given online chatter I’ve seen, but I generally attributed her higher profile to the fact that she’s a plus-sized character with which segments of the comics-reading audience could identify. Her titular role in Faith and the Future Force and the pleasing campiness of the title prompted me to give it a glance, and I’m pleased that I did. The book serves as a somewhat accessible introduction to the character, and I was surprised and entertained by what I found. Ultimately, some plot elements robs the story of tension, and the ever-shifting art styles found here are off-putting despite being crafted by some solid talent. Despite its flaws, though, this Faith and the Future Force collection is worth a look, especially given the affordable price, which is two thirds of the total cost of the original issues.
A seemingly malevolent robot is destroying reality by wreaking havoc in the past, so Neela, a Timewalker, has recruited Faith Herbert, the flying heroine also known as Zephyr, to help her combat the threat. Faith is up for the adventure, not only because it plays into her pop-culture fantasies, but because she’s had to lay low as of late under another identity because she’s been framed for murder. While Faith’s powers alone aren’t enough to save the day, her connections with so many other heroes make her a great recruiter, but it soon becomes apparent that sheer numbers and power might not be enough to restore reality either.
The biggest liability of this book is the artwork, and that’s surprising, given the lineup of artists who contribute. I’ve always loved the work of Barry Kitson, and Stephen Segovia and Card Nord are no slouches either. Oddly enough, the digital review copy with which I was provided lists only Segovia and Kitson as artists, but it was clear to me from reading the book others contributed as well. Some online research turned up some other contributors to the linework. What hinders the storytelling here — especially when looking at a collected edition of a limited series — is the inconsistency of the artwork. The shifts in styles are quite apparent and a little jarring at times. I was especially puzzled why multiple artists — sometimes as many as three — were needed to complete each chapter. Given that it was done with every issue, perhaps that was an approach the publisher and editors intended, but the changes in mid-action really took me out of the story.
That being said, there’s a lot to like about the visuals in this story. I absolutely love the simple, campy design of the robot that serves as the antagonist throughout the story. The simplicity of the design makes for a consistent depiction. It’s oddly cute yet menacing in appearance at the same time, and somehow, the incredibly basic and inhuman qualities of the design made it believable despite the incredible circumstances of the story. Just about all of the artists did an excellent job of conveying Faith’s earnest and enthusiastic nature.
One of the problems with the plot here is the Groundhog Day approach; we see do-over after do-over in this time-travel story, and it takes away a sense of dramatic tension. Sure, we’re told the more the heroes try again, the greater the damage to reality, but it felt like the first three issues really could’ve been condensed into one. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the unconventional resolution of the robot threat. I really have little knowledge (aside from exposition in the script) of the character Faith brings in to save the day, but fortunately, I really didn’t need it. However, some of the other players — particularly the Renegades, whom are fairly active in the story early in the book — had me scratching my head.
I was surprised to find that the titular heroine still has the codename of Zephyr, but everyone just keeps calling her Faith. I get it, though; “Faith” suits her better, because her real super-power seems to be about instilling faith and hope in those around her. Houser presents her an everywoman, a regular person like the reason who’s living out a fantasy life. She gets to have the adventures she once only read about or viewed in the genre fiction to which she is so devoted. Faith is a surprisingly likeable figure. I came to cheer for her quickly, even though this was my first exposure to the character. She’s fun and positive and light. It would have been nice had the writer or editors provided a bit more of a primer on her abilities; I had to do some online research to figure out what the glowing yellow energy she emitted was all about, for example. But despite the flaws I found in the collection, I completely understand why Faith has proven to be a subculture hit. She’s absolutely meant to represent the readership and serves as the vehicle by which one can experience the wonder of the super-hero genre rather than just observe it. 6/10
Note: This book is slated for release Dec. 19.