If you haven’t been reading Valiant’s comic book series Faith, you literally need to press the pause button and go do it right now (well, not right now – you should finish reading this blog first).
The comic (written by Jody Houser, art by Marguerite Sauvage and Francis Portela), stars Faith Herbert, an online content writer known to the world as the superhero Zephyr. Faith made her initial appearance in Valiant’s Harbinger series as a teen who is recruited into the Harbinger Institute, and later escapes with the Harbinger Renegades to battle their former mentor.
The most immediately obvious, awesome thing about Faith is that she’s the only plus-size superhero with her own comic book series. The importance of this really can’t be stressed enough. We hear so much about the necessity of increasing female representation in comics (and in pretty much all entertainment media), but it’s not about just throwing in a few hot chicks. It’s about creating female characters who are representative of real-life women – characters who have emotional depth, strength beyond just the physical, and intelligence. And it’s about developing female characters who don’t set impossible standards or make female readers and viewers feel inadequate.
At the same time, the comic isn’t obsessed with the fact that Faith is plus-size. To often, those in the entertainment world will use representation as a marketing ploy, but Faith doesn’t do this. There’s more to the character than her body type. In fact, she doesn’t really mention her weight at all — she just goes about the business of doing her superhero thing like it’s totally normal for a plus-size woman to do all the things that other people do — because, of course, it is.
Faith is also a lot of fun because the protagonist herself is an unapologetic fangirl. She’s constantly making references to her favorite fandoms – like the X-Men, Back to the Future, Star Wars, Buffy, Lord of the Rings, and more. So as readers, we can totally see ourselves in Faith. She’s like us, if we were suddenly given superpowers.
Because of that, Faith exudes a sense of joy that makes you love her. It’s like she’s getting to live out the fantasy of being a superhero that she had as a kid. Whereas there are some superheroes who get mired down in the dark side of fighting evil, Faith seems to genuinely get a kick out of it – even with the road gets bumpy.
And the story itself plays on traditional superhero tropes. Faith, in an attempt to follow in the shoes of the likes of Clark Kent, decides to become a journalist. But because journalism is supposedly dying, she ends up taking a job as an online content writer. And of course, she fights aliens who are trying to take over the world – but the aliens turn out to be famous Hollywood actors, writers, and producers.
Faith isn’t the only interesting female character in the series. In particular, I was impressed by the treatment of Sidney. Initially, we think she’s just going to be a vapid reality TV star, playing out the stereotype of the spoiled, empty-headed starlet. I admit, I was a little disappointed when I read Sidney’s first scene. But she turns out to be a smart, vicious, evil alien, who has been essentially satirizing the tired, old stereotype all along.
So if you’re a fan of female protagonists, superhero stories, or comics that are just plain good, I highly recommend Faith. Volume 1, which collects issues 1 – 4, went on sale earlier this week.
And if you read Faith and fall in love with Jody Houser like I did, check out her Orphan Black comics. And stay tuned for The X-Files: Origins, which will be released in August by IDW, and will be co-written by Houser and Matthew Dow Smith.