By Jody Houser, Pere Perez, Marguerite Sauvage and Andrew Dalhouse
From her debut in the relaunched Valiant, one of the most appealing aspects of Faith Herbert’s personality has been her love of geek culture. How could readers not be charmed by a woman whose initial reaction to gaining superpowers is gleefully declaring “Joss Whedon’s gonna make a freakin’ movie about me starring Christina Hendricks!”? However, the strength of her character goes deeper than quipy pop cultural references. Writer Joshua Dysart gave Faith, aka Zephyr, a tragic backstory which could have come out of many of the superhero comics she readily devoured. Faith, like her fictional idols, learned to rise to the occasion. Her love of being a superhero is more than simply a whim, it is, yes, a sense of great responsibility. Comics gave her a purpose in life, an explanation for why she lived when her parents did not. Comics taught her how to dedicate her life to others.
Writer Jody Houser has continued this theme by keeping Faith’s fandom at the center of her recent solo series. Some of this has involved affectionate gabs taken at the tropes of superheroes trying to maintain a secret identity. In #2 of the ongoing title, Houser offers up another twist by presenting Faith with her very own arch-nemesis. Yes, it could be argued that Faith has one already in the person of Toyo Harada, yet, Harada’s wrath was focused on her as part of a team, The Renegades. If Harada was going to single out any specific member for his fury, it would have been Peter Stanchik, not Faith Herbert. So, after battling an alien conspiracy in her limited series, Faith gets her own personal supervillain in the latest issue and as it turns out, it is a bit personal.
See, for a while now, Faith has been daydreaming about heartthrob actor, Cris Chriswell. Then word came through the grapevine that Cris wanted to meet the young heroine. Naturally, Faith was rather nervous about the encounter, which went much worse than could have expected. Instead of geeking-out in some horribly awkward manner, she gets gassed and wakes up strapped into a death trap. It seems that Cris has been waiting for Faith to gain enough visibility so that he can killer her, inspire a bunch of new heroes to come after him, and essentially raise his profile in the villain community. What is especially clever about this scenario is how it turns Faith’s own origin on its head. Cris talks about his own love of comics as kid, only he kept relating to the villains. As his young mind saw it, the heroes were passive agents. The villains were the ones who made plans, launched schemes and drove the action of the story. “They had desires, drive. Lex, Victor, Wilson . . . There were the men I wanted to be.” If you removed those plotters from the narrative, there would literally be no plot. Unless, you wanted to read twenty-two pages of Superman playing fetch with Krypto.
In 1984, Mike W Barr wrote the classic Batman tale “Player from the Other Side” (Batman Special #1). For “Player,” Barr, along with artist Michael Golden, created Wrath, a villain who darkly mirrored Batman’s backstory. As a child, the Wrath witnessed his criminal parents killed by the police and thus swore eternal war on law enforcement. Houser does something similar here presenting a villain who perverts the ideology of the heroine. As such, he makes strong addition to Faith’s Rogue’s Gallery.
The later part of the issue finds Faith in more of reflective mode. She is beginning to feel the pressures of being a high-profile superheroine, such as being bombarded from all sides with advice on how she could be acting differently. She is worried that she might be losing a grip on her own self. Then, Houser shows how once more how Faith can find solace within fandom. She learns that a woman has hired a costume artist to design a Zephyr cosplay outfit for an upcoming convention. Standing in front of the in-progress costume cuts through the noise, bringing home for Faith how she now serves as an inspiration to others.
Pere Perez returns as the primary artist for the issue. He has a vivid style which suits the story. His renderings of Cris capture both the menace and the ridiculousness of the character. His Faith on the other hand, is full of power in action and poignancy in reflection. Throughout, Perez continues to demonstrate that he is underrated as an artist. Marguerite Sauvage takes a break from illustrating Faith’s fantasy sequences to depict Cris’ origin flashbacks. She brings the same spirit to her pages, though, highlighting a child’s view of the world leading into Cris’ wide-eyed arrival in Hollywood. (“I thought that I could combine my desire to be a supervillain with my love of community theater.”). A montage of his various film roles displays Sauvage’s imagination as well as how the dream of most children is actually Cris’ nightmare.
All in all, this was another delightful installment of Faith’s solo adventures.
Disclosure: Publisher Valiant provided a review copy of this comic to Nothing But Comics without any payment between the site and publisher or agreement on the review’s content.