As 2017 begins to unfold, Nothing But Comics draws its coverage of 2016 to an end with my list of Best Single Issues. All entries are listed alphabetically by title.
Back in January Valiant launched a new solo min-series for Faith Herbert, aka Zephyr. This was great news for those of us who have been happily following her adventures ever since Joshua Dysart reintroduced her to readers in the pages of his Harbinger series. Two weeks ago, Valiant announced that demand for Faith had proven so strong that not only would her story be continuing, but it would be upgraded from a sequel mini to a new ongoing title. This is no small accomplishment, as Faith will be the first ongoing female solo title published by the current iteration of Valiant. As such, the new series, which will retain writer Jody Houser, represents another successful step forward for diversity in comics. However, it also points to another trend that has been occurring recently: a shift in the tone of storytelling. Ever since Alan Moore asked “Who Watches the Watchmen?” and Frank Miller pondered the last act of The Dark Knight’s career, the medium has been dominated by the grim and gritty archetype. At its height in the 90s, the prominence of such figures somehow achieved self-parody (cough, Az-Bats, cough) without losing their popularity. To this day, a new creative team’s pledge to “strip our hero down to nothing and see what makes him (or her) tick” is frequently cited as a fresh approach to counter lackluster storytelling. It’s not. Which does not mean that it cannot work, only that there is nothing groundbreaking about it. Instead, a new generation of heroines, including Zephyr, are helping redefine superheroes for a new generation of readers.
By Jody Houser, Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage & Andrew Dalhouse
It is no secret that I am a fan of Joshua Dysart’s Harbinger in general and the character of Faith Herbert (aka Zephyr) in particular. Created by Jim Shooter and David Lapham in 1992 for the original Harbinger series, she blossomed in the pages of Dysart’s revival title. She quickly became the heart of the loose collection of comrades known as The Renegades. Her plucky can-do spirit was contagious (a trait she shares with other recent breakout female characters such as Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl). Following the dissolution of the Renegades, she has bounced around various corners of the Valiant Universe (fighting alien invaders in Mexico and serving a brief stint with Unity). Now she is trying to settle into a new routine, living on her own in Las Angeles while still pursuing her high-flying adventures.
This is the set-up for Valiant’s new Faith limited-series. The first issue spent a fair amount of time (re)introducing the character to readers, ending the chapter on an explosive cliffhanger. As the smoke clears in the opening to #2, Faith is feeling a little dejected. She was able to save several civilians, yet the bad guys got away. She should feel positive about what has happened, but, cannot help dwelling on her failure. Faith grew up on comic books and geek culture; in fact, they are the main connection between her and her deceased parents. Even after all her experiences as Zephyr, she still wishes that life worked the way it did in classic four-color spandex days. Bystanders thank her, police detective ask her for leads. “They know how the story is supposed to go.” So, why does Zephyr feel as though she cannot play her part?
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.