I, like many others, was a huge fan of the Faith miniseries.
I have an enormous amount of faith (ha!) and trust in Jody Houser, and as a fan, I was excited for Faith to get her own ongoing. And with Houser at the helm, narratively speaking, I was fairly confident that I wouldn’t have anything to worry about–and I was right. Faith #1 absolutely delivers. And while it’s definitely a continuation of the miniseries, new fans can also pick up the story from here–and then buy the miniseries as a trade paperback, which is also out on Wednesday.
The other Faith-related comic out Wednesday is the highly publicized first date between Obediah Archer of Archer and Armstrong. I haven’t been reading A&A, but I did read A&A #5 so I could compare how that creative team handles her compared to Houser and Pere Perez. Valiant has been really supportive of Faith as a hero as a company, so even if it feels like they’re trying to capitalize on Faith’s popularity by having her go on a date Archer, I’m willing to forgive it. Superheroes have been dating each other for decades, and I’m pretty sure the X-Men are just one polyamorous relationship at this point. And there is a serious lack of fat women who love themselves dating beefy men who don’t denigrate them for it. Not to mention older women with younger guys. So, seeing Faith pair up with Archer to be badasses? I could be into it.
But I’m already disappointed by this variant cover that goes for the more “comical” Big Woman And Skinny Man trope, verging on Brawn Hilda.
But back to Faith #1. One of the things that Faith being turned into an ongoing does in addition to being positive fat representation is give Houser an opportunity to do some more world-building, and she absolutely excels at it. I don’t know for sure whether she had this character arc in mind when she created Chris Chriswell, but I find it absolutely delightful. Especially after seeing Ghostbusters. I know Chris Criswell isn’t Chris Hemsworth, but he would totally play him in a movie.
I have mixed feelings about the artwork. Let me preface by saying that I am a big fan of the way that they chose to split artistic duties between Frances Portela and Marguerite Sauvage, with Sauvage’s beautiful, idealized artwork representing Faith’s fantasy life–her dream self. What’s so wonderfully empowering about this is that Faith doesn’t see herself idealized as a skinny girl. But the idealized form she dreams about is an idealized fat body–the kind that gets described as curvy. But the only reason this works is that it’s Faith’s fantasies about herself–and who wouldn’t want to imagine themselves as being drawn by Sauvage? One of the best things about Sauvage’s progression in the Faith comics has been her increasingly gorgeous and wonderful uniform variations. As someone who really dislikes Faith’s standard uniform, Sauvage’s designs are like cosplay eyecandy.
Portela’s artwork was the “real life” counterpoint to this artwork. It struck a lot of chords with real fat girls around the world precisely because our bodies were shown in a comic in a way that was real. Faith wore the same kind of clothes that actual fat women wear. The kind you can actually find and buy and put together a closet cosplay, if you were so inclined. It was real representation and it broke all the rules for fat girls. Artists in comics change all the time. And although I was disappointed that Portela wouldn’t be continuing on with the rest of the Faith crew in her ongoing title, Perez has been around for awhile, and he drew some of the Stephanie Brown era Batgirl, which automatically makes me like him.
My main concern was whether Perez was going to be able to handle drawing real fat bodies doing things that real fat people do, and I think he does that. It’s tonally and stylistically similar to what you find in the miniseries in terms of framing, and Perez handles Faith’s body, and the bodies of most of the other women, just fine, although the outfits he chooses for Faith-as-Summer make me question his fashion sense whereas Portela’s made me feel empowered, because they were real outfits you’d see a young professional in LA wear. I miss Portela a little bit, if only for the clothes.
But I want to applaud Perez for obviously stepping out of his comfort zone when it comes to body type, because it does seem like he’s much more at home drawing heavily muscular women and men doing superhero type things than drawing a fat girl hanging out on her bed Skypeing with someone. But since that’s still what the majority of comics are, that’s understandable. And even though I do miss Portela’s artwork, the most important aspect of Faith is being maintained, and that makes me happy, because it means that maybe comics is getting it, when we talk about body positivity and needing more body type variation in comics. Or at least Valiant is, and that kind of gives me hope for comics in general.