Current Reviews


Noble Causes: Distant Relatives #1

Posted: Wednesday, September 3, 2003
By: Loretta Ramirez

Writer: Jay Faerber

Artists on “Distant Relatives”: Ian Richardson and Andres Ponce
Artists on “The Ring”: Andie Tong (p), Lebeau Underwood (i)

Publisher: Image

A defiant daughter struts out in a dress too small for a finger puppet. Her mother follows, complaining. The girl juts her chin and pretends not to hear. The mother, equally stubborn, summons lightning as a final warning; she is serious! Having superpowers, clearly, isn’t just handy for saving the world. In this latest, double-story installment of Noble Causes, Jay Faerber continues to explore the effect of superhero status on family dynamics. Illustrated by Ian Richardson, Andres Ponce, and Andie Tong, the lead and back-up stories focus on the Noble family members, who use their powers more for love than for the good of the world.

Although easily labeled a soap opera, Noble Causes delivers more than mundane emotions. It takes passionate storylines and boosts them to an extreme level. Here, when a daughter rebels, she has an affair with a demonic king. When a widow is lonely, she could always leap onto a dimensional transporter to visit an alternate and living version of her dead husband. When a man wants to impress his lady, he slays a dragon. Thus, the scenarios are much grander than those any soap opera diva could aspire to; and the entertainment factor corresponds.

Yet Faerber’s characters are easily accessible. The personalities are both extraordinary and genuine, a balance achieved as the superheroes face real-life problems—unplanned pregnancy, divorce, sibling rivalry, and unrequited love. In the lead story, “Distant Relatives”, Liz Donnely-Noble, the widow of Race Noble, gossips over café lunch about her famous in-laws. And through Liz’s smooth, chatty narrative, readers—new and old—tightly grasp the characters’ essence. Particularly compelling is Frost, the illegitimate and scorned Noble son. His powers, and matching demeanor, are ice. But, as he seeks his real father, a hint of heat surfaces. By the end, Frost is central to the multi-threaded story-arc and leaves readers intrigued as to whether the unwanted son can finally find acceptance.

In the back-up story, “The Ring”, Faerber offers additional insight into the Noble family through a flashback. Brothers, Rusty and Race, and their friend, Krennick, battle a dragon for its tooth, a tooth that Rusty later presents as a wedding ring. This is a poignant story of brotherly bonds and ardent love, which complements “Distant Relatives”. In the lead story, Rusty’s wife has just returned the hard-won ring and his brother is now dead. Thus, Rusty is further underscored as a heart-wrenching, sympathetic character.

Although penciled by three artists, the art is consistent in its focus on character. The world is a negligible stage compared to the character depictions—brimming with energy and emotion. Ian Richardson merges wit, gossip, and sweetness in the sharply arched eyebrows and soft chin of Liz. Andres Ponce focuses on Frost’s violent determination by emphasizing deep tension furrows and rigid shoulders. Most impressive is Andie Tong’s art in “The Ring”. The body language, in itself, tells a story of youth, adventure, and love. Especially well-drawn is the wide-eyed surprise that lingers in Rusty’s face as his future wife answers his marriage proposal with a giddy “yes”.

The Noble Causes creative team has created a large cast of striking personalities. Character-driven and family-focused, this is a unique superhero book where responsibility is neglected, honor trampled, and powers abused—all in the name of love.

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