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, Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage, Andrew Dalhouse, Dave Sharpe, Joe Quinnones
Valiant Comics’ characters can often feel like a mix of new and old archetypes, not surprising since as far as I know most are only 25+ years old at this point. While parts of the old can feel a bit cliche, its the addition of the new that makes their characters so refreshing. Faith being such a character.
Having no experience with the Harbinger section of the Valiantverse, I had no immediate clue as to what Faith’s role or powers would be. This issue does a succinct and approachable job explaining both of those aspects as well as introducing Faith to the world.
In many ways, Faith falls under the category of “Fangirl”. She makes jokes and references to characters she knows by heart from their comics (which by association goes for most of the people who read this comic), she has a youthful and optimistic attitude and its these qualitites that make her feel authentic. Not that the sunny, bubbly female personality is a first in comics, but in Faith’s case it speaks to me because I know women like Faith without the psychic powers. What is something of a first is someone of Faith’s physique appearing in a solo title. Despite all the discussions on cheesecake imagery and impossible body proportions, seeing superheroes who don’t resemble statues from Ancient Greece is still a rarity.
On the art side, Portela and Sauvage turn in one of Valiant’s prettiest books of the year. Portela captures the congested traffic of LA along with its shining skyscrapers and Sauvage injects some cartoonish whimsy into some daydream segments that captures Faith’s inner desires for heroic adventures.
Parts of Faith #1 will feel immediately familiar, but those parts are mixed in with playful satire humor as well a marked determination to bring back the heroes of old who saved people because it was the right thing to do (which is in itself a more than valid reason). This miniseries is sure to please devoted Valiant fans as well as those trying the title out of pure curiosity and inexperience with most of Valiant’s past works.
by Fred Van Lente, Francis Portela, Andrew Dalhouse
The end of an epic journey for Ivar and Neela, that is quite literally centuries in the making!
At the end of Time (and Space), near the edge of a Black Hole, hovers Oblivi-1. The fortress where Neela is being held hostage by her future self as she plots to condense all of reality to nothing. Ivar gathers a motley crew together including Armstrong, Gilad, and Amelia Earhart and storms in to stop the end of everything.
One comparison that kept ringing in my mind was the episode of Doctor Who in Season 6 called “Demon’s Run”. The Doctor (himself a near immortal time-traveler with eclectic fashion sense) calls in all of his friends from past seasons for his shining moment as a hero to save his friend at her darkest moment. It’s not a criticism, just an observation that Ivar, Timewalker may be inspired by Doctor Who in this incarnation.
The art by Francis Portela (with assisted inks by Karl Kerschl) is very clean and energetic, carrying all the detail and stakes of a comic event climax but somehow bringing more to the visual narrative. Portela finds various panel structures that would be confusing and out of place in nearly all other comic series, but here, highlight the zany nature of the story.
Van Lente’s script keeps things breezy and funny throughout, with Neela constantly questioning Ivar’s foreknowledge of everything and Ivar playing it off. A big scene happens at the end, which could signify the “end” of Ivar, Timewalker. However, him being a time-traveler it is incredibly unlikely.
A fitting end to the first arc of Valiant’s Ivar, Timewalker relaunch, it has everything fans and newcomers can enjoy about an irresponsible time-traveler saving the universe.
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent