A common criticism leveled against superhero comics concerns representation of female characters. It is a wholly accurate assessment that a vast majority of women in modern comics are presented in an overtly objectified manner, often to a startling degree. Luckily, there have been great pushbacks against this tired trope in various forms, such as the Hawkeye Initiative.
But why preface my review with this concept? Because there are examples of modern comics that are also fighting to break out of this box. Arguably the best recent example is Faith from Valiant’s Harbinger title, an overweight, comic book nerd with an uplifting personally and desire to do what’s right rather than what’s convenient. Finally, this fan favorite character has taken flight in her own one-shot, Harbinger: Faith #0!
Faith #0 tells two stories simultaneously, flashing between Faith’s youth as she explores her passion for comics while grappling with her first crush, and her modern adventures after aiding in the Battle of Mexico City during the events of Armor Hunters: Harbinger. In the present, Faith and her boyfriend Torque return to the United States where they have become icons. Each, however, has a different view of what to do about their new found fame. As their relationship experiences a rocky point, Faith is presented with a decision that will alter the course of her life.
Harbinger scribe Joshua Dysart continues his chronicle of psiot adventures at the helm of this publication. Faith #0 is a character story at its core, and Dysart does superb work exploring Faith’s personality and defining her motivations. Faith’s inner monologue, partially portrayed through a series of messages on her Twitter account, defines her unique view of heroism.
Dysart also provides a gripping story about Faith and Torque’s relationship. As this is the first time either of them has been involved with a significant other, the two struggle as difficult choices are thrust upon them. Their relationship feels realistic, as moments of strife follow times of deep emotional resonance. I was very invested in the Faith/Torque dynamic while reading, and the finale of this issue powerfully caps things off.
One potential pitfall of this issue is back story. While this comic is advertised as a one-shot, readers unfamiliar with events that occurred in both Harbinger and Armor Hunters: Harbinger may be confused. Dysart does decent work summarizing the events, but I still wonder if they may not understand some segments. Still, at the very least this comic may whet new readers’ appetites to go back and read those comics.
Artist Robert Gill, who himself worked on Armor Hunters: Harbinger, returns to chronicle Faith’s adventures. Facial expressions are Gill’s best attribute, and he really piles on the emotions in scene after scene. Clever character and panel placing also succeeds in delving into the emotional story woven throughout this issue.
I was especially pleased to see Gill draw some special guests who show up as holograms towards the comic’s end; to my knowledge, he hasn’t drawn them in the past, and it was great to see his superb take on these characters. Colorist Jose Villarubia lends a strong palette to the issue, though some of the coloring choices didn’t mesh perfectly. Letterer Dave Sharpe, as always, provides solid work.
There are a few moments where the art falters a bit, such as one scene where the angle of Torque’s cap is distracting. Otherwise, however, the artwork in this comic is spot-on and really showcases how far Gill has advanced as an artist during his time with Valiant.
Harbinger: Faith #0 is a very enjoyable comic, that’s especially notable for portraying a non-traditional comic book heroine as its headliner. If you don’t already love Faith, you certainly will after reading this comic. Valiant assembled a stellar team for this issue, and their work certainly paid off.
-excellent exploration of a non-traditional comic book superhero
-amazing character development and interactions
-though a stand-alone issue, may be difficult to follow for those unfamiliar with Harbinger and Armor Hunters: Harbinger
-art is weak in a few scenes
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