Review: Faith #3

It feels like Jody Houser is really hitting her stride in this issue. While every issue of Faith has felt uplifting, this particular issue, where Faith shares her passion for fandom with her boyfriend Archer, from the Archer and Armstrong series, feels like it hits the right combination of nerd references and positive messaging. Instead of just making allusions to pop-culture, Faith takes it upon herself to throw in con tips for the would be con goer. I feel like this makes sense for the character. It gives her an outlet to express her enthusiasm in a way that doesn’t feel like pandering to the audience. It is a great technique that puts her first-hand experience of fandom and her belief of inclusivity on display. She feels more like a fan for having advice rather than just having knowledge about the culture. faith_003_cover-a_wadaAs for the plot of the story, it is an out of left field caper that you would expect from a Faith comic set at a date at a con. There are a series of robberies which Faith and Archer must stop in order to save the con. It feels looser than the first two issues. Again, there is this old school feel to the plotline, like anything can and probably will happen. It’s refreshing to find a book that puts that freedom front and center in its story arcs.

Pere Perez and Andrew Dalhouse also feel like they have incorporated a looser style than the one used in previous issues. The layouts in this book are great. What the characters are doing and wearing, in addition to the setting, are all reflected in the layouts. I especially liked the steampunk borders on the first page as well as the fantasy sequence done by Marguerite Sauvage. There is also a funny gag in the Artist Alley sequence that you might be able to spot if you're looking closely. In terms of art, I think this might have been one of the best of the three. In the last issue there were a few problems with the text and thought boxes being a little too similar to decipher, but in this issue every thought and word is clear.

This issue feels like everyone is hitting all of their marks at full steam. The plot was well paced, the character voices and interactions were superb, and the art is the most creative I’ve seen it the three issues. Faith continues to be one of the best feel good comics on the shelves.

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Faith #3 Writer: Jody Houser Artist: Pere Perez and Marguerite Sauvage Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing: Print/Digital


Review: The X-Files: Origins #1

You might be turned off by the limp, marketing-focused title of this mini-series. That would be a shame because I'll go ahead and say at the start here that X-Files: Origins has a lot of promise for previous fans of the franchise as well as for newcomers. The book wisely splits itself into two equal parts, spending time with each of the series' leads in their younger days. The TV series played up the tension between Dana Scully's religious faith and her role as the official rational skeptic. In young Dana, we see a curious idealist who is confronted by a seemingly random act of brutality that could go ignored if not for her inquisitive mind. The issue touches on aspects of Scully's adult personality without filling its pages with annoyingly overt references. Origins wastes no time before establishing the role Catholicism plays in the girl's life. And it's probably somehow telling that her first taste of tragedy is connected to the church.

XFiles_OriginsFox Mulder's half of Origins takes place shortly after the mysterious disappearance of his younger sister. He's convinced he cannot tell any adults about his suspicions regarding what was, in his mind, the abduction of Samantha Mulder. There's an amusing bit that references adult Fox's need to stand apart from other conspiracy theorists. Other than his selective skepticism, young Mulder lacks the overt rebellious streak that characterizes his adult self. This Fox is a good kid, afraid to cause trouble for his parents, filled with guilt over not being able to protect his sister. Hopefully, Origins delves into his growth with a delicate touch; being too heavy-handed with Mulder could result in some unintended parody. The writing does a good job setting Fox apart from his peers, making it clear that, to him, most relationships are transient. You get the clear impression that losing Samantha was a major blow to his world view.

The art might seem like an odd or inappropriate choice for an X-Files book. It's very clean and bright in a way that goes against conventional portrayals of this franchise. However, the setting, time period, and tone justify a more cartoonish style of rendering that simultaneously contrasts nicely with some of the darker events taking place. As kids, Dana and Fox are cushioned from the uglier aspects of crime. And, of course, it will be decades before either character truly faces a more insidious darkness covering the world. The overall look is of young adult fiction, but the book doesn't suffer at all from kid-oriented visuals. Howell's art seems particularly suited to shift into a more horror-themed atmosphere if called upon to do so.

I'm excited about this book, as a casual fan of the television series and as a reader of speculative fiction. The pacing of each half is very efficient, packing a not insignificant amount of backstory into the framing narration. There're fun and suspense in decent amounts. And I can imagine the twist and turns of the plot being very engaging.

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The X-Files: Origins #1 Writers: Jody Houser and Matthew Dow Smith Artists: Chris Fenoglio and Corin Howell Colorist: Monica Kubina Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $4.99 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital


Review: Faith #2

Faith #2 picks up right where #1 left off. More setup heavy than it’s predecessor, the pacing suffers from a bit too much telling instead of showing. Great art and character development come in and save the issue. The final result is a good comic that focuses on setting up a cast for future issues. Spoilers Ahead. This issue opens up with Faith trapped by her celebrity crush (and potential arch-nemesis) Chris Chriswell. In his drawn out monologue, we learn his tragic back-story as an actor wanted to play the villain but was doomed to be cast as a hero. As villain origin stories go, it’s up there on the wacky scale. It’s one of the ways this issue feels like an old golden age book. His monologue and his use of hired goons with a gimmick are both are classic comic book tropes. There is even a panel dedicated to him pouring a glass of wine only to throw it to the ground in the following panel. But while writer Jody Houser seems to be embracing these old tropes for her villain, all of her other characters FAITH_002_COVER-A_WADAsubvert their traditional role. For instance, later in the issue Klara, a character who under normal circumstances would remain in the dark about Faith’s superhero identity, actually pieces together the truth off panel. This kind of agency given to a side character reflects a change in the traditional dynamics of superhero and sidekick. By giving Klara the Tim Drake treatment, Houser presents her as a fully formed character with a life beyond the issue. I hope this type of out of the box thinking continues to be the norm in shaping other side characters in the series.

As for Faith herself, Houser continues to try to make the character likable, sometimes coming across as forced. Throughout the issue, Faith constantly alludes to different aspects of nerddom and the result is hit or miss. Sometimes they come across as genuine, but others feel shoehorned. Houser’s experience writing TV also affects her portrayal of Faith. The overarching voiceover/blog entry is pretty common TV trope, and Houser utilizes it in this issue. The result is a bit muddled. With the narration switching between internal character thoughts to blog entry without any announcement. It’s something that would only be a problem in comics since on TV we never hear the characters thoughts and any voiceover is almost instantly assumed to be some form of narration elsewhere. Yet, despite these small slips in the issue, Faith is still likable and genuine. You still want her to succeed and find the home she’s trying to find.

Pere Perez and Marguerite Sauvage are the art team on this series, and as far as house styles go, their interpretation of the Valiant house style is one of the best.

They make an excellent team. Their portrayal of Chris Chriswell is one of the best scowling, rage-filled villains I’ve seen. Layouts are also done well, providing some interesting configurations, but never distracting from the story. As I said earlier, this issue was a lot of monologues, but while the pace may have slowed during that portion of the issue, the art never sits back. The Chris Chriswell’s backstory pages are well done and interesting, keeping the reader intrigued throughout. They also excel in the few fight scenes they are given, fully capturing the ridiculous chaos of fighting a gang of look-alikes.

This issue has great art, decent pacing, and intriguing plot developments. It struggles in the beginning, telling us more than it shows, but by the end of the issue, there is a sense of beginning. Houser is still finding her feet, and that shows in this issue. But overall the issue is still a good time. There is a lot of hope in this issue, and I think it provides a lot of hope for the series. As I was reading, I kept thinking, “This is how it starts, this is how the story begins.” Now we get to see where it goes.

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Faith #2 Writer: Jody Houser Artist: Pere Perez and Marguerite Sauvage Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Format: Print/Digital