This Wednesday, Noble Causes #32 hits the stands. It’s been months since issue #31 came out, but it’s been even longer in the Nobles’ world, as five years have passed. Jay Faerber was nice enough to e-mail me a sneak preview, so I figured I’d remind you about what is one of the most enjoyable superhero books out there.
As it’s been a while since an issue showed up, Faerber wisely uses a tried-and-true device to bring us up to speed: a news report. The Nobles have always been media-savvy, and in this issue, they fight villains in front of the camera, which allows Faerber to re-introduce and, in some case, introduce us to the family. Doc has a new wife who brought two super-powered kids along with her, and Zephyr is now married to Slate Blackthorne, once an enemy of the Nobles. The first ten pages of the book are a fight scene, allowing us to see the Nobles in action, both on their own and as a team. Yildiray Cinar, who is a very good superhero artist, illustrates it all with flair and frenetic energy, and it’s a fine introduction to the team (although there’s a villain with flames on his arms who is actually called “Firearm,” which is a bit goofy).
Then Faerber shows the team back home, in this case a private island in the Pacific. Faerber introduces a new character, Amy Wells. Surge, Doc Noble’s stepson, is her boyfriend, and she’s visiting the island for the first time, which again gives Faerber the opportunity to get us further into the world of the Nobles without being too obvious. Amy’s appearance brings up the only thing I didn’t like about this issue: the absence of Liz Donnelly, Race Noble’s wife. She’s mentioned a few times, because Amy compares her situation – the non-powered girlfriend in a family of superheroes – to Liz’s, but all we get is that Liz is no longer around. I’m sure it will be part of the ongoing story of the book, but I also hope that Faerber doesn’t leave it for too long – Liz is the fulcrum of the comic, because she can view the Nobles with an outsider’s eye, and without her, it’s more difficult to relate to the characters. The good thing, of course, is that Faerber has done such a good job creating these characters that we don’t necessarily need Liz, but as the last story arc showed, she’s still very important to the family. One of the interesting things about leaping forward five years is that it allows Faerber to fill in the blanks, so we’ll see where that goes.
There’s a typical superhero cliffhanger ending, but as with the rest of the comic, it works, because Faerber has, over the past six years or so, done such a good job building up this world. The surprise isn’t all that surprising, but it’s still presented well and leads into the first major problem of the relaunch. But that’s for another issue!
Luckily, I also read issue #33. See how I care about you guys? Issue #33 highlights some of the strengths that we’ve come to love about this book, namely the soap opera aspects of it. There’s some of that in #32, especially between Doc and Rusty, who’s acting more like a robot all the time, but in issue #33, we get a situation with Slate’s sister, a nice moment between Doc’s stepdaughter and Rusty, and a focus on Frost, who has rehabilitated his reputation and is now a hero in Crown Pointe, the Nobles’ city. Is Doc jealous of Frost? Does he really believe that Frost is now a swell guy? And do the rest of the Nobles really believe that too? This underlying tension leads to another superhero staple: the fight between heroes! Yay! Cinar again shines, especially with the fight, as the combatants blast away at each other. Faerber, whose pacing on these comics is wonderful, ends with a disturbing image of one family member standing triumphant over another.
Noble Causes is one of the best superhero books out there. A lot of people don’t buy it because they’re not familiar with the characters, which is silly, or because they don’t like Faerber. Well, I can see that, because Faerber from ten years ago would probably not have made this a great comic. Faerber has gotten much better at his craft, and he gives us characters who are believable (within the framework of a superhero world, of course) and a lot of drama and excitement. If you’ve never read Noble Causes or read it a while ago and dropped it, this is a great place to start. The two issues give you enough information about the family to keep up, some dynamic art, and some kick-ass action. And no Skrulls! That has to be a selling point, right?