In Jody Houser, Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage’s “Faith” #1, Faith Herbert — aka Zephyr — has found herself a new job, a new city and even a new civilian identity. Having survived the events of “Harbinger,” Faith’s positive, upbeat nature gets to truly shine in the southern California sun, rather than serving as a beacon against the darkness. Houser’s Faith is one whose optimism is always at the forefront, whether she’s entrenched in the relative drudgery of her day job or letting her mind wander in one of Sauvage’s delightfully illustrated fantasy sequences.
Readers of Joshua Dysart’s “Harbinger” will recall Faith’s fondness of pop culture, and Houser uses that affinity to place the character in a life of dual personas not unlike Superman. Houser plays it subtle, though; Faith’s decision to adopt a plain, almost dowdy sense of fashion and write for a pseudo-news outlet isn’t overtly referenced as being patterned after Clark Kent’s M.O.; instead, it’s put forth as almost a subconscious decision on Faith’s part. It reads like a subliminal parallel that acknowledges Faith’s interests without coming across like a stereotypical attempt to mimic them. Faith’s chastising boss and likeable cast of coworkers are a believably modernized incarnation of The Daily Planet (or most any newsroom) and are shown just long enough to provide a hint at their personalities, though Houser deftly keeps the focus on Faith.
Portela’s art is crisp and blends nicely with Andrew Dalhouse’s bright, sunny colors, which evoke the optimistic vibe of Houser’s story; Faith looks genuinely confident and happy soaring over the skies of Los Angeles. His rendition of Faith herself is mostly strong, although she tends to look much older than she actually is in many panels; her choice of civilian fashions is more akin to that of a middle aged woman, which might be a deliberate depiction but could easily fool new readers into thinking she’s an older character. Portela’s usage of Kevin Maguire-like extreme facial expressions sometimes seems a little stiff but overall work pretty well in expressing Faith’s outgoing attitude.
Sauvage’s fanciful pages are delightfully wistful and serve as a lighthearted break from Houser and Portela’s main story; although no break is really needed, the sequences are an innocent peek into Faith’s mind, contrasting the fantasy and reality of being a superhero. The diversion is part superheroics, part romance, as she longs for a romantic relationship that her evasive online companion seems hesitant to engage in. This insight into her mind and heart makes her character even more likeable, if such a thing were even possible.
Despite all of the sunshine and happiness, Houser’s story opens up with a darker spin in a sequence that later ties into the psiot’s overall situation in the Valiant Universe, keeping Faith’s story firmly rooted in the same world she seemingly left, and further ties her story into past events by bringing along one of Faith’s fellow former Renegades. “Faith” #1 is a charming continuation of a post-Renegades, post-Unity character who definitely deserved her own series.