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Faith #5

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By Jody Houser, Meghan Hetrick, Andrew Dalhouse, Marguerite Sauvage, Louise Simonson, Pere Perez, Rafer Roberts, Colleen Doran, David Baron

Faith #5 arrives with a bit of a fracas. Deemed the “Election Special,” this oversized issue boasts forty-eight pages and three stories including one written by the esteemed Louise Simonson.  Her contribution has proven controversial due to its timely political subject matter. Valiant has based its universe on the world outside your window, so in this regard, the upcoming election is fair game.

This issue has been unfairly maligned before even hitting the shelves, largely because of a cover which features Faith and the Democratic presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton. Some decried their character choice. Others cried foul over the inclusion of politics into the comic medium. But there’s already a precedent for including politics in comics – Captain America and World War II propaganda, for example.

Our reviews normally exclude spoiler information, but review is deviating from that format to put readers’ fears to rest regarding the intentions of the Clinton story. There is absolutely no political posturing or endorsements. Faith is assigned to cover a Hillary Clinton address – note that it is Faith and not her alter-ego blogger, Summer. Why Faith? As her boss says, Faith is the female superhero of the moment, and Clinton is the female candidate. For what it’s worth, Faith herself doesn’t want to wade into politics, and Simonson uses this experience as an example of what this election has become to many “news” sources: entertainment fodder.

Remember MTV’s Rock The Vote campaign? This story serves a similar purpose. Simonson uses Faith’s blog piece as a means of conveying the importance of voting – regardless of whom you vote for. Clinton is a minor character who only interacts with Faith at the end, after Faith has saved countless lives. It’s an optimistic story about our democratic process, written in Faith’s enduringly optimistic point of view.

If anything, the uproar about the cover has shown just how clever Valiant’s marketing team is. If this issue is even half as successful as Marvel’s Spider-Man/Obama issue, then they’ve done their job well.

For being new to the Valiant universe, Simonson has a good understanding of Faith’s personality, and the depiction rings true. The believability may falter for some readers when (SPOILER) Livewire and X-O Manowar arrive on the scene. It’s not easy to reconcile that they would rush to California to assist Faith in apprehending criminals, even if one was a psiot. Was G.A.T.E. involved or was this a personal favor?  It’s not apparent why they were even needed for the story given their brief interaction, and their manner of speaking seemed slightly off, particularly X-O’s voice. The story is tied together, however, with Faith’s blog article, which is written over the panels of her adventure like a monologue.

Artist Pere Perez illustrates Simonson’s story, crafting a winsome Faith and an appropriately aged Clinton. His storytelling skills are top-notch as usual.

The main story is written by Jody Houser. This is one of the most interesting Faith stories yet, introducing an enigmatic new player as well as threats on multiple fronts. Houser’s Faith gets better with each issue. The character has evolved from the sometimes overwhelming pop-culture name-check of the miniseries into a more natural, nuanced personality. In addition, the gravitas of Faith’s adventures is increasing. This is the first time that it feels as if Faith is truly at risk, and this tension makes the story more compelling.

Artist Megan Hetrick takes over as penciler for the series. Her style is a good fit for the series, and her storytelling skills are excellent. The panels flow smoothly, and her take on the iconic Faith is done well. No over-exaggeration of body type. Faith is depicted realistically and attractively. Artist Marguerite Sauvage once again contributes the fantasy sequences in her beautiful style. Colorist Andrew Dalhouse rounds out the team, creating bright and colorful scenes that mimic real world color but are somehow brighter, just like Faith’s outlook.

The final story of the book is written by Rafer Roberts of A&A and the upcoming Harbinger: Renegade. Roberts has an excellent sense of humor and deploys it in subtle ways in this otherwise more serious story. Take note of the criminals and their garb for starters for a prime example. One quibble readers may have is the contradictory statements between this piece and Simonson’s regarding others helping Faith. In Simonson’s piece, @x calls Livewire and X-O to assist Faith, and they dutifully respond. In Roberts’ piece, Faith feels pressured because no one else will answer @x’s call for help. This may be due to the stories happening in different time periods. There’s no indicator of when they occur relative to each other. This story is meant to be a prelude to the upcoming Renegade series. As it stands, this lack of help sets a precedent for how Faith is coping with her undertaking as a solo hero, and it introduces a bit of the issues arising from the revelation of psiots. Above all else, it speaks to Faith’s character regarding her sense of morality and responsibility.

Artist Colleen Doran illustrates the story. Once again, the storytelling is done well with smooth panel flow. Her most effective work are the panels with the close-ups of Faith and another character. These panels in particular are full of emotion. Colorist David Baron paints with a light hand, using a simpler color scheme that fits with Doran’s illustrations.

The artistry throughout the book is unique enough to each other that there is no confusion when another story begins. Each artist has their own recognizable style, yet they all seem to work well with the tone of the book and complement one another. The coloring follows suit as well, with the stories sharing similar traits yet remaining unique.

Faith #5 features notable writers and artists. There are some minor issues that disrupted complete immersion. Otherwise, this is a traditional Faith book filled with the optimism and good heart of one of comic’s most admirable new heroes. It introduces a viable new threat and hints at what is to come for our intrepid hero and encourages readers to be an active part of the government process. This should definitely be added to your Faith collection, and if past performance is any indicator, will likely sell out given its inclusion of relevant political persona.

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