It’s three months later and the final installment of the first story arc of Faith, “Hollywood & Vine”, has come to a close. My high expectations for the inaugural issue were met with flying colors, and I’m happy to report that these colors are still bright and vibrant three issues later. So, if you don’t want to get spoiled, here’s my TL;DR summary: if you’re looking for a refreshingly optimistic outlook on superheroes and regular people, or an interesting plotline that doesn’t go where you think it’s going to, definitely give Faith a shot. For everything else, spoilers below the cut.
Where last we left off in Valiant’s story of the life and times of this superhero-psiot, Faith had gotten a job while still keeping her superheroing going in a “by day, mild mannered mundie, by night totally awesome hero” fashion. Although being a hero still wasn’t all that it seemed when she was young. Following the trail of several missing psiots, Faith and her friend fellow Harbinger Ax were no closer to figuring out who was behind said disappearances when suddenly the house Faith was investigating blew up. Facing troubles at work from her late-night hero-ing, Faith is assigned the task of writing a scathing review of her ex’s new reality show. Although she’s not trying to get involved back in John’s life, she still visits him, not to berate him, but to appeal for his help in finding these missing kids. However, John refuses to help. Unfortunately, not only does Faith’s editor punch up her review to be much nastier than Faith originally wrote, it seems some of the strange-suited bad guys found out where she worked and have come to take her out of the picture for good. She manages to fell the assailants, but not without them spontaneously combusting on her, and not without her secret identity being revealed to all her co-workers.
In a much needed stroke of luck, all of her co-workers are pretty cool with it and promise to keep it a secret. Not long after, Faith/Summer Smith is asked to conduct an interview with an actress from one of her favorite sci-fi shows, but when she arrives it’s soon revealed that the actress knows she’s Zephyr, and that they’re not going to be talking about the show. The actress, Hadley Scott, knows where the abducted psiots are being kept and wants Faith to save them from a terrible fate. Oh yeah, also she’s an alien, and part of an alien cult called The Vine. The Vine came to earth once before, but many of them died during the “cultural exchange”. Now, further assimilated into human life and culture and under new management, it seems they’re abducting psiots to brainwash them and utilize their powers to get back at the human race for their previous transgressions. So alongside Hadley and Archer, the three of them infiltrate The Vine’s stronghold, battling against the brainwashed psiots—now with Faith’s ex among them—and attempting to convince their leader to stand down. While The Vine is eventually subdued (without killing), John’s girlfriend, who just so happened to also be a member of The Vine, is nowhere to be found, leaving a mystery for another day.
I just need to reiterate that I loved this story arc: it gave such a clear rundown of what not only the series, but also the characters themselves, are about, without laying on the exposition like chunky peanut butter. While the subject matter itself is not particularly the most cheery thing, Faith manages to come to a conclusion that seems to be more optimistic than many other superhero comics, in my experience. It’s nice to see Faith put so much… well, faith in the people she interacts with, always hoping that they’ll act in a way that promotes peace rather than more conflict, and appealing to people’s inherent goodness. I do wonder if in the future there will be an arc where her stance on non-lethal solutions is tested, but if there is, I really hope they manage to approach it without completely breaking Faith and the people around her down to a puddle of trauma.
Speaking of which, the way the writers deal with Faith’s lingering trauma over her entire superhero life is compelling. Faith still harbors a lot of regrets and fears over the mistakes she’s made in the past and the mistakes she seems certain she’ll make in the future. Saving some people isn’t enough because if she was faster or better she could have saved more people. Though it hasn’t been acutely delved into (yet?), from the panels of Faith’s innermost thoughts, it’s obvious that she really is struggling with the fact that she won’t be able to save everyone. She guilts herself over being excited to interview one of her favorite actresses because she could be spending the time searching for more clues as to the whereabouts of the missing psiots. One of the reasons I’m interested in seeing how this goes—if she’ll continue to be able to manage or will break down under the pressure she puts on herself—is because I know she has an amazing support network, and undoubtedly it will get larger as the series goes on.
I have one minor worry, though, and that’s about John’s now-ex-girlfriend, Sidney. She was the one member of The Vine who managed to escape, which seems to clearly spell out that she’ll be returning later. I certainly don’t have a problem with villains who are women, but I do when they’re tropey. We don’t know much about Sidney right now except that she’s attractive and kind of an asshole, and it does almost seem like the writers are gearing up for a “unconventionally pretty nice girl versus conventionally mega hot bitch” showdown. I’m not sure how much I have to worry about this, since writer Jody Houser seems more about building up people, especially women, rather than pitting them against each other. But, it’s still a comic produced in America, and so, in turn, I still worry.
In the next story arc, I truly hope to see more characters of color, especially women of color, kicking ass and existing in the world—I’m still holding out for a superpowered team-up. Or even just some more input and interaction from Ax. And even while Archer is still kind of boring—although super skilled with all weapons ever apparently—I also look forward to seeing his relationship with Faith bloom into something cute and supportive and hopefully not some “Ha ha! You thought I loved you, but I’m actually evil!” bullshit. But until July, I’ll just have to keep faith. (Sorry. It’s so hard to resist.)