Review: Faith, Volume 1: Hollywood & Vine

Faith, Volume 1: Hollywood & Vine
Faith, Volume 1: Hollywood & Vine by Jody Houser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I finally got to read this one, and I’ve finally found what I was looking for: a book that tackles an issue of representation WITHOUT FORGETTING TO BE A COMIC BOOK! There’s comic book stuff in here! It’s funny! I really dug it.

What’s not here are speeches about body positivity. Which probably annoys some readers. Indeed, when web sites do write-ups, Faith’s shape is almost always a big part of what they talk about. It’s part of a visual gag on the book’s cover, so I can’t say I blame people for bringing it up, but what I loved about the book is we didn’t get a bullshitty, crammed-in speech about how Faith can be a superhero too. We don’t need it because, throughout the book, Faith IS a superhero. Faith doesn’t need to explain to us how she’s a superhero and how she can be a superhero. She just does superhero shit.

And she does some novel stuff too. The way she handles a situation where she is at risk of having her identity revealed is pretty great. And I would point out some other spots, but I don’t know how without being spoiler-y, so trust me when I say this book is self-aware and plays with superhero tropes, but in a loving, unironic way. It’s also little more romantic than some other books, in a very conscious, soap opera kind of way, which is pretty fun.

Faith is just a fun character. Her inner monologue is funny: “Maybe it’s time for me to put away the costume and put on my investigator hat…I should get an actual investigator hat.” She’s a character you want to spend more time with.

Anyway, I liked this take on the idea of presenting a superhero who doesn’t look typical, but who isn’t then tasked with running around and making speeches about how that’s okay or where she’s pitted against enemies who are using some kind of weird mind control device to make skinny models for their magazine covers or whatever. It’s fine when books are written that way, it’s fine to want that, but to me, it often feels like characters who do that are speaking to jerkoffs on the internet rather than speaking to the book’s potential fans. In other words, I’m not sure who is picking up this book for the purpose of hating on Faith, but fuck em!

And now, after shitting on people for talking about Faith’s shape, I want to talk about Faith’s shape. No, wait. No I don’t. The comic speaks for itself there and does a dynamite job. I want to speak to the folks who are obsessed with Faith’s shape, pro or con, and say a little something as a longtime comics reader and what I think all of this means to the larger world of comics.

As much as we applaud the newer diversity in comics, fat characters haven’t had it easy, and they still don’t.

Blob from the X-Men is probably the first example that comes to most minds. And he’s called “Blob.” So that’s really all you need to know about that. Although I think he’s an interesting case, as are many X-Men, because X-Men usually have a burden of some kind that goes along with their powers. When you’re an X-Man, you don’t necessarily get to be super strong and nearly invulnerable and look like an Adonis.

Bouncing Boy from the Legion of Super Heroes, of course. Although he’s not so much fat. He just inflates his body to be like a beach ball, a power he got from drinking something he thought was a soda. Jesus Christ. If I got a power every time I drank a bottle of chemical I thought was a soda, I’d be like fucking Mimic (Earth-12) by now. In comics, even Wolverine is hairy, 5’3″, and he was tortured in a lab for a good couple years.

Volstagg is kinda awesome. He’s got that whole Viking-y thing going for him. There’s Phat from X-Force/X-Statix, who I think was more stretchy than fat, there’s Big Bertha, who is only big when she’s in superhero form. There’s Nite Owl from Watchmen, who is the original dad bod. Oh, and a personal favorite, Earth-9997 Spider-Man:


When I have an appointment with a personal trainer and he asks about my personal fitness goals, this is the image I’ll show him. I need a body that can kick ass but is also pretty comfy at rest. Fat ripped is my normal descriptor.

Anyway, that’s my roundup. Not a lot to love there.

A lesser reviewer would probably accuse comics of hating fat people. But I don’t know. That discussion isn’t as interesting to me as the larger discussion.

Because let’s face it, comics don’t do a great job here. But neither do movies and TV. We could talk examples all day, but I think it’s pretty clear that for every good character on TV who’s fat, there’s a couple shows where fat people are projects or oddities. When I looked at Academy Award winners for best actors and actresses, it was pretty slim pickings. Goddamn it, I swear, that was not on purpose, and then once I come up with the phrase it’s stuck in my head like a bad song and I can’t think of anything else.

Point being, yes, #OscarsSoWhite. #OscarsSoThin too.

You’d think music would be better, being an auditory medium, but best album Grammys seem to heavily…strongly favor the thins.

Before anyone makes a protest sign, let’s hold up a second and stop pretending that we haven’t ALL been a part of this.

We’re all a bit culpable. Let’s face it, did we not all swoon at certain points during Marvel movies?


Even Captain America is like, “Damn, all that chicken breast and tilapia was worth it!”

Can any of us honestly say we’ve never laughed at a fat joke? Bearing in mind that fat jokes do include self-referential jokes and visual jokes as well? Are you going to tell me you found Chris Farley unfunny and am I going to have to kick you right out of this review and tell you to never come back?

The point is not that we need to continue on the way we have. The point is that we shouldn’t be so surprised that there’s an issue here when we’ve all chipped in, and we can probably all stand to slow our roll a little bit when it comes to the outrage portion of the discussion. The medium of comics can do better, and it is doing better. It just doesn’t move a lot faster than we, as a whole, do, and I think there are ways to discuss these topics without becoming enraged and pointing fingers. I tend to believe that we can be a little kinder, and maybe that will get the better, less defensive response that’s needed.

We’re a little light on fat superheroes. Goddamn it. Not a weight joke.

We’re a little light on fat superheroes, and I feel like Faith is part of the answer.

I can see why some people would want a superhero with a different (for the genre) body shape in a story that’s a little more about their body shape. I can see why this would be true with any sort of diversity, whether it’s gender, sexuality, race or whatever. I can see why that’s desirable and needed.

I also see that sometimes this need overrides other needed things in a story. Like…a story! And especially, in the case of superhero comics, a superhero story.

When I started this review with “Finally” it’s because I’ve read some superhero books that are so excited about their own virtue signaling that they put other stuff on the backburner. Like telling a good superhero story.

Superhero comics without some powers or punching or whatever, superhero comics without great villains, these things are like horror books with more commentary than scariness. Romance without enough romance. Science fiction that isn’t all that science-y.

All comics don’t have to do this stuff. Just like all romance doesn’t have to be gay erotica, not all comics have to be superhero comics. But if you sell your book as gay erotica, and if your book is more about being proud of yourself for writing gay erotica, goddamn it, I’m going to be a little disappointed. That book might be just what someone wants to hear. But it’s also going to bore the ever-lovin’ shit out of some readers who are like, “Let’s get to the fireworks factory already! Where these dudes can have some hot sex! I mean, only hot in the sense of passion. Safety first!”

It’s all about balance, and there’s going to be some trial and error. That perfect balance is going to be different for every reader. And as a longtime comics reader, I encourage other readers to not seek that balance within one single book, but to try and find it by reading a spectrum of titles and finding the balance that way.

With books, it’s like how I feel about friends. You don’t want to have a single friend and expect them to fulfill all your needs. Sometimes you need a friend who is just a good time. Sometimes you need a friend who you can be very serious with. Sometimes you need an old friend who knows you well, and sometimes you need someone new to have drinks with. Sometimes you need a friend who is rich so you can tolerate what an asshole he is in exchange for a couple hours on a yacht. One person can fulfill multiple roles, but one person saddled with fulfilling ALL of those roles is going to let you down at some point.

Faith, to me, provides a part of that balance, and a much-needed part that hasn’t been as well-represented so far.

Faith isn’t necessarily the definitive “fat superhero comic,” and it shouldn’t be. No comic book should be forced to be the one example of any type of person. That sets the book up for failure as failure can be defined as “not fulfilling everyone’s wants.” If that were the case, almost nothing would be successful, and I personally would be a tremendous failure. Even worse than my mom says (she doesn’t say it out loud, but she says it with her eyes. And sometimes in her Christmas cards, which are nice, but seem to be de-escalating over the years).

Faith: a good comic, a fun read, and it demos diversity as subtext. If that’s not your thing, cool. The search continues.

I was trying to decide how to end this, and then I thought “I bet there are some reviews here that say something about “having Faith” in the book. Then I got mad, so I’m just quitting here. Bye.

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