FAITH: DREAMSIDE #1 / Writer: Jody Houser / Artist: MJ Kim / Colorist: Jordie Bellaire / Letterer: Dave Sharpe / Publisher: Valiant / Sep 26, 2018
Faith’s newest series is a team-up that combines three different corners of the Valiant universe: bubbly Faith, occult Doctor Mirage, and grieving Animalia (of Harbinger fame). Subjectively speaking, I am excited for any series involving those characters, and this first issue plays to the strengths of all three.
For starters, there’s Faith, who is lying low after being framed for murder. This is a great starting point for a story about Faith, as she is a gentle but determined soul. While everyone else in comics is chasing complexity, Faith really does just want to help people. Given a chance to help someone in danger, she cares more about human life than her reputation. She can levitate people and objects, and cannot leave the people around her to fall. Situations that test her resolve or motivate her to do the right thing through the wrong means keeps her character fresh.
Second: Monica Jim, aka Animalia, with the power to morph into cartoon animals. Her appearance in this issue starts with a bang, to put it lightly. Valiant goes out of its way to make sure each use of her power is visually and practically distinct, and this issue is no exception. Jordie Bellaire’s colors, which already underscore Faith’s subdued and shining optimistic sides in turn, glow for Animalia. MJ Kim’s art establishes an effective contrast between the powers of Animalia and the humanity of Monica Jim. Even if some readers don’t have the full context of Harbinger Wars 2 in mind, there is something gleefully rebellious about Monica pointing her finger in Faith’s face and declaring:
“I’m a terrorist on a whole bunch of federal watchlists. Which is way more impressive. ‘Specially cause you’re old and I’m not even fifteen yet.”
Monica is a perfect combination foil/partner for Faith. They can indulge in make-believe like fellow actors, but there’s still a clear divide between their attitudes on life. Monica changes shape according to her imagination, and Faith imagines solutions to dangerous problems as Saturday-cartoon-looking panels. Monica questions Faith’s shelves full of toys and figures; Faith thinks they’re perfectly natural for an adult to own. Dave Sharpe’s lettering does a fantastic job of separating Faith’s light-blue internal monologue from the hard black-and-white dialog and yellow warning shouts of real life. Bellaire’s coloring does a similar job with Faith’s levitation powers, lending a glow to beings and objects as they are moved.
Doctor Mirage’s arrival late in the issue signals a turn towards the supernatural that will unite all three stars. The studio handler for her TV show welcomes her into makeup, likely her last “normal” moment before this crossover spills into her life, including the titular Dreamside. Valiant fans and newcomers alike should seize this opportunity to embark on a weird journey with three great superheroes.
Verdict: 4 out of 5