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FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #4

by Thegreatmagnet on October 18, 2017

Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Cary Nord with Brian Thies
Colors: Ulises Arreola
Publisher: Valiant Comics
 
From the very beginning, Faith’s solo series have always represented light-hearted, fun storytelling. She’s the silly, fun alternative to the often-heavy Valiant universe, leaning on her character more so than high stakes and heady concepts. This miniseries by comparison seemed to offer a much more ambitious narrative in terms of scope and stakes, and also science fiction aspirations vis-à-vis a time travel storyline. However, ultimately I feel that the time travel concepts largely take a back-seat to fun, and we end up with a farce without much lasting significance.
 
From the beginning of the series, I’ve argued that they need to explain the basic premise of the story, that history can be changed. Only a few years ago, the brilliant “Ivar, Timewalker“ series stated emphatically and repeatedly that history cannot be changed due to a natural law called chronological protection. Not only was this a fascinating narrative concept from a sci-fi perspective, but it’s immensely appealing to fans of continuity, since it’s essentially a promise that Valiant will not retcon their stories. The fundamental premise of this series is that the villain (Do-Bot) has somehow found a way around chronological protection, and the “current” Timewalker (Neela) doesn’t understand how. Ultimately, they explain in a handful of panels that Do-Bot was designed to learn any skill, which apparently includes manipulating the fabric of reality, traveling between universes, and destroying erasing history in our universe defying all known laws of physics. Interestingly, he describes himself as a simple worker, but no other members of his race seem to demonstrate such god-like abilities. I have to admit that I’m fairly disappointed by how much they glossed over the most fundamental aspect of the premise, especially with Faith being portrayed as such a hard sci-fi Dr. Who-referencing nerd. I’m also nervous at the prospect that Valiant could undermine its commitment to canon and chronological protection for what  ultimately  seems like an inconsequential story in the Valiant mythos.
 
I’m also not completely sold on the resolution of this story with respect to the time travel logic. Obviously, no one could be surprised that the universe was spared in the end of this story, but I think there may be a paradox, the common trap of nearly all time travel stories. Their narrative solution is that Do-Bot goes back (or forward?) in time to destroy himself at the moment he first enters our universe and begins his mission of destruction. However, throughout the series, Do-Bot has already erased untold events/people from history that likely predate his appearance in the chronology of the Earth. I would argue that if these things have been erased from history, that they could not be restored from non-existence, even if Do-Bot were prevented from going back in time. Then again, the mechanics of historical erasures aren’t really deeply explored. They don’t really address the extent to which history is re-written, which is often the focus of time travel narratives where events can be changed. Perhaps I’m complaining too much about technicalities, but I’ve long felt that time travel stories are plagued by paradoxes, and Valiant is an ecosystem that should be immune to that affliction.
 
I’m also trying to grapple with the character of Chris Chriswell, Faith’s nemesis, and the unlikely savior in this story. It’s hard for me to take this character seriously given he doesn’t seem particularly smart (he really thought that the dawn of time was a movie shoot for a film festival happening circa 2002?), and he doesn’t really have a compelling motive nor any significant ambition other than being a troll to Faith. My brilliant wife points out that he is the dark reflection of Faith, driven by fanboy obsessiveness to emulate his favorite comic villains. From a meta perspective this certainly makes sense, but it’s less compelling on surface level, as a rich A-List actor whose only real gripe is typecasting. I find it a bit hard to get behind Chriswell saving the day by outsmarting the villain, given he’s such a cartoonish cardboard cutout of a villain compared with the big bad villains of the Valiant universe. By comparison, Do-Bot is a sole survivor of a destroyed alternate universe, which makes him a much more identifiable and compelling villain. He’s got a legitimate motivation for villainy, but he’s talked out of them by a silly poser. Also, on a functional level, Do-Bot clearly has much more capacity to cause human suffering having absorbed the powers of Valiant’s greatest heroes, so it’s puzzling that he delegated that responsibility to Chriswell. Is the takeaway that villains (at least certain kinds of villains) are generally dumb?
 
I’m also a bit disappointed that Faith takes so much of a back-seat in the resolution of this series. Ultimately, her contribution is the idea to recruit a villain, and recruiting arguably the most unimpressive example from Valiant to date. I guess it’s pure speculation how novel this idea truly is – really the crucial observation was probably Neela’s decision that more powers (hero or villain) would not change the outcome. In any event, it’s hard to argue that Chris Chriswell really steals the spotlight in this issue, and arguably the series as a whole. He may have more unique (non-repetitive) dialog in this one issue than the stars (Neela, Ank and Faith) have in the whole series. I guess maybe it’s a win for Chris Chriswell as a character (and perhaps a formative event in his evolution as a villain), but it comes at the expense of Faith in the climax of the story.
 
I do have to give major props for the art in this issue. The series has featured a revolving door of artists as a functional element of the time loop storytelling, and Cary Nord’s contributions are my favorite from the very commendable group. Cary’s art is a bit more rough and stylized, with lots of thick lines and less fine detail, but it’s very expressive and attractive. Nord does an amazing job directing the facial expressions of his characters, making their emotions both believable and relatable. The colors by Arreola are beautiful, with lots of textured, watercolory effects. I enjoyed his use of alternating background colors between panels to convey mood, as well as his strange sunset effects in the prehistoric scene. This is definitely and attractive book.
 
At the end of the day, I think that most people will argue that Faith is meant to be a fun book, and not something super heavy or profound. Taken on that level, I agree that this is a fun issue with snappy dialog. I guess that I somehow I stumbled into expecting that this story would go a bit deeper given the many sci-fi trappings and the epic storyline. It’s good fun in the tradition of Faith, but not necessarily a deep dive, and not essential reading from a Valiant continuity perspective.
 

Our Score:

7/10

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