Faith Herbert, also known as Zephyr (sometimes also known as Summer Smith) is a superhero in the Valiant universe. She's not a new character - she's been around since the early 1990s - but has just (well, about a year ago) gone solo in her own series, written by Jody Hauser and drawn by Francis Portela. Here's the blurb from the first issue of Faith:
When a car accident left her orphaned, Faith Herbert was raised by her loving grandmother and found comfort in comic books, science fiction movies, and other fantastic tales of superheroes. In her teens she would discover her fantasies were reality when it was revealed she was a psiot – a human being born with incredible abilities. Imbued with a telekinetic ability to fly and a companion field that allows her to physically move objects, Faith joined a group of fellow psiots called the Renegades to stand against the forces of evil. She’s since left her Renegade family behind to take on the world’s challenges on her own. She may have a lot to learn about the superhero game, but if there’s one thing she’s always had, it’s... Faith.
So Faith has moved to Los Angeles to start anew. She creates an alter-ego for herself (Summer Smith) and gets a job creating listicles and quizzes for Zipline (the Valiant Universe's version of Buzzfeed). Some evil force is kidnapping potential psiots, and it's up to Faith and her sidekicks (Archer - an archer, and @x - a hacker) to find out who and stop them. That's pretty much it, as far as the plot goes - enjoyable enough, but nothing to stretch the imagination too much.
However, where this title really shines is with Faith herself. She is a great character - a likeable, engaging, capable, optimistic, nerdy badass fangirl (her Summer Smith pseudonym comes from her love for Buffy and Dr Who). And did I mention that Faith is a fat person? Neither does the book. It is really refreshing to see a fat female superhero not apologising or worrying over her weight. There are no rude jokes, no teasing. Faith is fat, but is not defined by this.
Weight and body type are not Faith’s story.
- Being young and dealing with the unexpected
- Dealing with loss
- Finding a guy who seems like the perfect dream, but then isn’t willing to compromise for fame
- Loving comics and science fiction
- Wanting to help others and save the people who can be saved, as the hero Zephyr
These are the elements that make-up Faith’s story.
From "Comic Love: Having FAITH" by Jessica Boyd, Feb 2016. comicosity.com
There have been several interesting articles in the mainstream media about Faith's fatness, including at NPR, The Guardian, and The Atlantic. And while I'm dishing out links, here's an interview with Faith author Jody Houser.
I really like Faith, and I look forward to reading more of her adventures - a new series of Faith comics is currently underway (issue 9 will be coming in March).
I got a copy of Faith as an ARC (advanced reader copy). I mentioned ARCs last week too, so I thought it might be useful to talk about what they are and how you can get your hands on some of these pre-published pearls yourself.
Publishers send ARCs to reviewers and librarians before a book is released to help publicise them. In times gone by these would be physical books, usually with a not-finalised cover design and bigger spaces between lines of text (for reviewers to write notes). While you can still get hold of physical ARCs (see below), digital is much more prevalent these days. Here are a few places you can go to apply for some eARCs:
- NetGalley - offers ARCs in exchange for reviews. They have loads of publishers signed up with them. You can browse by category, publisher or recently added, or you can search for specific titles or authors. Not all books are available in all regions (publishers might restrict access to the USA, for example), and you are not guaranteed to get every title to request. But this is usually my first port of call when I'm looking for a book. This is where I got my review copy of Faith.
- Edelweiss+ - offers ARCs in exchange for reviews. I've only recently come across this website. It seems to be much more than just a place to get ARCs, but I haven't used it for anything else yet so I can't really elaborate on what else does. I recommend signing up and taking the tour to get an idea of what's on offer, but if you're only in it for the ARCs, it's easy enough to dive in.
- LibraryThing - primarily a site for cataloguing your books, they also offer review copies of books. A lot of the titles on offer appear to be self-published, but it could be worth having a look through to find the diamonds in the rough. They also sometimes offer physical books and audiobooks.
A couple of things to note about eARCs:
- they are often time sensitive - like library ebooks, they can expire after a specified time.
- occasionally, the eARCs you get are not complete. For example, the copy of Faith I got from NetGalley only had the first two parts of a four part story. Luckily for me, I was able to find the rest of the book at Comicsplus Library Edition. If your public library subscribes to Comicplus, you too have free access to a whole world of digital comics! They don't have the two biggest comics publishers (Marvel and DC), but there is still some great content. But I digress...
Here are a few places you can go to apply for physical ARCs:
- SLA - if you are a member of the School Library Association make sure that you are signed up for their e-mail newletter. They always have opportunities for librarians to win copies of new children's and YA books from a range of publishers.
- ReadingZone - offers review copies in exchange for reviews, usually in December. Go to the "New Titles" section of the website and look for the "Read & Review" link. They've sent me books to review over the winter holidays for the last two years.
- Goodreads - the social network for readers (now owned by Amazon) has a Giveaways section of it's website. Scroll through and click "Enter Giveaway" on any title that catches your eye. It will tell you which countries the offer is available in, when the giveaway ends, how many copies are available and how many people have entered. I've only ever won one book from this, but that's better than nothing, right?! Also, if you put loads of reviews on your Goodreads profile, you are more likely to be approached by publishers and authors with freebies!
- Blog - create a book blog and review books! As above, you are more likely to get stuff sent your way if you have a track record of reviewing.
- Social Media - get on Twitter and follow authors and publishers that you're interested in. Keep your eyes peeled for giveaways and offers.
- Publishers - ask the publishers directly! The worst that can happen is that they say no.
Let me know in the comments if you know of any other good sources of free books!