Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Maria Llovet
Lettering by AndWorld Design
Published by BOOM! Studios
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Some say that love at first sight is a fairy tale - but lust is an altogether different animal. But I think there’s something to be said about knowing you’re in the presence of something special with just a passing glance, and that should be every reader’s biggest takeaway from Faithless, from writer Brian Azzarello and artist Maria Llovet. A story that tackles sex and horror, the jury is still out over whether or not this series can stick the landing on such divergent subjects, but what lends Faithless its indisputable charm is some truly beautiful artwork from Llovet.
For a book that’s borne of a conceptual mashup like Faithless, it’s understandable that this opening chapter can be a bit fragmented with its initial set up - our protagonist Faith is on a quest for discovery, both in terms of uncovering the foundations of magic as well as finding that certain ephemeral spark that can satisfy her own sexuality. The latter is of course more compelling than the former, and it’s to Azzarello’s credit that he sticks primarily with the human side of the story rather than the horror - because when Faith meets a mysterious woman named Poppy, their chemistry feels natural and even sexy, as they go from strangers to sharing showers in the way that tempestuous, impulsive flings in the city sometimes unfold.
But if you’re looking for one reason to pick up Faithless, it is undoubtedly the artwork from Maria Llovet. You’d be forgiven if you had a sense of trepidation about the content and tone of this book given that the writer was a man, but Llovet’s staging and designs for her characters keeps this book feeling stylish and erotic without feeling exploitative, anchored by some truly gorgeous and energetic colorwork. Her sketchy linework never plays up Faith as some over-the-top T&A cartoon, but instead there’s a real sense of care brought to how she choreographs nude scenes and sex sequences. Moreover, the sense of fashion she brings to her characters really makes Faithless’ whole world feel fully realized. Even a scene where Poppy removes a coffee-stained shirt in public - something that certainly feels like it would have raised an eyebrow in the script phase - winds up being sold despite its tenuous story logic thanks to Llovet’s sharp layouts.
That said, I’m not sure if the intersection between the sexiness and the horror adds up just yet. Despite the cover full of blood, there are only really two scary moments in this script, with the introductory discussion about magic sigils almost feeling like an afterthought - while Azzarello and Llovet’s final page cliffhanger collides the feelings of desire and revulsion nicely, there’s a fairly big moment at the midpoint of the issue feels surprisingly undersold, to the detriment of the rest of the issue. While in the case of Poppy, a certain sinister air makes sense for the series, but that Faith isn’t traumatized for the remainder of the book can’t help but stretch one’s suspension of disbelief a bit — it’s not to say that a sex scene couldn’t be earned after that point, but things go back to normal so quickly that it hurts the story’s momentum.
They say the devil is in the details, and admittedly, there are a few details in Brian Azzarello’s script that makes Faithless feel a little shakier than one might hope - but given how virtuosic Maria Llovet’s art is in portraying that script, the strengths of this debut issue far outshine any of its growing pains. This is a truly gorgeous, breathtaking book, and given the ambitiousness of its hybrid high concept, it should be considered a win for all involved. While it remains to be seen if this is true love or just a short-lived affair, diving into Faithless is an experience readers won’t soon forget.