My Faith in Frankie
by Mike Carey,
Sonny Liew, Mark Hempel
(Vertigo, 2004)

Jeriven of the Heart's Fires is a friendly, playful god, the sort to come right down and chat while helping you win at marbles. Unfortunately for his sole believer and congregant Frankie Moxon, he's also a jealous god, and his divine wrath is seriously cramping her love life. After Jeriven's divine, if mild, wrath, interrupts her latest date, Frankie lays down an ultimatum: if she can't gain a boyfriend, she'll lose her religion.

My Faith in Frankie has fun with its divine fantasy world, and it scores a few light jokes off the ample material open to any comic with walking gods. Jeriven, seeking advice in his troubled relationship with his one-woman flock, is asked if he's "ever done it as a swan," when he can drag his divine parents away from daydreaming about new cults. There's the blindness of a secular world, made painfully manifest when, at a Catholic baptism held in an official church, only the infant Frankie has enough faith to see the young god who walks among the congregation. But at the heart of the religious debate in Frankie is the constant question of devotion, the balance between worldly and divine attachments that's driven people through the ages to bacchanals, convents, and all points in between.

For Frankie, it just drives her insane. The change in her relationship with Jeriven, from proud Chosen Person to frustrated teenager, is shown through a series of charming flashback comics drawn in a distinct newspaper strip style. Her lifelong girlfriend Kay narrates these flashbacks, and other general observations on Frankie's life, in comic strip flashbacks. The relationship between Frankie, Kay, Jeriven and the inevitable love interest play out with surprising ease for a four-issue miniseries. Despite the supernatural premise and the constant whimsy, everyone -- god and mortal alike -- behaves realistically.

The art, by Sonny Liew and Mark Hempel, seems designed for the whimsical tale of Frankie and her pantheon. A retro design sense and energetic, almost calligraphic linework give Frankie's teenage adventures a timelessness that would fit in any time from 1950 on. The childhood flashback strips are drawn with a flair reminiscent of Calvin and Hobbes, with wild faces and simple set design that contrast with Frankie's flowing, adult world. Good as the art is, Vertigo's manga style presentation steals some of the glory by converting the full color of the original comic issues to grayscale. Liew and Hempel's linework, which contrasted well with the bright colors of the original presentation, is often overwhelmed by the dark shades and never really stands out against the constant palette of grey. Straight black and white would have worked better for this presentation.

But aside from that minor visual issue, My Faith in Frankie has everything going for it. The art and story are original enough to surprise even a jaded comics fan. At only $6.95 for the collection, it's cheap enough to grab with one pass of the collection plate. The story, miles away from superbattles and loaded with cinematic charm, may be just the thing to convert nonbelievers to the comic faithful.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 13 August 2005

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