Writer: Joey Falco
Artists: Roy Allen Martinez, Ester Salguero
ONE BEAUTY OF PRAYER is the underlying assurance that god speaks your language and might care to listen. Feel free to talk. Comfort in prayer, or achieving focus through prayer is a central feature in HEROES GODSEND, portraying the life of a Pakistani daughter living in New York City, in a Queens neighborhood called Astoria (not the town on the Pacific coast), who is orphaned in the 2001 terrorist attack on the twin towers visible for her across the East River as it occurred, setting America seething for revenge on the supposed Islamic perpetrators. I was glad to see our heroine Farah calls them merely “nineteen assholes” who hijacked some planes. No relation to her religion.
Hostility toward Muslim people in my experience began in 1970, learning of booted boys in London “Paki bashing,” beating up people who emigrated from colonial Pakistan. In 1979, the revolution in Iran that ousted the Shah and held American hostages made international students from Arab countries in America suddenly unwelcome. The mood soured again during the 1991 invasion of Iraq, and again after 2001, when unending war was declared on people who had nothing to do with anything. Gradually their stories are emerging.
Farah’s legendary powers as a Lashkari, protector of the people, manifests in response to mounting terrorism against Muslim people in her neighborhood; for one thing, she can become invisible. A flashback shows she is aware of this power inside her, as she was prepared as a teen-ager visiting her big-muscled warrior-guy uncle in Pakistan, who introduced her to her heritage and started her training.
This is classic mythology, yet feels somehow authentic. Both story and art in the five-issue set from 2016 exude a warm, inviting mood. The hard lines and flat colors in the art seemed to me like a blend of detailed European strip art bathed in a palette from sunlit Mexico; close enough, as artist Roy Allen Martinez originates from the Philippines, and colorist Ester Salguero from Spain. They combine splendidly.
Writer Joey Falco devises standard heroic poses for the heroine—satisfying to see she goes straight at the enemy—yet quieter moments add twists, such as a discourse with Uncle Omar under a vast starry sky by a campfire, on prayer and seeking the “straight path” favoring good company and noble action. This lesson clatters around in memory because it is both inclusive and exclusive, not set in one place or another, more like a razor’s edge of righteousness to scrutinize repeatedly and judge, hear my plea, oh lord, again: Where is the straight path?
Skepticism is the right attitude when passions run high, as when one hates an enemy hurting a loved one. At another moment, in a prayer, Farah makes us face hatred as a choice: “Grant me the love to recall why I hate. Grant me the hate to avenge those I love.” This startled me: definitely a razor’s edge demanding reflection, and balm. With an active heart and a strong hand in a wild land, righteousness is a struggle, and devotion and prayer are essential tools, leading me to believe if only god could speak their language, then all our heroes would pray.