Friendo #4 Featured Reviews 

“Friendo” #4

By | February 15th, 2019
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

Not unlike Marvel’s Mojoworld applied to real life (after a fashion), “Friendo” is an absurd, violent romp filled to the brim with pitch black comedy and vicious satire.

Cover by Martin Simmonds
Written by Alex Paknadel
Illustrated by Martin Simmonds
Colored by Dee Cunniffe
Lettered by Taylor Esposito

Thanks to an obscure piece of legislation, Jerry and Leo are now above the law. As they rob big-box stores up and down the west coast with The Manufacturer’s blessing, their violent exploits are livestreamed to millions of disaffected consumers who’ve been told “no” one too many times. Beginning to tire of their new status as folk heroes, Jerry and Leo’s final heist takes a brutal turn when corporate assassin Zaj Xek the Cremator gets them in his sights.

To use a video game analogy, if you mix the Grand Theft Auto series with the sheer self-referential ridiculousness of the Borderlands games, throw them in a blender, and crank up the satirical look on modern life until the handle breaks off, you might approach something halfway resembling Alex Paknadel’s wacky writing on “Friendo.” He’s a suicidal and very bored man! He’s a hologram! Together… they rob stores on live television!

The very concept of the series is absurd, and Paknadel makes no attempts to dissuade readers of that notion. Radio shows talk about how ridiculous the concept is, and how bad the situation has to be that people are lining up to cheer on the criminal enterprise that, as the solicitation states, has been declared above the law. When stores openly invite you to rob them, is it really considered robbery anymore, or just advertising? As Jerry himself says, “what ethical posture should one adopt toward a store that wants to be robbed?” At what point should an audience care again about crime when it is celebrated by way of live recordings, especially to those would-be consumers who may otherwise not be able to purchase from stores? How completely bizarre does a world have to be that criminals would get merchandise and complain about said merchandise not looking like them, not unlike a certain running gag in Disney’s Tangled?

Part of the comedy comes from the way in which the situations that Paknadel addresses in “Friendo” #4 are treated, with the exception of the few select examples given above, completely straight. Leo complains about his “job,” Jerry mentions offhand some of the flaws common to the type of egocentric criminal with an audience brought about by their show… and then there’s Zaj Xek the Cremator. In theory, the Cremator is a pretty standard character: the hitman who wants to stay in the game. What makes him hilarious is the fact that he treats everything about his job with complete seriousness, at many points stoicism, while wearing a pair of pink bunny ears on his head. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever given within the context of the issue for this addition, but the fact that it just exists without any comment whatsoever makes moments with him instantly funny, at least on some level.

None of this is to say that the issue is only a barrel of laughs. The antagonist of the issue, while treated as absurd as the rest, is a very dangerous person, and Paknadel’s script, while still talking down about the entire commoditization of crime in the series, still presents this antagonist as quite crazy. Even with a premise this bizarre, the threat level of the various possible problems remains relatively low, with even the most mundane rogue gunman capable of causing a lot of harm to… well… the other rogue gunmen who have advertising revenue.

…okay, so maybe part of the comedy is in drawing real life of the late 2010s to its illogical conclusion, but at a certain point things become so close to reality that you have to laugh, or else you’ll likely cry. On that level, Alex Paknadel succeeds with flying colors, as even the most aggravating of actions within “Friendo” #4 amounts to an exasperated “you have got to be kidding me” reaction both in and out of the story itself.

Martin Simmonds presents two different kinds of artwork depending upon the subject at hand. For humans and the normal surroundings of the world, there is a roughness to their faces, using age lines on people, thin lines around their bodies, and a thicker look for the backgrounds. There is a pointed lack of age or smile lines on younger people, but even more pointedly on the merchandise shown, in keeping with how they are just plastic toys. Perspective is also key, with such angles as those around Leo Joof’s suicide attempt, his childhood as viewed by his mother through a window, and shots that seem right out of a commercial with a hand very close to a camera with merchandise and the head further away. A seemingly heroic Dutch angle looking up at a sign welcoming prospective robbers is seen in a highly comedic light in spite of everything, with views from the back of Jerry stretching deep into the uncanny valley with the flatness of his back half as compared to the more rounded nature of his front.

As always, Dee Cunniffe’s use of color is excellent. From “Hack/Slash vs. Chaos!” to “The Wicked + The Divine” to “Redneck” to more besides, Cunniffe has shown himself to be a good judge of color in general. The best use of said expertise in “Friendo” has to go to his coloring of the holographic interfaces. Jerry feels ever so faintly “off” from the rest of the world, even ignoring the fact that he is missing the entire back half of his body. The colors “glitch” and have a whole host of jigsaw-esque lines up and down the skin, with small squares of lighter color, not unlike a malfunctioning image on a television. By contrast, people like Leo and his agent are shown as fully realized, with appropriate coloring on their skin and shading across them in accordance with a light source from above.

Final Verdict: 9.0– Delving into deep black comedy even in the most dire of circumstances coupled with very good artwork and magnificent colors, “Friendo” keeps the ball rolling without missing a beat, keeping a laugh track running in the back of reader’s minds the whole way through.

Gregory Ellner

Greg Ellner hails from New York City. He can be found on Twitter as @GregoryEllner or over on his Tumblr.