Writer: Alex Paknadel Art: Martin Simmonds Publisher: Vault Comics
This review only covers the third issue. If you want to catch up on the first 2 issues, you can read about them here. And you might want to read those issues before you read this review, because there will be SOME MODERATE SPOILERS as we discuss Leo's current...let's say "predicament."
YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.
Since this only covers a single issue, we won't be focusing on the full story arc, and this review may look a little different from the weekly reviews of full volumes.
WHAT IS IT?
Imagine if Google Glass anthropomorphized an artificial intelligence made for the sole purpose of marketing. Now, imagine if that AI went rogue in a world where corporations are no longer held accountable for their actions.
Yeah, it probably wouldn't turn out super well.
It's like Black Mirror or 2011: A Space Odyssey meets the rampant brand obsession and consumerism of Idiocracy.
This review covers issue #3.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Issue #3 further into farce territory. We also mostly pause the Jerry story in favor of introducing us to our antagonists and hinting at what's in store for Leo. The reason for having a separate review for this issue is that there's just SO MUCH to talk about. Every issue of FRIENDO is a course in how to make a comic deep and thoughtful and wildly entertaining.
When last we left our characters, Leo listened to Jerry (his malfunctioning, malevolent AI Friendo) and decided to seize the day. Unfortunately, this means robbing a Walmar- err..."Cornutopia" and take the Action Joe figure he feels like he's been owed since his childhood.
Unfortunately, the Action Joe figure was discontinued years ago because it was highly toxic, so this whole "drunken robbery" thing turned out to be just a big misunderstanding.
A well-paid corporate lawyer saves Leo's proverbial bacon, stating Leo's not responsible for his actions -- Thanks, Bernays Act! (See the previous review for more info about that.) However, due to a series of macabre, comedic events (like most things in this book), Jerry now seems to be a zombie-esque version of himself, lucid and hideous, guts falling all over the place.
It may seem to Leo that things actually turned out all right, but it's more likely that he got out of the frying pan just to jump into the fire with this new plan that the lawyer has for him.
Meanwhile, we meet our big bad, Rex Carrington, who is essentially Sam Walton of Walmart fame. Presumably using all that money and power he made in America, he's created his own sovereign nation where people have to live by his rules. As owner of all Cornutopias, he's very upset at Leo and that the Bernays Act, meant to protect the rich, could actually hurt him.
So, he hires a hitman to make the problem go away. Publicly. As one does. That's the man you see on the issue's cover.
If you're keeping score, Leo's still beaten up from his car accident. His Friendo™ is malfunctioning, horrific and convincing him to make terrible decisions. He's got a contract killer after him, and one of the richest men in the world (presumably) wants him dead.
And we're only on issue #3.
Paknadel is the Kurt Vonnegut of the modern day -- grim and humorous, brilliant and biting
Once more, we get some amazing and dynamic panels like the one below, which reminded me a lot of Fraction & Aja's Hawkeye run
The point that being held at gunpoint in a monument of consumerism or burning to death in a car accident are just another experience becoming commonplace that people ignore and corporations dodge responsibility for
The idea that the Action Joe figure is as toxic as the capitalist ideals it represents
And that Leo cared enough about it to hold up a hypermarket but not enough to know it had been discontinued years ago
A character says the poisonous dolls were buried in a "reservation" and, if this means "Native American reservation," that's pretty terrible and totally something America would do
Jerry might be Leo's painting of Dorian Grey
The lawyer's card says she works for "Low Point Associates," which is so comically, farcically on-the-nose, it feels like something out of a Coen Brothers movie
Carrington bastardizing a piece of American history for his "country" feels so real
It used to be a symbol of America standing up to unreasonable taxes and regulations, so it'd make sense that a very rich man like him would be upset about ANY taxes or regulations
Lines to remember:
"Cultures only become self-aware at the end. When it's already too late."
Other great themes:
Horror as Humor
Slipping on a bird's corpse like it's a banana peel
Man burning alive, desperate to use the attention he's getting to plug his film (also an eerie reminder of Leo in the first issue and a warning that he hasn't hit rock bottom yet)
Human Life Has No Value
Armed security guards at stores
Literally hunting people for sport
Caring more about being taxed or stolen from than human life
Everything has Meaning
Bernays Act -- Edward Bernays is a celebrated Austrian-American propagandist with many corporate ties
Drones -- Named Samyaza & Arkiel, after fallen angels who were "Watchers"
Gadsdenia -- The Gadsden flag is yellow, with a snake, and says "DON'T TREAD ON ME," matching
This is more of a comment on Vault titles as a whole, but Friendo and others put a little about the issue on the back cover, and it's a really nice and helpful touch
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Cursing & violence make it maybe not the best choice for kids
Cover art is not representative of the interior art (but I've got a panel below if you want an example of it!)
The interior art isn't as photo-realistic as other comics, but the style is this glamorous, almost garish aesthetic that actually really works to highlight the shallowness of society
You might need to read it more than once to catch everything
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Friendo™ forces us to reconsider our own self-centered natures, our compulsive need to consume, and how much power we've allowed corporations to consolidate. On the surface, it's a fun and enjoyable (albeit dark and tongue-in-cheek as hell) read, but there's also plenty to study here for readers looking to dig deeper into the story's meaning.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Arcadia by Alex Paknadel & Eric Scott Pfeiffer
Transmetropolitan, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson
Fearscape by Ryan O'Sullivan & Andrea Mutti
If you like the art:
Friendo™ #1 & 2 by Alex Paknadel & Martin Simmonds
Death Sentence: London by MontyNero & Martin Simmonds
Sex Criminals, Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Alex Paknadel – Writer
His apprehension toward trusting corporations and the tech industry also inspired his writing on Arcadia
Dream Team: Is part of White Noise Studio with other upcoming, extremely talented writers: Ryan O'Sullivan, Ram V & Dan Watters
Has a PhD in English literature
Martin Simmonds – Illustrator
Studied corporate identity and infographic design to inspire his style for Friendo
Often noted for his cinematic approach to his sequential art and blending of realistic and painted styles, he opted for a cleaner, more minimalist design for this comic to give it a more corporate feel
Outlander: Hails from London
Dee Cunniffe – Colorist
Is openly opposed to Move the Needle, Bounding Into Comics and other hateful entities aligned with #Comicsgate
Outlander: Lives in Ireland
Taylor Esposito – Letterer
Owns and runs Ghost Glyph Studios, which handles comic book lettering, production/pre-press & general design
Dream Team: Also currently working with industry superstars Warren Ellis & Colleen Doran on the Webtoon comic, Finality
Multitalented: He is also a second degree black belt in Koei-Kan Karate-Do
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Issue #3 hits shelves December 19th. Make sure to buy it and the first two issues to put in the stockings of each of your family members in order to remind them that unchecked consumerism will be the downfall of society.
Click one of these:
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