Writer: Jon Clark
Artist: Travis Williamson
Letterer: April Brown
Publisher: Scout Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A twenty-first-century horror story about the overworked and underappreciated staff of a major retail chain in the aftermath of the titular holiday that looks to have something even worse creeping over the horizon.
Think Dawn of the Dead meets Clerks.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Black Friday stars a young man named Javier who works retail at Starmart, a major chain, in the aftermath of everyone’s favorite day of sales. Together with his co-worker/partner Ceci, he discovers a horrific secret underneath the apocalyptic remains of consumerism that plague aisle thirteen.
What this secret is, what this secret means, could spell disaster not just for the employees of Starmart, but for the entire world at large.
Clark keeps the dialogue sparse but loaded. Though there isn’t an incredible amount of dialogue throughout these pages, nothing is wasted. It’s like a reigned-in Tarantino or Smith that has a light, realistic rhythm to everyone’s speech.
Williamson’s art is incredibly evocative, just what one needs for a horror series. Though not heavy or dark like one would expect, it still has an eerie quality to it, like a '60s storybook or a more defined strain of Stephen Gammell.
The colors are washed-out, with watercolor sensibilities that add to the otherworldly feel of the line-art. Like everything else in the book, it builds on the rest of the material and wastes no space.
Brown’s letters are tight and have a slant to them that mimics Williamson’s lines. Oddly enough, with the sheer narrative weight of this book, nothing seemed to take up more space than it did. Again, everything builds.
Speaking of that narration, it’s all incredibly easy to read. Most of the time, narrative comics tend to fall toward the explicative and just drown the page in words. Thankfully, this narration actually feels like thoughts rather than intense journal entries.
The idea of a horror story following a group of retail workers is an exciting one. Sure, we’ve had plenty of creepy tales told within the confines of American consumerism, but none immediately come to mind that actually star the underappreciated frontline workers themselves.
The characters are all interesting tropes to build off of. Between "relatable everyman" to "Hot Topic girlfriend," to "asshat boss," it will be a joy to see where they end up after their entire world turns upside-down.
The character designs and acting are all so much fun to see. Everyone is freakishly thin, their anatomy stretches and contracts in ludicrous ways just walking down an aisle. It’s scratchy, uncomfortable, and is extremely animated, all of which contributes to pure illustrated joy.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Though the characters are fun enough and the art is a feast for the eyes, the pacing is incredibly slow. Across twenty-two pages, we literally stay on aisle thirteen for the entirety of the book, watching our main cast discuss just how weird everything obviously is.
While the narrative lettering was great, the same can’t be said for the dialogue balloons. Everything has this fat, obnoxious tail shooting out towards the characters that really distracts from the art. And if that dialogue happens to intersect or talk over each other? Forget about it. Sloppy balloons lead to confusion, no matter how good the dialogue is. This might have been resolved if there had been better communication between all three creators, though, as oftentimes the first person who speaks isn’t always on the left-hand side of the panel to make the balloons flow more smoothly.
This may be an unfair assessment for a first issue, but while the art is something to behold, it’s not entirely clear if it will hold up once the action really gets going. It’s eerie, unsettling, and twitchy, but when heavy horror elements finally show up, it’s unclear if it will be able to carry the emotional weight that’s needed.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Black Friday feels like the start of something incredibly fun. It takes something we’re all familiar with (horror stories in American shopping centers) and turns the focal point just enough that it appears fresh. I mean, come on, the obvious metaphor of Black Friday shoppers and the undead hordes is delicious enough on its own, but to make the main characters the retail workers who have to deal with both? It almost writes itself.
Though this first issue may not have enough momentum to really warrant monthly installments, I can’t help but be drawn in by the crisp dialogue and refreshing use of narration. The characters all have distinct personalities and, knowing what we all know about horror, it’s going to be a joy watching them deal with the monsters just under the surface of aisle thirteen.
There’s nothing particularly new or groundbreaking here, but the setup presented at least promises a hell of a lot of fun in the meantime. If Halloween comes and goes but you still find yourself itching for some more spooky fun, maybe curl up with Black Friday (whether that be in trade or stack of floppies) after Thanksgiving dinner and enjoy the fact that those idiots at the mall aren’t having nearly as much fun as you.
Also, you get to watch them get eaten, which is always a treat.
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