Review: Frenemies #1 (Monty Nero Comic)

The new book from Death Sentence’s Monty Nero, Frenemies sees a group of unlikely friends and rivals thrown together and sent off on an adventure through time and space. But can these Frenemies come together in order to make their way back home.

Publisher: Monty Nero
Writer: Monty Nero
Artist: Yishan Li
Price: Via Kickstarter

As you would expect from a writer like Monty Nero, Frenemies isn’t your usual predictable kind of comic. It is one that keeps you guessing right till the last page and even then rewards multiple reads as you try and figure out what the hell is going on. He is aided by artist Yishan Li, whose work we loved in Paradox Girl and who gives the whole thing a really slick and polished Manga infused style. Her strong sense of style and design, while allied with Nero’s clever words helps to continually play with the readers expectations of what this book is really all about.

On first impressions it looks like a misfit superhero book from the 1970s as the characters on the front all have outlandishly impractical costumes – but that is not what the story is all about. The costumes are a by-product of our heroes being ‘chosen’ at a cosplay competition at a comic convention and you soon begin to realise the characters have no powers to speak of. It’s more of a sci-fi book with hints of a fantasy quest thrown in for good measure than another superhero book. In fact it reminded us a lot of Dungeons and Dragons the TV series in places with the character plucked from their home world whilst wearing outlandish costumes and generally bickering throughout (but with less giant dragons – at least we think so!).

This first issue introduces us to the mysterious seven heroes of the story, and drops some hints about what might happen to them in the coming issues (tragedy, love, shiny eyes etc.), before stepping back in time to introduce the reader to them one by one. There’s the tragic story of Carlton who is haunted by his missing son, there is Hunter the alpha male scientist and his girlfriend Cai who get caught showing off secret lab work. Then there is Sunny and his outlandish mum Minerva, and catty French girlfriend Delphine who are unwitting cosplayers. And finally there is Jamelia, a seemingly unconnected character but who we’re sure will have deeper meaning later in the story.

It’s an interesting mix of characters with an interesting mix of relationships and this issue is all about establishing them, before they are thrown into the main arc of the story. While we only get a snapshot of some of the characters at this point, Nero gives enough depth to each one to give the story some meaning, and his sharp and snappy dialogue means the story zips along at a great pace as well as giving each character a unique identity. The hints of what is to come suggest something quite epic and he does a great job of whetting our appetite without giving everything away in this first issue.

Li’s artwork is every bit as sharp and polished as Nero’s writing and feels much more confident and assured than her work on Paradox Girl. While at times some of the talking heads can feel a bit loose in places, based on the final page and the hints at future storyline elements in this issue, we get the feeling the art will really step up a notch when the more fantastical and other worldly settings come into play, as those images look spectacular.

Overall, Frenemies is another really interesting and unconventional comic from Nero. While it doesn’t have the immediacy of Death Sentence, it has the hidden depth and self aware story elements that we really enjoyed in Hollow Monsters and definitely feels like a book with a long term plan which will take you in directions that you won’t have predicted based on this first issue. With a group of strong characters and an intriguing concept at it’s core this is a book packed full of potential, and we cannot wait to see how it pans out.