Following in the technicoloured footsteps of the Eisner award winning The Private Eye, comes the new book from Panel Syndicate called Friday. Joining artist Marcos Martin is an up and coming writer called Ed Brubaker, who seems like he might quite good at this comics game!
Publisher: Panel Syndicate
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Marcos Martin, Muntsa Vicente
Price: Name Your Price at panelsyndicate.com
Friday is Brubaker’s homage to YA fiction of the 70s and 80s likeThe Snarkout Boys or Harriet The Spy. But as you would expect from the writer of Criminal and Kill or Be Killed, it has a bit more to it than a bunch of kids running around solving crimes! Instead it sees out heroine Friday returning from college to her home town and catching up with her former crime fighting buddy Lance – who is still trying to solve mysteries with the help of the sheriff. However will the latest supernatural themed mysteries have more to them they might first seem?
It’s a really interesting twist on the YA sleuth concept. We are all used to the ‘investigating kids’ concept, but what did they do next?! Friday has grown up from those idealistic times (which only really exist in movies and books) and gone off to college and with that has gained perspective and maturity – unlike Lance. This idea of a homecoming is reminiscent of things like Stephen King’s IT or even Stand By Me and Brubaker handles this mix of worlds brilliantly and very smartly, weaving genre tropes into reflections on a bygone time.
Where as once Lance was this passionate hero out there solving mysteries, Friday now views him with an air of pity and regret as she longs for her friend to grow up in the same way she has. Whereas in other stories Lance’s attempt to hold onto childhood exuberance might be manifested in a man child still attending high school parties, Lance is young enough that he still out there doing good deeds, and because Friday has only been away a short while still gets caught up in his charismatic wake.
Brubaker plays with the genre conventions expertly, but adds in extra element along the way. While for some the highlight might be the Lovecraft inspired supernatural beasties. For us the most intriguing part is a reference to a mysterious incident which Friday wants her and Lance to discuss, but he is avoiding – either intentionally or as a result of his own naivety. Because of the nature of the story you instantly make assumptions about what this might be. And whatever it ends up being , it gives the relationship that believability and depth to it that the more lightweight source material would not have bothered with or fallen into cliche with.
While we would never bemoan Brubaker’s excellent work with Sean Philips, it’s refreshing to see his words brought to life by a different artist and you could not ask for a better collaborator than Martin. While Private Eye was packed full of brightly coloured and exciting future tech, this is a story very much grounded in a nostalgia hued present. He manages to capture that gungey 70s feel of a classic movie or paperback, and everything has a very lived in and well worn feel to it. With a supernatural undercurrent going through the story, Martin balances the real and the surreal to create a truly sumptuous read.
As we saw in The Private Eye, Martin has an incredible eye for character and Friday and Lance manage to evoke classic archetypes of YA fiction while the whole world has that Stephen King/Castle Rock vibe of a classic small town (Brubaker even comments that the name King Hill could have been a homage to father and son Stephen King and Joe Hill). This is of course aided by the wonderfully muted colours of Muntsa Vicente’s, whose glorious palettes help evoke those vintage memories as well as bringing the supernatural elements to vivd life. There’s also a stunning sense of design throughout which makes it feel like a vintage paperback.
Just as The Private Eye was a chance for Brian K Vaughan to stretch his wings and try something new away from Saga and Paper Girls, Friday does the same for Brubaker and it is a breath of fresh air for the master of crime noir. With the pay what you want model meaning you can choose your price for this wonderful series, this is one that deserves to be rewarded for it’s excellence. As with The Private Eye we predict this may well fly under the radar of a lot of fans and critics because it is not being released on a mainstream platform, however for those in the know this has the potential to be one of the finest series of the year and is well worth investigating!