Friendo Issue 3 hits comic book store shelves December 19, 2018 from Vault Comics, writer Alex Paknadel, artist Martin Simmonds, colorist Dee Cunniffe and letterer Taylor Esposito. Here is my advanced review:
Leo wasn’t allowed toys as a kid, but now that he’s all grown up he’s going to take yours. He used to play by the rules, but then governments and corporations set fire to the rules and still expected him to behave. He probably would have if it hadn’t been for his new friend Jerry. See, Jerry isn’t human; he’s a personalised marketing VR… and he’s malfunctioning. Unhinged ultraviolence from Alex Paknadel (ARCADIA) and Martin Simmonds (PUNKS NOT DEAD), with letters by Taylor Esposito.
“Fame stops more bullets than kevlar honey,” – The Lawyer.
Friendo may be a futuristic and cautionary tale of consumerism but when our lead character Leo is drunkenly rambling about how cultures rot from the head like fish as he’s trying to rob a convenience store, I thought to myself – this may also be the most gripping and and sadistically satisfying personal sci-fi story of 2018. After a wacky accident causes Leo’s Friendo AI buddy Jerry to go off the rails, he’s since hit rock bottom and is forced to resort to thievery in order for his “friendo” companion to remain actively engaged with him. Because in this world that writer Alex Paknadel and artist Martin Simmonds have created, the only way for a Friendo to stay online, is when the human is constantly thinking about or actively BUYING SHIT.
It’s messed up, funny, depressing, but most shockingly of all – accurate. This may be a future Earth scenario, but let’s be honest here – your phone is constantly getting you to buy shit – or is reminding you of what the next shit you should buy is available. In Paknadel’s groundbreaking series, he’s only taken this theme to the next level as corporations have greenlit this new law which allows them to do unimaginable things in the name of advertising and online shopping. There’s a beautiful moment in Friendo issue three where we are introduced to the owner of a large chain of convenience stores while he’s out on a manhunt with his grandson. The two are pursuing a tax collector in the woods, when this grandfather and corporate billionaire tells his grandchild to finish off their prey while he deals with an employee notifying him about someone knocking off one of his stores. It’s a funny side-step and intro to a character we’ve all assumed exists in some twisted 1 percent-er fantasy where the owner of Wal-Mart hunts the ultimate prey – MAN.
Paknadel’s writing is sharp and hilarious, creating a perfect foil to the horrific imagery littered throughout Martin Simmonds’ glorious illustrations which include a man melting as he’s set on fire or a hitman wearing bunny ears while he brutally murders some men in a bar. Friendo feels like Pulp Fiction meets A Scanner Darkly, hitting the perfect balance of action and gritty violence with a black comedic edge that feels like I’m reading something that would fit in perfectly with Warren Ellis’ iconic Transmetropolitan universe. Vault Comics has become a serious contender with their brilliant and innovate comic series and I think Friendo might be my favorite of the bunch thus far. With each issue, Friendo continues to become more intriguing and insane. It’s just kinda gross when you realise just how close the real world is to the damn comic book…