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Friday #1, out now from Panel Syndicate by writer Ed Brubaker, artist Marcos Martin, and colorist Muntsa Vicente, is the kind of fresh storytelling the comic book industry sorely needs right now. With Friday #1, this creative team reinvents old genres to come up with something new. Taking from elements of classic YA like Nancy Drew, a hint of occult comics like Hellboy, and a splash of coming-of-age stories, we get what Brubaker calls “Post-YA.” Whatever you want to call it, it’s one of those things you wish you’d thought of yourself.
Brubaker shows us a grown up kid detective in this series. We tend to leave the doe-eyed investigators of such franchises long before the innocence of youth has gone out of them. With Friday Fitzhugh, Brubaker creates a character that is somehow immediately familiar. We feel like we’ve grown up reading her novels, solving crimes over her shoulder. So when Friday returns to Kings Hill after a year at college, change is in the air. Thanks to her ever-approaching adulthood, we feel as though we’re revisiting Kings Hill with Friday for one last case. We’ve never met her before, yet we’re nostalgic from page 1.
The tone of the narrative captions is clearly borrowed from old YA mystery novels, like The Hardy Boys. It accounts for much of the issue’s nostalgia. Yet the understated references to sexual tension, and the gradual transition to things more spooky makes it all feel more adult. We get the sense that the characters are being given an option. Keep moving on, keep growing up, or return to the patterns of your childhood. Though they can’t have it both ways, Brubaker’s empathy for his characters makes us wish they could. We relive our own loss of innocence through Friday. And while we know she must grow up, and already has in many ways, we see the growing pains on the horizon.
Martin strikes a perfect balance with his art. He seamlessly moves from sweet characters to creepy tapestries without skipping a beat. It simultaneously lends the comic a sense of familiarity and mystery. We feel as though we’re walking through dark woods, trying to stick close to these characters who make us feel safe. At one point, as Friday is walking through the woods, she spots someone watching them further out. Or so she thinks. Martin manages to depict what Friday sees in such a way that you’re unsure if it’s snow or a figure in the darkness. He obscures details to enhance the mystery, and the mystery is chilling.
With the light blues of shadows and the yellows of flashlights, Vicente sets a creepy tone for much of the comic. Yet it’s clear, even from a comic that mostly takes place in the woods, that this is not a monochromatic series. The moments that aren’t in the woods are often bright and colorful. And when Friday hucks an ice-ball at someone who’s fleeing the scene, the panel lights up in bright neon colors. With every page, Vicente makes us feel safe or afraid, but never unmoved. She sets the tone and the rhythm of this issue, as we rush to get back to safety and then dwell there once we arrive.
Friday #1 is wonderfully reminiscent of the mystery novels you read as a kid. But it feels appropriate to read this, years later. It feels like you’re checking up on how those kid detectives are doing and what they’ve done with their lives. Don’t miss this brilliant new comic. Get it at Panel Syndicate, a platform for digital comics, straight from the creators at whatever price you’d like to pay. Learn more about the awesome work and projects the Panel Syndicate crew are producing on their “About” page.