Panel Syndicate’s Friday defies definition. Not in that its influences aren’t clear. Writer Ed Brubaker, artist and letterer Marcos Martin, and colorist Muntsa Vicente have been pretty forthcoming about some of the YA mystery novels that led them here. But it’s the many pieces borrowed from multiple genres that shouldn’t fit together as they do. Friday #2 ups the occult factor of this coming-of-age story and doesn’t skip a beat in doing so.
The pages of Friday #2 may be home to ghouls and magic amulets, but all of those things are secondary to Brubaker. They’re the window-dressing – the MacGuffins. What Brubaker is interested in is Friday Fitzhugh’s loss of innocence. Our heart may beat fast when Friday’s being chased through the woods by a ghost, but not half as fast as when she’s fumbling around awkwardly with a boy she likes. Brubaker wants us to fear the ghosts, but not as much as we fear Friday’s looming adulthood. The mysteries she’s solving and the petty criminals she’s chasing are just representative of a simpler time—a time when anything was possible.
This is why all of these strange puzzle pieces fit together so well. Brubaker never loses sight of the true story that’s being told. This isn’t a story about ghosts or ghouls. This is a story about a girl growing too big for her hometown, with some ghoulish cameos. Moments of Friday talking about her sex life transition seamlessly to her fighting off monsters because the human heart of each moment is never lost. It’s not the sex that’s the point; it’s the lump in Friday’s throat. It’s not the monsters that matter; it’s the fact that they make this hugely courageous girl scared enough to run.
Martin knows that we won’t feel the pang of loss for Friday’s childhood if we don’t know what we’re losing. And so, this whole issue, Martin finds ways to connect Friday’s childhood to our own. Whether it’s the paperback YA mysteries, strewn across a desk, whose covers give us a highlight reel of Friday and Lancelot’s old cases, or the Archie-esque small-town diner, every page feels familiar. Martin is drawing on real experiences many of us have: Hardy Boys books, The NeverEnding Story, and Archie comics. Even the conveniently placed “Danger: Thin Ice” sign out on the lake feels reminiscent. It’s reminiscent of a time when we read stories that were a little less subtle. Stories where, as kids, we jumped at the hints of what was happening in the next scene, no matter how obvious they might be.
The strange placement of the sign stands out because Martin is such a subtle storyteller. With uncanny precision, he can show the closed eye and eyebrow of someone worried and disappointed in themselves when they should be relaxed and happy. The difference is almost imperceptible, but it’s there. And when Friday gets on a train to go to college, our hearts sink to our stomachs, just like hers has. Brilliantly, Martin has her face away from us. She can’t bear to look at us, or she might cry. Martin’s ability to balance these competing forms of storytelling, childlike simplicity, and adult subtlety makes this a wonderful issue. Because without a celebration of the childlike simplicity, we don’t see how oppressive adulthood can feel.
Vicente immediately connects the color yellow to Friday Fitzhugh. When we first see Friday in this issue’s flashback, she’s wearing a bright yellow sweater in an otherwise muted scene. It stands out. And soon, we see that her bright sweater is an extension of who she is. She lobs a puck at a bully, and we see that Friday Fitzhugh is as loud and bright as her choice in clothing. But as the issue progresses, we begin to notice an interesting change. Friday wears her yellow jumpsuit to prom, but the overwhelming pink lights affect how we see it. Later, she’s wearing overalls with a shirt underneath that has only a couple of yellow stripes. And by the end of the issue, we see her back in the brown and cream-colored clothes from the previous issue.
Vicente shows us Friday losing her innocence. She shows us Friday growing up. The bright, loud girl that went mystery-hunting through Kings Hill is a thing of the past. It’s also interesting to note that pink always seems to be around when big things are happening to Friday. In the previous issue, Vicente associated pink with some of the more occult moments. But this issue, we see pink all over the place. At the prom, in the donut shop where she first gets to know Lancelot, or in the woods when she’s running from a ghost. One thing is certain; each of these moments leaves its mark on Friday. It’s like Vicente is highlighting these beats for us. Saying “Pay attention!” in the funniest way possible.
Martin works the lettering into the art so well. When Friday slams a puck into some guy’s face, the puck bouncing off him makes the exclamation point in the “Smaak!” And when we’re getting a walkthrough of Friday and Lancelot’s accomplishments as detectives, the lettering shows up as pages on a desk strewn with mystery books. But it’s the coloring of the word balloons, of all things, that stands out. Friday #2‘s word balloons have no border. It fits the art style brilliantly, but there should be problems when characters are having a conversation. Their word balloons would normally blend into one another, and we may lose who’s talking. But in Friday #2, when multiple characters are talking, one of their balloons is a different color. It’s an easy way to help readers distinguish which character is speaking, and it complements each scene’s color schemes.
Panel Syndicate’s Friday #2 is a joy. It’s reminiscent of days when all you had to worry about is if you’d saved up enough for the next Archie comic. But it’ll also break your heart. Writer Ed Brubaker, artist Marcos Martin, and colorist Muntsa Vicente have produced a wonderful addition to the world of comics, and this series is bound to be a classic. Get your copy at Panel Syndicate. Panel Syndicate is a digital platform for comics, straight from the creators, where you can pay what you want to. Please give what you can so we can continue to get more wonderful work like this!