Panel Syndicate’s Friday is back! In Friday #4, writer Ed Brubaker, artist and letterer Marcos Martin, and colorist Muntsa Vicente show us how the events of the last issue have changed everything. Spoilers ahead for people who haven’t read Friday #3!
Lancelot Jones is dead. Brubaker makes that absolutely clear, with images of Lancelot burning in the wreckage of his and Friday’s headquarters. This wasn’t a fake-out. It would make sense for the plot to kick into overdrive at this point. Friday has all the motivation she needs to get to the bottom of this case. But Brubaker doesn’t treat Lancelot like a plot device. His death isn’t merely an inciting incident, and Friday’s grief is the main focus of this issue. She’s paralyzed by loss.
But there’s a complexity to Friday’s grief, too. When a cop asks Friday about the night Lancelot died, she mentions the scene of the crime. “At your clubhouse, I saw some science equipment in there…?” She says. “It was our headquarters, not a clubhouse,” Friday responds. There’s a fury bubbling beneath her sadness and Brubaker makes us fear, not for Friday, but for whoever is behind all of this. We see her move from a state of mourning to being furiously hungry for answers. There’s going to be hell to pay.
Martin’s art is gorgeous, as always. We see Friday’s rollercoaster of emotions in her eyes. There are bags under her eyes, at times, that show her tiredness and her hopelessness. Sometimes the fatigue gives way to fury, shock, or a even a look of intrigue. We’re piecing together Friday’s internal struggle, just as she’s piecing together the case. She’s pulling herself up by her bootstraps and getting to work, all while screaming on the inside.
Martin also shows us deliberately conflicting things. We see Friday’s confidence as she starts investigating. Her face is clear, she’s not going to let anyone get in her way. But Martin also shows us how small she feels. She talks to the sheriff, getting information out of him while telling him how things are going to be. But when he gets in his car, she looks tiny and slouched over in the panel. Her confidence is a way to push her self-doubt away. Every time she falters in that, Martin makes it heartbreakingly clear.
There’s a lot of warmth to the color palette in this issue. Where there was once pale blue and dark purple, there’s now soft browns and vibrant reds. It has the feeling of Friday coming in from the cold. She’s in a safe place. But Vincente is just showing how Friday thinks she ought to feel. She should feel safe and warm, but she feels empty. Vicente’s coloring is a beautiful way of showing the support Friday has, while also showing the pressure she feels to be “back to normal.”
And of course, we have more fantastic uses of the color yellow. Vicente shows us a flashback of Lancelot burning. He burns in startling yellows and oranges. And later, when Friday’s high school boyfriend comes climbing through her window, he’s wearing a yellow coat. But the shade is off, muddled by the darkness of the night. It makes him look like a cheap knock-off of the bright Lancelot Jones.
There’s something incredible I hadn’t noticed about Martin’s lettering, until this issue. All of the caption boxes, from our third-person omniscient narrator, are placed in the upper left-hand corner of every panel. Of course, this makes logical sense. We read from left to right, from top to bottom. So, anything in the top left-hand corner you’ll read first. But even the longer captions tend to hug the corners. Instead of allowing the longer sentences to lengthen the box, a new line will start. It makes the narration, which feels like an extension of Friday’s inner monologue, feel full of hesitation.
There’s one big exception to this, in this issue. Every caption box stays in the corner or doesn’t venture out far, except for when Friday is thinking about Lancelot’s corpse. “Where she’d find his dead body…” it says in a box, directly above Friday’s head. “All charred and small.” With this, Martin shows how invasive these thoughts are. Her trauma doesn’t stick to the corners, it pushes past the borders and into the scene. It is there to be noticed and to get in the way of her trying to sleep.
Panel Syndicate’s Friday continues to be a delight. Maybe someday this creative team will produce an issue that’s anything short of perfect. That day is not today. Go to Panel Syndicate’s website to buy yourself a digital copy. You can pay what you want to for it! And, don’t forget to pick up a physical copy of Friday, Book One: The First Day of Christmas, out in comic stores from Image Comics on November 3rd!