Most stories don’t do tragedy quite right. At least, not in a way that you really feel the gravity of the loss a character is experiencing. Friday, written by Ed Brubaker, with art and letters by Marcos Martin, and colors by Muntsa Vicente, is not most stories. Rather than dwelling on the death of her childhood friend and detective partner, Friday Fitzhugh trudges on. But the ghost of Lancelot Jones is never far behind, and this creative team makes sure we remember that.
Some tragedies really sink their teeth into the emotions of a character. You see page after page of weeping and wailing. There’s not much left for the reader to feel once the characters have filled their boots. Other stories with death and loss kind of speed right past those themes, treating those things merely as inciting incidents. You forget anything sad happened at all in a page or two. Brubaker, brilliantly, stakes his claim on the middle ground of these approaches. Friday Fitzhugh is on the case of her partner’s death. She knows this is the best way to honor his memory – it’s what he would want. But while she has a job to get done, Brubaker shows us little moments where she lets Lancelot’s memory get to her. These “invasive thoughts” are quickly done away with, but those two seconds of pain speak volumes.
Part of how Brubaker achieves this approach is by getting the plot going. We begin to piece together some of the mysteries that Lancelot left in his wake. They pull us in with all of their weird little details. You find yourself wondering how some of these things could possibly fit into what happened to Lancelot. And with a magical element to the story slowly seeping into the narrative, things feel twice as scattered. But all of this is done in such a satisfying way. After all, it’s Brubaker. So you know it’s all going to make sense in the end. You see all the wildly different pieces to the puzzle as a promise that this story is going to cover lots of ground and take us to all kinds of curious places.
Martin’s art slowly pulls us into the compelling mystery, all while subtly weaving in moments of quiet heartbreak. We see how alone Friday feels without Lancelot. When she’s pouring over books in a big library, looking for clues, Martin pulls back to show Friday as a small speck in a vast, empty place. But Martin also makes us feel as though there is some strange beauty in feeling such deep emotions. The same scene has light streaming in from the windows, catching the dust in the air. It makes you feel as though you’re sitting in the room with Friday, experiencing some of the intensity of what she’s going through just by being close by. Later, we see Friday think about Lancelot again. Martin focuses us in on her eyes for two panels. Her eyebrows tense in the first panel. She’s angry he’s gone, maybe she’s even angry with him. But the next panel we see her brow relax again and her eyes fill with sadness as the grief comes flooding back.
Apart from the stunning emotionality of this chapter, Friday #5 also sees the introduction of several new characters. Martin’s character designs are simply iconic. From the shape of their heads to their wardrobes, from their facial hair to their moles, everything about these characters makes them unforgettable and unique. Even their expressions and body language feel specifically tailored to each individual. Martin fills this cast out with all the kinds of characters you would want in a spooky murder mystery.
Vicente makes it so that the atmosphere of each scene radiates off the page. You’re not turning a page, you’re entering a room. Whether it’s the pale yellow light that’s cast over Friday’s room, or the dark blues that surround a clandestine meeting, every setting has a character of its own. As Friday sneaks around in the dark, we briefly see her face when she finds a clue. Her glasses’ lenses are shown in a startling red. With this, Vicente has us feel all of Friday’s shock and determination.
At the start of this issue, we see Friday thinking about Lancelot’s old cases. She pictures him investigating each of them as she hangs out her window, smoking a cigarette. As we go back and forth between these scenes, it’s actually Lancelot’s scenes that are bright and colorful. Friday blows smoke out into the purplish blue skies of early nighttime. It’s such an interesting choice on Vicente’s part. Most flashbacks in modern comics appear faded or grey. But Friday pictures Lancelot as full of life, colorful. She’s the one who looks grey and faded. In some ways, she’s the one who really feels dead.
Early on, we see Friday looking through Lancelot’s notes. As she tries to put the pieces together of Lancelot’s various cases, we see her thoughts described in caption boxes. Martin makes it so that the trajectory of these caption boxes is easy to follow, but the ride is still bumpy and scattered. It’s like it’s taking time and effort for Friday to try and put this all together. Later, when Friday asks someone a few questions, the person responds in a couple weak lies. His answers come out in word balloons that barely move past his face. You can see the lack of conviction in what he’s saying.
Friday continues to be the most delightful comic that’s coming out. It’s emotional, mysterious, and ever-so-slightly supernatural. And with this chapter, this creative team promises they’re taking us to weird, new places. Get your copy of Friday #5 from Panel Syndicate where you can pay what you want to for it and all proceeds go straight to the creative team.