FRIENDO #3 by Alex Paknadel, Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe, and Taylor Esposito
With influence from Jerry, Leo decides to find an action figure from his childhood. However, holding up a convenience store proves more dangerous than expected. Leo finds himself alone and in jail when a woman posing as his lawyer bails him out, but at a price. Alex Paknadel does a fantastic job keeping the pace of the story up! He's matched with fabulous art by Martin Simmonds and Dee Cunniffe, and perfectly placed lettering by Taylor Esposito.
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The Friend You Didn't Know You Wanted
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When capitalism goes wrong, things can get dicey. We often fall into pits of overspending, overbuying, and gluttony in an attempt to get the newest and best things. But what if you had a pair of glasses that gave you a friend who encouraged your bad spending habits? FRIENDO #3 by Alex Paknadel, Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe, and Taylor Esposito explores this horrific, yet oddly funny, idea.

Leo was an average guy who had a bad day. Luckily, Leo has a pair of marketing VR glasses. Inside, his new digital friend Jerry listens to and understands Leo. Unfortunately, Jerry has a minor malfunction after Leo is electrocuted. Jerry officially lacks a moral compass, which leads Leo into making some poor decisions — some really piss poor decisions. FRIENDO #3 starts off in the middle of Leo’s most recent bad decision: holding up a convenience store for an action figure.

Image courtesy of Vault Comics

A Man and His Imaginary Friend Walk Into a Store…

Leo, who wasn’t allowed toys as a kid, is trying to relive some of his childhood with the things he wasn’t allowed to have. Things like an Action Joe figure. While a sales clerk is searching for the Action Joe, Leo is waving around a gun and giving a monologue to some hostages about how cultures die. But even through a culture’s death, Leo claims, there is beauty in decomposition. With Rome, it was Virgil and Cicero; with Weimar Germany, it was Einstein and Fritz Lang. He says that cultures only become self-aware at the end, at their death.

After listening to Leo for a moment, the sales clerk returns to tell Leo that the figure he’s looking for has been discontinued. This embarrasses Leo, seeing as he went through all this effort for a toy that’s discontinued. But then, a security guard comes out, pointing a gun at Leo and telling him to freeze. Through an unlikely (and hilarious) turn of events, the guard accidentally shoots Jerry instead of Leo. Although no one else can see Jerry’s horrific death, the loss of Jerry devastates Leo. And, of course, Leo goes to jail.

However, Leo is bailed out by an unexpected woman. She not only bails him out of jail, she also revives Jerry. She gives the pair a proposition that they cannot refuse, and things are about to get real serious for poor Leo.

Image courtesy of Vault Comics

Leo + Jerry = BFF

Alex Paknadel does a fantastic job of showing us who Leo is at his core. We know Leo is fucked up; hell, everyone is a little fucked up. Life creates some hard situations. But we also know that Leo has a good heart — it’s just buried somewhere deep down in him. By contrast, there’s Jerry. Jerry has done some seriously questionable things to keep Leo all to himself. But this is the way of capitalism, right?

There have been plenty of moments where Leo is being purely human. As soon as you open FRIENDO #3, we see a layout of who Leo is. Leo has a serious monologue, one that he put his heart into, that has a few small yet relatable gags. But Leo’s life is sort of like this. Leo tries to do something serious but, as things fall apart, sometimes they get a little funny. During Leo’s long speech about culture, he accidentally shoots a bird. The incident shocks Leo, but the best thing he can say is “goddamnit” which I feel is a very real reaction. It also made me giggle a little. Paknadel does a fantastic job of breaking up tense moments and make Leo relatable all at the same time.

Where Leo can be relatable, Jerry can be detestable. Jerry very much epitomizes what capitalism does to our personhood. Jerry manipulates Leo’s dependence on him, stating that Jerry will only show up if Leo has intent to buy something. This compels an already lonely and broke man into spending all of his money. And we’re seriously talking ALL of his money. Leo has nothing except a friend who isn’t real. It’s sad to watch Jerry manipulate Leo, but that’s what big companies that want people to buy things do.

Image courtesy of Vault Comics

A Perfect Pair

Artist Martin Simmonds and colorist Dee Cunniffe work perfectly together to bring FRIENDO #3 to life. Both artists do an amazing job creating tension and bringing Jerry’s and Leo’s personalities to light.

Simmonds solidifies Leo’s speech through panel movement. We see Leo pacing back and forth, explaining to his hostages what happens to cultures when they die. But there are no panel borders. It’s a free-flowing and moving moment, much like what you would expect if you were Leo’s hostage. Simmonds shows us how Leo’s pacing would look. It’s almost like he’s crazy, but he’s still making sense. His poses are perfect for every moment of his speech. I also want to point out Taylor Esposito’s perfect timing with speech. Every bubble fits perfectly within Simmonds art.

Dee Cunniffe is the icing on the cake, using colors to play with the reader’s emotions. The majority of the store is colored in a shade of blue. Although Leo is holding up a store, the hostages, the store clerk, and even Leo are not panicking. Everyone is sort of quietly listening to what Leo has to say. It’s not until the security guard shoots Jerry that we get a giant splash of red. This red initiates a worry, not just because it’s blood, but also because it’s so drastically different from what we’ve gotten comfortable with in the first few pages of FRIENDO #3. Although Leo has been wearing a red hoodie, the red on Jerry is drastically different. This balance is phenomenal and makes the pages a delight to look at.

Overall Thoughts on FRIENDO #3

The number one thing to learn this year is this: don’t sleep on Vault Comics. Each comic that they’ve put out has been a banger, and FRIENDO is no exception. If you haven’t had a chance, you still have time to catch up! Alex Paknadel is a writer that you’re not going to want to miss. With Martin Simmonds and Dee Cunniffe working the art and Taylor Esposito’s careful lettering, every picture completes and enforces an awesome narrative.

FRIENDO #3 drops December 19th, so there’s still time to pick your copy up! If you’re more into digital, reserve your copy here!

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