FRIENDO #4 by Alex Paknadel, Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe, and Taylor Esposito
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
Loose laws allow Leo and Jerry to live above the law. However, Leo's very tired of this lifestyle. But through a turn of events, Leo and Jerry are ultimately faced with, well, themselves. Meanwhile, Zajíček the Cremator is hot on their tails.
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Greatest Day of My Life
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[Trigger Warning: this article briefly mentions suicide, and the comic reviewed contains depictions of it; proceed with caution]

If government legislation made it legal to rob stores, would you do it? In the case of Leo and Jerry, the answer is hands-down yes. FRIENDO #4 by Alex Paknadel, Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe, and Taylor Esposito gives us a possible alternate universe. With technology creeping into our everyday lives, the moral line between right and wrong begins to blur.

Leo has had a hard run of things. No matter how much he tries, he can’t seem to be happy. Pair this with doppelgängers and an assassin who never smiles and you have a recipe for disaster.

FRIENDO #4

We finally get a look into Leo’s past. The first page introduces us to Leo’s life after his father left. Two faceless women talk about Leo’s lack of understanding of technology and the world around him. However, rather than showing any empathy, the women are judgmental and straight up rude. They’re talking about sending Leo back into the state’s hands since the adopted mother can’t seem to handle him. But it also gives us a glance at how out of touch Leo’s childhood was.

Fast forward to now. Leo and Jerry’s stunts have forced governments (paid off by corporations) to pass legislation allowing these incidences to continue happening. However, Leo is the saddest he’s been in the series, even attempting suicide. But an executive from The Manufacturer interrupts Leo’s plan. The Executive asks Leo to sign off on a doll with his likeness, completely ignoring Leo’s current situation. Leo realizes he has to continue robbing Cornutopia grocery stores if he wants to keep getting paid. But he finds himself face-to-face with a doppelgänger, which creates an oddly funny scene.

Meanwhile, Zajíček the Cremator enjoys the greatest day of his life. But he has a job to do — one that he is determined to get done.

FRIENDO #4
Image courtesy of Vault Comics

More Leo, Less Jerry

We’re starting to get a fully fleshed-out idea of who Leo really is. We’ve been getting glimpses of his childhood and where things went astray. Paknadel does a fantastic job of elaborating on who Leo is without giving us too much information. We get to see pieces of what makes Leo Leo which is a great deal of fun within this comic. Much like a puzzle, we have to piece together what makes Leo tick.

As a child, Leo believes everything he sees on TV. We see young Leo attempting to make lightning come from his sneakers because another kid did it in a commercial. Leo is clearly at an age where he should know that producing lightning from sneakers is just not possible. But, because of his lack of exposure to the world, Leo is lost in this fantasy. But this feeds directly into who Leo is now. Leo lives a life that is pretty unreal and is trapped in a fantasy. However, unlike when he was a child, adult Leo absolutely hates the life he now has.

The only thing I wish is that I got a little more of Jerry throughout FRIENDO #4. Jerry seemed oddly kind and thoughtful this issue, which is out of the norm for him. Although Jerry seems nice now, however, I still don’t quite trust him. He has his own motives, but what would make him more agreeable now than he previously has been? Maybe we’ll find out Jerry’s real motives next issue.

Bold, Bright, and Bloody

As always, Martin Simmonds and Dee Cunniffe’s art is absolutely spot on for the series. The panel layouts picked per page keeps up with the energy and motion of each scene. Pair that with Taylor Esposito’s amazing lettering, and we have a recipe for a delicious comic.

Simmonds’ art perfectly matches Paknadel’s action-packed yet uncomfortably silly writing style. Some moments are desperately serious, and we definitely see just how serious those moments are. However, Simmonds also adds a little twist to it, which makes you almost want to giggle. Cunniffe matches Simmonds’ art with bright colors. Each panel seems fully illuminated and bright, which sort of buffers some of the darker moments of the series. A page in FRIENDO #4 showing Zajíček’s best day ever, for example, is one of the most fun pages I have run into. Oddly comical yet dark, this story is definitely one you need to add to your pull list.

Taylor Esposito’s letter work ties everything together. His speech bubbles are perfectly placed, matching the tension of each panel. Also, I feel it’s necessary to point out how perfect Esposito’s emphasis on words plays out. Esposito knows when to punch a word, and when to leave this slow, which is something that needs to be recognized.

FRIENDO #4
Image courtesy of Vault Comics

Final Thoughts on FRIENDO #4

FRIENDO is one of my favorite series to date. Leo and Jerry’s relationship is both symbiotic and almost hateful. But this series does more than give us a complex relationship, it gives us something that may be uncomfortably close to our reality. Corporations that pay for government legislation? Yup. Children watching violence on the internet while parents just allow it to happen? Check. A lot of the things Leo and Jerry experience, although completely out there, are not too distant from the reality we live. We want someone who looks like us to defeat a corporation. But maybe this isn’t the way to do it.

Alex Paknadel, Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe, and Taylor Esposito give us a comic that may not be too far from reality. And maybe FRIENDO #4 is advising us of that.

Be sure to pick up FRIENDO #4 when it drops Wednesday, February 13th! Be ahead of the game and reserve your copy here!

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