FRIENDO #5 by Alex Paknadel, Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe, and Taylor Esposito
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
Leo and Jerry make their way to the desert to find Action Joe. Mangled and bloody, the pair don't bother to stop at the hospital to tend to Leo's wounds. Meanwhile, Zajíček the Cremator learns they're still alive and his job isn't finished. Alex Paknadel gives us an ending that is humorous, horrifying, but also self-reflecting. Topped with art by Martin Simmonds and Dee Cunniffe, and Taylor Esposito's lettering, and we have a story about this day-and-age!
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The End of One Wild Ride

Technology can turn us into monsters. We see it in trolls online, cyberbullying, and our current political situation. Pair this with consumerism and you can bet that we are in for a lonely life. Technology and capitalism are extremely effective in isolating us. FRIENDO #5 by Alex Paknadel, Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe, and Taylor Esposito gives us an idea of what technology, capitalism, and isolation can do to the human psyche.

We last saw our “heroes” Leo and Jerry escaping a shootout, but not without taking their fair share of damage. Now, Leo is hurt pretty bad, but he insists on finding his Action Joe.

FRIENDO #5
Image courtesy of Vault Comics.

Buried Problems in the Desert in FRIENDO #5

Paknadel gives us a little more about what, exactly, Action Joes are and why they’re in the desert. Apparently, Action Joe figures are made with enormous amounts of lead, tetramethylene glycol, and cadmium. The kids that received one of these toys ended up filling gravely ill. So in 1996, America did what we do best: we buried the problem and hoped for the best. But burying these toys only made the problem worse, poisoning the earth and killing animals.

Fast forward to today. Leo and Jerry are on their way to the desert in the hopes of digging up one of these figures. Unfortunately, Leo refuses to stop at a hospital. So, his life slowly oozes away through a gunshot wound. Meanwhile, Zajíček the Cremator is out spending the money he believes he has earned. From the last issue, we know how Zajíček the Cremator parties — and it’s awesome. But an unexpected phone call changes Zajíček’s day. He learns that Leo and Jerry are still alive. So he’s out to finish what he began.

This leads us to an unexpected ending. Both tragic and hilarious, this story shows what type of monster we can become if we’re not careful.

Action Joe and Lost Humanity

Paknadel has done a phenomenal job giving us characters that we relate to and hate at the same time. Yeah, we know Jerry’s sort of a dick, but his relationship with Leo shows us a softer side of Jerry. It’s something that has slowly been creeping into the series. Originally, Jerry was a super selfish turd burglar who would only show friendship towards Leo if he was buying things. But in this issue, Jerry does express a kind of empathy for Leo. It’s odd to see a hologram actually feel for a person.

We also get a better idea of who Leo is and why Action Joe has been so important to him. Leo feels lost, as if his soul has left him. He’s been holding up grocery stores for far too long and has lost his sense of self. Through Action Joe, Leo is sure he can find himself. Much like any other capitalist fairy tale, finding yourself is always finding yourself through objects. I mean, banking your personal value in an object surely won’t tear you apart, mentally or emotionally, right?

The one hang up I have was there wasn’t enough Zajíček. Although we do see what inevitably happens to a hitman, I was absolutely in love with Zajíček. His dark humor was right up my alley. Although I didn’t get to see him as much as I wanted, I was not disappointed with how everything turned out.

Sepia Tones vs. Bright Colors

Martin Simmonds’s art is the icing on the cake for FRIENDO #5. The panel layouts in this issue are perfectly paced and positioned for an ending that we didn’t even know we wanted. And the imagery is both slightly humorous and deeply disturbing at times. Paired with Dee Cunniffe’s coloring and Taylor Esposito’s lettering, the story is tied together with a beautiful, neat bow.

Simmonds manages to capture a man struggling with himself and loneliness so well, it’s uncanny. There are quite a few panels where Simmonds sets up parallels between the real world and Leo’s fantasy. This captures Leo’s own delusions and presents to us how lost and alone Leo has truly become. Cunniffe emphasizes this with color. Cunniffe makes clear time frames through color, using sepia tones when addressing something that has previously happened and bright, vibrant colors for the present. This not only makes our time frames clear, but gives us a sense of parallels between the two times.

The cherry on top is Taylor Esposito’s perfectly placed letters and word bubbles. When each character speaks, you can almost hear their distinct voices. Esposito does a fantastic job giving each character their voice.

FRIENDO #5
Image courtesy of Vault Comics.

Overall Thoughts on FRIENDO #5

FRIENDO has been a wild ride. We got to watch Leo slowly fall out of humanity while Jerry seems to seep into human-hood. It’s interesting to watch these two characters fall in opposite directions from their starting point. All the while, we use Zajíček as sort of our middle crutch. He never falls towards or away from his own humanity. Rather, he remains steadfast, giving us a human anchor. Alex Paknadel, Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe, and Taylor Esposito have a phenomenal series on their hands.

If you haven’t checked it out, there’s always still time. This issue drops March 27th. You can pick up your copy here! Unless, of course, you run into an Action Joe figure.

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