REVIEW: Friendo #4 keeps searching for the absurdity ceiling of extreme capitalism

Friendo #4 is out 2/13/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Around halfway through Friendo #4, our heroes (maybe that’s not the right word) are listening to local news radio describe their exploits as they drive a shiny red convertible through the desert. The radio essentially sums up the status quo, which has shifted seismically since Friendo’s first issue. It’s a nice storytelling device, one that does a good job taking stock of both where we are and how crazy Friendo has gotten. At one point, the voice on the radio says: Whole saga’s turned into this Looney-Tunes three-ring circus if you ask me.

That’s a pretty accurate summation, really, for writer Alex Paknadel’s plotting of Friendo, but I think there’s also subtext about the book’s central theme: that late-model capitalism has gone so off the rails, that we maybe don’t realize how bananas life has gotten in this country. The voice continues: The guardrails are gone, man. It’s all just a big joke now. There’s nothing between us and the jagged rocks below. I had to just hang my head for a moment, because got-damn.

This thematic ground has been well covered throughout Friendo. So much so I think the central thrust of the book is showing its audience we’re maybe not even at rock bottom of all this, that with a society so thoroughly dominated by sales, marketing, corporations, etc., things can and will always get crazier, get more manipulative and exploitative. That there is, in effect, no end, no upper ceiling to the limits of greed inherent to unbridled capitalism. This story, in essence, is slowly upping the malarkey on its pages to match the point it’s making about our lives. If it’s all a big joke, the radio voice posits, then how are we supposed to know when to stop laughing?

Whether I’ve phrased it that way or not (I haven’t), this is a crisis that has shaped my life for a decade, first while coming of age during the recession, again while clawing toward some sort of financial balance, and now while working multiple day jobs and passion pursuits with big questions looming, like: will it ever be enough? Will I ever be able to afford a house? Would it be nuts to have a child? This all adds up to Friendo—as I’ve written in pretty much all my reviews—being a different, more realistic sort of horror story.

As this is the fourth straight issue that has posited such questions (albeit previously with less intensity), this begs the question of whether this comic is at risk of feeling repetitive. I certainly don’t think so. Part of why has to do with the nature of the plot being about limitless absurdity, about extrapolating extreme ideas to new places. It’s not repetitive because the same ideas are being push juuuuust a bit further every week, stretching into new ground. The second reason Friendo #4 succeeds is it’s so well told by its creators.

Jerry, pictured here in Friendo #3, has seen better days, but Simmonds art is looking mighty fine.

Paknadel’s scripting is hilarious (Not kinky, just sad), and Martin Simmonds art has accelerated, packing more into panels as the plot calls for it, augmented fantastically by Dee Cunniffe’s vibrant colors. Another thing Simmonds has done well is the evolving design of the humanized marketing hologram Jerry, who has become more unhinged, more gory and grindhouse and sinister just as his user, Leo, has become sloppier and rundown and frazzled. There’s a two page spread in this issue, filled with art conveying the changes afflicting them both, with Leo chomping a donut as Jerry (with a hole blown in him and guts visible) climbing the wall like a feral demon. The spread is interspersed with detailed shots and Taylor Esposito’s clean lettering, all coming together in a visual—and a comic—that really lingers.

Overall: Friendo #4 continues searching for the absurd upper limits of unrestrained capitalism and still doesn’t find it. Whenever this book seems to reach a new extreme of exploitation, greed, or dehumanization, it pushes it just a bit further, finding new and scarier ground. Simply put, do not miss this comic. 9.2/10

Friendo #4
Alex Paknadel
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics of 2018, #6 - #15

By Zack Quaintance —  The most difficult thing about a strong year for comics (like this one) is doing a year-end Best Of list. Now, to be sure, no one mandates websites do rankings. That would be a clear violation of civil liberties. There is, however, a part of the pop culture blogger brain that goes wild for it, whispering all year long...where does this one rank...and if you don’t satisfy that beast—well, bad things happen.

So, here we our with ours, freshly formulated for 2018 by our committee of one. Before we dive into part 2, which features in descending order selections #15 to #6 (Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25 is up now, with the Top 5 due later today), let’s rehash our ground rules:

  • No trades or OGNs: Building out our OGN coverage is a priority for 2019. We’re just not there yet. So, while I absolutely loved work like Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam, Box Brown’s Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, and Ryan Lindsay and Eric Zawadzki’s Eternal, you won’t find them here. Ideally, next year’s we’ll have an entire post dedicated to OGNs.

  • No webcomics, manga, or newspaper strips: Again, our site is a bit deficient covering these (if you are into these things, we’d love to chat about you writing for us!). I should, of course, mention that in 2018 someone under the pen name Olivia James took over the long-running Nancy strip and did amazing things with it (Sluggo is lit), but, again, you won’t find it on our list.

  • Longevity matters: New this year, you will find what I consider a key stat—how many issues were published this year. Late debut series like Die, Electric Warriors, and Bitter Root have tons of promise. They just haven’t been around enough to be a definitive comic of 2018. Ditto for comics that ended in April or earlier.

There you have it: guiding principles of our Top Comics of 2018. Now, without further adieu, let’s keep this bad hombre going!

15. Seeds
Ann Nocenti
Artist, Letterer: David Aja
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Issues in 2018: 2

The second issue of this series absolutely blew my mind. So much so it was enough to land this comic in our list, and at no. 15 too! I’m going to struggle to articulate why this is not only one of the best comics out today, but also the comic with the most potential to be an all-time great series. But here goes…

Writer Ann Nocenti and artist David Aja have clearly thought hard about the state of the world, dwelling on current trends, struggles, challenges, \and even a few victories to extrapolate a future the likes of which we’ve never seen. There are (as noted in yesterday’s list) many near-future disaster stories running through comics. Many of them do admirable jobs extending a fear or concern to logical places. Seeds encompasses much more with its predictions, in a way that feels impossibly novel yet so obvious you wonder why its ideas hadn’t previously occurred to you. If you start listing story elements—failing planet, media corruption, alien love story/menace—they sound a little rote, but the way these talented creators bring them together is nothing short of remarkable. Now, if only they could get a handle on the delays...  

14. Doomsday Clock
Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Speaking of delays (hey! would you look at that transition), next we have Doomsday Clock. Writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank were as good as their word this year, mostly sticking to the every-other-month schedule they promised following Doomsday Clock #3. We got six new issues in 2018, and the last three were straight up killer comics. This series has, to be blunt, massive ambitions.

Indeed, the intentions of this comic are starting to crystalize, and if Johns and Frank can pull this off, they could end up with a story that speaks to the current rise of authoritarian governments across the globe, the reactions of the media and the populous, and what it means to be a public hero today, to take a strong position. It’s heady stuff, with potential to shape DC’s line and maybe even the stories the aging company does for the next decade.

13. Ice Cream Man
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 8

As I’ve noted throughout, ranking the many many many excellent comics this year has been no easy feat. There were a ton of tough choices, but as my friend Rob from Panel Patter noted, at a certain point you have to choose, otherwise there’s no purpose to the endeavor. For me, placing Ice Cream Man was the most difficult decision. An anthology horror comic linked only by the titular (and hella creepy) ice cream man, this book has been a tour de force.

The reason it lands at #13 is twofold. No. 1, 13 is creepy and it seemed fitting, because aside from one other selection (we’ll get into that later), this is the highest-ranking horror comic on our list. No. 2, I’m trying to rank series for holistic reading experience. Ice Cream Man being made of vignettes makes that trickier. This book is easily one of the best comics of 2018, and we’ll heap more praise on it in future posts, specifically the Best Single Issues of 2018, coming later this week. For now, I’ll just note everyone should read this comic, just pick up random issues (they’re all self-contained) and go. The rate of success is high enough I’m confident you’ll all find flavors (sorry) you like.

12. The Wild Storm
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 8

It’s pretty amazing this far into a celebrated career, Warren Elllis is doing his best work, writing a slow-burning epic that strips down characters he’s handled for years before building them back into something searingly-relevant for 2018. This new The Wild Storm has a few familiar names, while remaining entirely accessible for first-time readers of this universe. And what Ellis is doing here is exploring the vast influence wielded by long-standing (and hard to comprehend) power structures.

He’s joined by Jon Davis-Hunt, one of (if not the) most underrated artists in comics. Davis-Hunt comes fresh from career work of his own on Gail Simone’s Clean Room, and as good as he was there, he’s hitting a new level, crafting graphic sequential storytelling both kinetic and real, capable of disrupting any visual laws of reality yet photorealistic and engrossing. As intellectual and nuanced a comic as we’ve seen, this is a must-read story.

11. The Mighty Thor / Thor
Jason Aaron
Artists: Russell Dauterman, Mike del Mundo, Christian Ward, Jen Bartel, Various
Colorists: Matthew Wilson, Marco D’Alfonso
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 4 / 12

Jason Aaron’s ongoing run on Thor is the best long-form story happening in superhero comics, and it’s really not even close. Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder #1, which essentially marked the start of this current run, hit stands in November 2012, a vastly different time in the world and industry. Marvel has no other run close, with Hickman and Bendis gone from the company and Dan Slott off Amazing Spider-Man. Invincible has also ended, and DC’s main challengers—Batman and Deathstroke, for my money—date back to summer 2016, which is hardly a challenge at all.

Thor, however, keeps going strong, landing this year’s 16 issues (and a Jane Foster one-shot) at #11 overall on our list. Our committee of one suspects it will be higher next year, what with the War of the Realms coming. The Jane Foster finale was certainly a high point his year, but it felt like more of a pause than a proper finish, setting the table for what is sure to be some damn fine comics to come. In summation, 2018 was another great year for Aaron’s Thor run, but we all but guarantee 2019 will be even better, possibly the high water mark for this story.

10. X-Men Red
Tom Taylor
Artists: Mahmud Asrar, Carmen Carnero, Roge Antonio
Colorists: Ive Svorcina, Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 11

What a surprise this comic was. I’d tapped out on X-Men: Blue and X-Men: Gold, deciding to wait for whatever next big X-thing. Then comes an announcement of a third color, part of the Marvel Legacy line, which, let’s face it, was dead on arrival. But here’s the thing: Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar’s X-Men: Red was good. Like, really really really good. Taylor’s scripting understood the franchise better than any writer I’ve read in I don’t know how long, casting the team as equal parts superhero high-flyers and common defenders of the oppressed, all with a geopolitical angle.

It made Jean Gray the face of Xavier’s continuing dream, a brilliant move given her legacy (ahem) and similar skill set, and it faced the X-Men against threats essentially derived from the messages of hate coursing through the modern media landscape, be it reportage or social posting. It was a brilliant stretch of 11 issues that ended way too soon, and, in my opinion, it was the first real hint how the X-Men can be made relevant for 2018, 2019, etc., taking them out of their long-standing continuity mire. It will be missed, and I hope this new generation of X-writers draw from its example.

9. Vault Comics: Fearscape / Friendo / These Savage Shores
Ryan O’Sullivan / Alex Paknadel / Ram V.
Artists: Andrea Mutti / Martin Simmonds / Sumit Kumar
Colorists: Vladimir Popov / Dee Cunnife / Vittorio Astone
Letterers: Andworld Design / Taylor Esposito / Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 3 / 3 / 2

Okay, so this one is cheating, but of the three new Vault Comics launched by British writers with clear literary roots in the fall, I couldn’t pick any one to elevate above the others. They’re all incredible, and so I built myself a loophole (it’s my website, afterall), and included all three on the list. I heard Vault editor Adrian Wassel on a podcast earlier this year, saying comics could swing to a literary place that incorporates both recent cinematic storytelling trends and their unique ability to synthesize words and pictures. All three of these titles reflect that viewpoint.

You can read more thoughts about each on our Reviews Page, but let me run through them quickly. Fearscape is a look at pretense, literary culture, and how the nature of creative writing often sees authors bouncing violently between bouts of outsized ego and crippling insecurity. The voice is pretentious and incredible. Friendo is a meditation on the decline of late-model capitalist countries, specifically the United States, casting apathy, ceiling-less corporate greed, and the marginalization of government checks as truly terrifying villains. These Savage Shores is a gorgeous and deep commentary on imperialism, using misdirection to to create an engaging and tone-heavy narrative. Basically, all three of these are well worth your time, and I highly recommend them all.

8. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles
Mark Russell
Artist: Mike Feehan
Inker: Sean Parsons
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Speaking of literary comics, Mark Russell and Mike Feehan’s Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles (improbably) falls in that bin as well. Last year we highlighted Russell’s work on Flintstones. Another year and another smart take on a Hanna-Barbera property, and here we are again. In Russell’s re-imagining of this mythos, Snagglepuss is a basically closeted playwright during McCarthy-ism, trying to stay true to his values without running afoul of the federal government and staid societal interests.

Russell uses this premise to tell a sophisticated story that dances with ideas about life, art, politics, group think, and conservatism. The emotional core to this thing is the Huckleberry Hound character, whose tragic story beats brought tears to my eyes a couple of times. If reading a comic about Snagglepuss doesn’t sound appealing, don’t worry—you’re not alone in that thinking. But Russell also uses the legacy of the character to do work toward the satirical points he’s making, to help drive them home.  

7. Wasted Space
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 6 (counting the holiday special)

Phew, now we’re getting into the comics that I can’t imagine my 2018 without, the first being Michael Moreci and Hayden Sherman’s Wasted Space. I have heaped my fair share of praise on this book over the past 12 months, and I’m not alone. In fact, Nerdist has called it “easily the best new series to hit comic shops so far this year.” For my money, it’s without question the best wholly new property of 2018, and I’m going to quote myself to elaborate on why...

Wasted Space to me feels like Star Wars by way of 2018, determined to honor the hi-jinx & high adventure of space opera while fearlessly exploring the central conflict of our times: where should one’s desire for comfort end and their obligation to combat oppression begin? I’ve compared Moreci’s absurdist, idea-heavy writing to the late David Foster Wallace and I stand by that, noting that Sherman’s chaotic high-energy art style brings the world to life in a special way. This is maybe the highest compliment I can give: in a day and age where i buy fewer paper comics than ever before, I still have a pull list and on it near the top is Wasted Space.

6. Thanos Wins
Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Toward the end of 2017, Brian Michael Bendis left Marvel, dealing the publisher as significant of a writing void as I’ve seen in the past two decades, dating back to before Bendis established himself as the company’s prime writing voice. The thing about voids like that is they force publishers to take bigger risks and bring in younger, newer talent. For Marvel in 2018, that meant Donny Cates (among others).

One of Cates’ first charges at Marvel was to takeover Thanos in the wake of another essentially departing writer, Jeff Lemire, who seemed from the outside to be off to focus on the superhero universe he owned and created, Black Hammer. What Cates and past collaborator Geoff Shaw did with the final six issues of this run was absolutely remarkable, telling what is not only the best Thanos story of all-time, but the best end of the Marvel Universe tail this side of Jonathan Hickman. It’s called Thanos Wins, and it’s exactly what it sounds like.

Thanos Wins is as bold a statement as a young writer doing his first work at Marvel could have made. Aided by the out-of-this-world Geoff Shaw artwork and Antonio Fabela colors, Cates seemed to put all of comics on notice here, not being content to just decimate the very futures of these decades-old beloved characters, but insisting on doing so with wild grin viscerally affixed to his face. You might wonder, how do I know he was laughing and smiling as he wrote all of this. I think the better question, is how could anyone who’s read Thanos Wins doubt it?  

Read our analysis of Thanos Wins here!

Check back later today for our Best Comics of 2018, #1 - #5! Check out Best Comics of 2018, #16 - #25! And check back later in the week for more year-end lists, including our Best Single Issues and our Top Creators of 2018!

For the history-minded readers, you can find our Top Comics of 2017, Part 1, 2 and 3 online now!

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

The Stewart Bros. Top 10 Comics of 2018

By The Stewart Bros. — What a year for indie comics. Seriously, has there ever been a year packed with more stellar indie debuts? We tried our hardest to limit this list to 10, but it was just too hard. So, we’ve also included a couple bonus picks! Our list is comprised of 10 indie books (five from Image, three from Vault, and one each from BOOM! Studios and IDW - Black Crown) and two from the Big 2. Ten…yes TEN of our picks have a #1 issue that was released in 2018. The future of comics is bright, indeed.

  • Gideon Falls by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino (Image Comics): No story has better executed the strange people in a strange town trope, at least not since Twin Peaks. Artist, Andrea Sorrentino has crafted some of the most creative page layouts in comics for this book, and we absolutely love it.

  • Euthanauts by Tini Howard and Nick Robles (IDW Black Crown): A smart, stunningly-rendered trip down a mortality rabbit hole. This series makes death feel beautiful, not foreboding. No small feat.

  • The Weather Man by Jody Leheup and Nathan Fox (Image Comics): Combines sci-fi action with black comedy to spectacular effect. The Weather Man feels like it’s just warming up and we can’t wait for what’s next.

  • These Savage Shores by Ram V and Sumit Kumar (Vault Comics): Top to bottom this might be the most beautifully-realized comic on the shelves right now. Everything about it, from the story to the art, is gorgeous.

  • Kill or be Killed by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image Comics): I can’t remember the last time a series reached such a satisfying conclusion. This instant classic is only four volumes, so time and commitment are not reasons to skip this crime thriller. In fact, we can’t think of any reason to not read this one.

  • Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads (DC Comics): The Eisner-winning creative team concluded this masterpiece in spectacular fashion. This is an all-time great story about the humanity behind superheroes.

  • Bone Parish by Cullen Bunn and Jonas Scharf (BOOM Comics): This book is Breaking Bad with a horror angle set in a gorgeously-rendered New Orleans. Cullen Bunn is the king of horror comics right now, and books like this make it easy to see why.

  • Murder Falcon by Daniel Warren Johnson (Image Comics): This comic rocks just as hard as the title implies. No one composes better pages than Daniel Warren Johnson. Each page is a piece of art unto itself.

  • Fearscape by Ryan O’Sullivan and Andrea Mutti (Vault Comics): The best comic about storytelling since Sandman. Full stop. If you have ever embarked on a creative endeavor, this one will speak to you.

  • The Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett (Marvel Comics): This Big 2 book reads like an indie title, and we mean that as a high compliment. More creative freedom, more great comics.


  • Isola by Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl (Image Comics): World building at it’s finest. This character driven story is immersive and heavy with gorgeous atmosphere.

  • Friendo by Alex Paknadel and Martin Simmonds (Vault Comics): Is modern technology sweet? Yes. Is it also subtly terrifying? Yes. No book explores this contradiction better than Friendo.

Find more writing about comics from The Stewart Bros. on our reviews page!

REVIEW: Friendo #2 makes good on the first issue’s intriguing promise

Friendo #2 is out 11/14.

By Zack Quaintance — Before we talk Friendo #2, I think it’s worth a brief reminder of how the first issue ended...with a likely vagrant (who’s not the main character’s dad, but maybe?) stabbing our hero in the back before taking his wallet and remarking, Never look for meaning in a desert. Then a downed powerline flopped into our hero, electrocuting him so severely we saw his bones. Caught up? Good, because issue two picks up where the previous chapter ended (sort of): a desert in which its unwise to look for meaning.

Visually, I found the opening of Friendo #2 stunning, rendered by Martin Simmonds (with bright colors by Dee Cunniffe). I especially liked the placement of the first three panels and their contents: a setting sun, followed by a slightly lower lizard’s beady black eye, followed by a human eye within a face that’s clearly had its skin peeled. Next, we see said skinless human walking across the desert, almost surreal, like something from a film by Jodorowsky.

One could be forgiven for thinking our main character, Leo, was dead, but also, Friendo is a comic that won’t let the poor guy off that easy. So, soon we’re back in the near-future, where ambush marketers crash cars on purpose (incurring serious injury), paparazzi drones roam the skies evaluating who’s worth filming based on cold algorithms, and raging wildfires send ash into the air, always (sound familiar?). By the time we get past the ethereal opening and to the plot proper, the book is primed to delve into what’s really been its central concern from the start: unbridled and addictive consumerism (and its impact on the identity of the individuals it needs to exist).

Last issue, we saw Leo gifted a two-in-one anthropomorphic search engine and ride or die bestie—brand name, Friendo...individual name, Jerry—and in this issue we see the deeper nature of the insidious relationship that this marketing AI is forming with Leo, one in which he endears himself to our hero and trades actualization so as to foster a never-ending chain of purchases. But we learn as the plot continues that the AI’s power doesn’t stop there, that it’s so relentless in its marketing, it can also influence technology in the larger world, causing harm to other people if they threaten to get in its way.

This book, it should perhaps be noted, is from Vault Comics, and while the books put out by that publisher are disparate in theme and plot, the thing they share is it's tough to pin down their genres, be it Deep Roots, Submerged, or Fearscape. Friendo is cut from that same genre-bending cloth, but to me this issue firmly establishes it as horror, with the traditional monster or knife-wielding baddie played to subtle perfection by unstoppable (yet startlingly plausible) greed.

The villain here is basically late model capitalism at its skeeziest. One thing I particularly liked about this issue was that it twisted the idea of capitalism as a villain (which is being done all over now in this age of awful President Trump), and made it not as deliberate and overt as it could be. The capitalism-born antagonist in Friendo is not just a CEo, but rather a natural extension of CEO intent that has been turbocharged by a malfunction and deregulation as a corporate board looks the other way...which makes it even scarier and way more real.

Overall: As I noted in my review of Friendo #1, the debut of this series was loaded with intriguing potential. Friendo #2 makes good on that promise, crafting a near-future horror story that casts extreme capitalism and human indifference as its villains. It’s chilling stuff, laden with cautionary lessons for our times. 9.0/10

Friendo #2
Alex Paknadel
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: Taylor Esposito

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.

ADVANCED REVIEW: Friendo #1 by Alex Paknadel, Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe, & Taylor Esposito

Friendo #1 comes out Sept. 26, 2018.

By Zack Quaintance — Friendo #1 joins a growing wave of realistic, near-future capitalist horror stories being told in creator-owned comics. These stories all take hard looks at tech, at the late-model capitalist landscape, and at the plight of individuals within it. It’s the same rough formula that made Crowded so compelling, and to a lesser extent The New World, too. And yes, it’s at work again in Friendo, albeit executed with a take that is all Friendo’s own.

Friendo is set in dystopian Los Angeles, where ambush marketing is common. Have a movie about car crashes? You can hire someone to smash a car as a stunt, putting their body at great peril. Meanwhile, TMZ and E! have paparazzi drones hovering outside bedroom windows, using facial recognition software to evaluate whether people are notable. Oh, and wild fires, of course, are raging.

There are a growing number of these realistic near-future stories in comics, which makes perfect sense. Continued acceleration of healthcare costs, global warming, human reliance on tech, and the crumbling of boundaries between individuality and sales have replaced rando with a big knife as the scariest things a character can face. Friendo knows this. It’s scattered throughout its pages, with quick throwaway panels that are understated and terrifying (specifically a man on TV preparing to get up close and personal with a mustang stallion in order to win a year of health insurance for his family...christ, that’s not even far-fetched).

Friendo is thought-provoking, no question. Paknadel’s scripting is fantastic, as is the accompanying artwork. Simmonds art is clean and austere, leaving a blunt and captivating depiction of Los Angeles, while Cunniffe provides a complementary set of colors that are just so Los Angeleno.

One of the most impressive sequences—both in terms of writing and visuals—is the protagonist answering four questions that progressively shape his personalized marketing VR, Jerry. This scene was likely a heavy lift, but Paknadel’s adept scripting nails it, creating a set of questions as oblique in nature as they are believably-telling, especially if you consider them in the context of being fuel for advanced technology.

And that really, I think, speaks to this book’s greatest strength: its ability to craft technological ideas that seem advanced beyond comprehension but are still believable extensions of our current reliance on all things digital. Friendo has some work to do with its characterization (and plenty of time to do it after hooking me so thoroughly with this first issue), but in the end, this is a good comic—a look at a near future that truly seems as likely as it does terrifying.

Overall: Friendo is a solid debut comic rooted in smart extrapolations of ongoing societal concerns. This is a book that gives itself so many intriguing possibilities to play with as it moves forward. The rate of ideas here is almost staggering, and I’m excited to see where the creative team ultimately takes it. 8.0/10

Friendo #1 will be available Sept. 26, 2018.

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.