Out this week is a new Panel Syndicate series by Ed Brubaker, Marcos Martín, and Muntsa Vicent that’s all kinds of fun if you’re into detective stories. Entitled Friday, this series is about a girl named Friday (naturally) who goes back home from college and finds herself in another detective project with her childhood friend, Lancelot Jones. The two solved crimes as kids, and it appears the occult is up to something in her hometown. Set during Christmas time, the series aims to reveal what it’s like when crime-solving children grow up, when hidden feelings may amount to real conflict, and what it means to be the sidekick again when it’s not your natural place anymore.
This is a great first issue and one you can name your own price for thanks to Panel Syndicate’s approach to selling comics. Brubaker and Martín are working on a different kind of level, drawing you into Friday’s personality via captions while unveiling a world around her that seems ordinary but also familiar to the crime-solving children’s stories we grew up with. Friday is very much a relatable, grounded, and believable character. The strength of this character is the main crux of why this book works, because it could wildly fly off the rails after meeting Lancelot, a Sherlock Holmes type who clearly calls the shots. That dynamic may not work going forward, and you get a sense of that thanks to how Friday approaches being greeted coldly and approaching the latest case. There’s a relatable nature to the story, too, since most of us have gone off to college or moved away only to come back and find friends interacting with us as if nothing had changed. Growing up has other plans, though, and it’ll be interesting to see how Friday reacts to Jones now that she’s a little different and maybe not so keen on Jones’ approach.
The mystery at hand has all kinds of reminiscent flavors to it, and yet the pace is so quick it’s hard to gather a sense of what is going on before whisking off to something else. That keeps you on your toes as the narrative shifts and changes, which further engrosses you in the story. Funny enough, it’s not the murder mystery that’ll capture your interest, but how Friday’s new perspective may create conflict as the old dynamic with Jones is ready for an update.
The art by Martín and colors by Muntsa Vicent is as interesting as the narrative. The book does well to play with structure, featuring a layout design that is all straight lines and well-placed panels only to throw us off with a montage of evils and mysteries. The structure comes back after a short dramatic turn, and there are interesting visual choices with panel work further on. Take, for instance, a quiet moment as Friday exits a car and approaches a broken down one. The panels literally shorten into the night, drawing your eye up and reminding you of the darkness ahead. It’s the smallest of details on a corner of a page, but it does a lot to inform the reader of how to feel.
Vicent’s color choices are striking with a bold yellow used for headlights, which casts a scary encounter in stark contrast with the surroundings. You see the use of this color again in the opening scene, which further indicates a story is being told via color alone. Martín’s pencils are exceptional in capturing detail, yet are smart enough to pull back detail when it’s unnecessary. Friday’s curly hair is an excellent example of a detail that tells us something about the character’s personality, or in the case of environments, backgrounds in the town’s street help indicate what kind of place we’re in. A double-page splash of the town from up high on a hill crest helps detail the closed-off nature of the place, but also the quaintness. This is a feels like a quiet New England town or a small community off the coast of Washington state that has a history. You feel that in how Martín draws the little things.
I had a blast reading this book, not knowing what I was getting into and discovering a new mystery narrative with great character writing to help distract from our troubled world. This series was a delight, especially since I’m a huge Sugar and Spike fan. It brings a similar feel as far as mystery, character development, and atmosphere in a new yet somehow nostalgic way. This book is branded as a post-YA book, and in a lot of ways, it pulls that off by capturing the messy nature of growing up and returning home to find things are slightly off. This book captures the vulnerability of coming home, brandishing nostalgic vibes in an atmospheric package.