By this point in the fascinating dark, satirical series, Friendo, our down-and-out loser of a hero (hey, beggars can’t be choosers), Leo Yoof, has become nothing more than a marketing campaign after a loophole in the corporate-friendly laws of America see him walk free and able to rob Cornutopia stores to a round of applause from a media-hungry nation. It’s a savage swipe at our own relationship, not only with social media, but also with celebrity. If celebrity news has taught us anything, it would seem that even the worst news is good PR and any story can be spun in your favour. If you have the wealth and power, that is.
While Leo and best pal, an artificially intelligent hologram, plan their next robbery, a bigger picture is coming into view, and the real villain of this drama: Corporate America who, behind the scenes, are duking it out over this live-streamed fiasco. Leo, for all his depression and suicidal tendencies, has become a slave to the machine and a willing – albeit unhappy – stooge in their bigger plans. All publicity, it would seem, is good publicity. Until it doesn’t make a buck for the shareholders and CEO’s.
It’s another witty issue from writer Alex Paknadel, artist Martin Simmonds, colourist Dee Cunniffe and letterer Taylor Esposito, and it embodies the spirits of Bill Hicks in its cynical take on today’s media landscape. I’m with him on the subject of advertising, and advertising executives, and it would seem Paknadel is too, to some extent. We live in a world wherein Kylie Jenner is more recognisable than most politicians, educators, and philosophers, and the argument for who the media makes our idols is as relevant now as it was when it first got going, about a day after TV was invented, I imagine. And it’s only gotten worse! With YouTubers, social influencers and sex on video, TV, or elsewhere, it’s all you have to achieve to achieve celebrity (along with youth and good looks, don’t forget!), regardless of any discernible talent. it won’t be the first time someone like Leo has gained more than his allotted 15 minutes of fame. And, this issue would suggest that his time may well be up.
Paknadel offers us some insight into a disheveled Leo’s early, troubled life, and no matter how big a loser Leo is – something he is more than aware of – he is a tragic figure. A victim of other people’s advertising campaigns, someone whose deal with this particular Devil is pretty bad. Like the unnamed narrator/Tyler Durden in Fight Club, Leo is the underdog who we are all rooting for, despite ourselves, because what he is railing against is far more dangerous and destructive. It’s David and Goliath, but with cell phones.
Simmonds again shows he has a great eye for design and for stunning pages that often experiments effectively with panel layouts and give the reader a book that’s streamlined and, thanks to the colours of Cunniffe. It’s a Hollywood glow to proceedings that Leo will never be able to enjoy and which hides the dark heart of this comic book. As it begins to count down to its endgame, there are still the odd few surprises, and a hitman, to contend with yet.
Friendo #4 is out February 13th from Vault Comics.