Advance Review: Imaginary Friends Designed By Corporate America In Friendo #1 From Vault Comics

by Oliver MacNamee

Meet Leopold Yoof, a stuntman for Hollywood, with one Hell of a messed up childhood, who is given a pair of AI glasses by his girlfriend, designed to create an artificial friend. Think imaginary friend, if they were sponsored by Corporate America. Just another way in which we can be spied on and manipulated to continue to be good, obedient servants to commerce, it would seem.

After all, the bigger picture to this new book, written by Alex Paknadel, illustrated by Martin Simmonds, with colours by Dee Cunniffe and letters by Taylor Esposito, does seem to be a consideration of just how deeply intertwined our lives are with modern forms of technology and communication. Whether we like it or not. In a godless society, are we turning to tech as our new opiate for the people? It seems to be a question this series will be exploring in future issues. The consequences of our over reliance on such devices are already heavily hinted at in this issue when Leo’s new artificially intelligent ‘friend’, Jerry, comments on being switched off, as is the owner’s prerogative, surely?

Paknadel effectively creates a world not too dissimilar to our own, but with more advanced tech. We may have Google glasses, but it would seem in this reality that they have Microsoft mates and Beta version buddies, built to order. A lot of the tech on display in this debut issue is intrusive, but barely raises an eyebrow from Leo and his lady friend. It’s a frightening indictment of our own lacksadaisy attitude to such invasive secretive technology, reflected on the page. If we are to be worried about this in Friendo, then why aren’t we as worried in reality? Even with all the concerns over how sites like Facebook harvest our data for profit and to laser target us for the absolutely correct advertising, have thinks really changed for the better? Judging by the direction this series is heading, the answer is a resounding ‘no!’

Simmonds’s art is more stripped back than his recent work on Punks Not Dead, although he isn’t colouring his own work on this book, so it doesn’t have the same rich, textured depths of the aforementioned book. It reminds me a little of Mark Buckingham (take that as a compliment, Martin), offering a very clear, clean style with more flat, but bold colours added by Cunniffe, whose choices, especially in the second half of the book, give the comic an almost neon-bright vibrance befitting of a Hollywood-centred story.

A comic with a cautionary tale to tell set in an alternative Hollywood with a – literally – electrifying ending come the last page. A comic dealing with the concerns of modern tech and it’s omnipresence (and omnipotence?) in a world where extreme weather is fast becoming the norm. So, not too far removed from our own reality then?

Friendo #1 is out the 19th of September from Vault Comics.

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