I’m not sure how faithful Nickelodeon’s Harriet the Spy was to Louise Fitzhugh’s novel, but if Michelle Trachtenberg’s Harriet was anything like the book’s than she’s not a lot like Friday Fitzhugh, the main character of Ed Brubaker and Marcos Martin’s new comic series, Friday. In the movie, Harriet never wanted to quit investigating. Friday does, but she’s also an adult and, at Harriet’s age, this might’ve been a very different story.
What changed? It all seems to circle back to something that happened the night before Friday left for college. Friday’s best friend, Lancelot Jones, has a loaded name, too, but he’s much more Riverdale’s Jughead Jones than an Arthurian knight of legend. Chivalry’s dead, and instead of welcoming Harriet home from college, he decides the first thing she should do, upon returning to King’s Hill for Christmas break, is go with him and the sheriff to the woods. Supposedly, Weasel Wadsworth went in there with a cursed knife and it’s assumed that Harriet will help them look for him.
And she does, but the presumption behind it all is infuriating. Why, for instance, is Lance more in charge than the Sheriff? They’re not father and son and the sheriff’s lack of familiarity with the local lore makes it seem like he might be new to town, but other than the impression that this isn’t the first case that Lance has worked on, his exact role is as unclear as Friday is unsubtle.
That’s what really sticks out in Martin’s art, too. Friday isn’t keeping her reservations secret. When Lance or the sheriff walks away, she doesn’t move to follow. She’s constantly positioned behind Lance’s shoulder, so she can throw him dirty looks. They wanted her to be there but then ignore her once she’s there, and for someone who’s supposed to be Friday’s best friend (and someone who’s supposed to be an authority figure), to have them both be so oblivious and unfeeling is insane.
Friday isn’t about them, though. It’s about Friday and that’s why you stick around. It wasn’t Friday who asked Lance to pick her up at the train station. She just couldn’t bring herself to say no when he did and that’s the other thing Martin is able to get across so well – old habits die hard. Friday can talk about the past all she wants (and Martin does the lettering, too) but the moment you know she’s telling the truth is when instinct kicks in. Someone who’s never run after someone before isn’t going to take the time to throw their jacket off first, but Friday knows what she’s doing. There’s just a difference between being good at something and wanting to move on.
Munsta Vicente’s colors add to the sense of Friday being pulled into an investigation against her will. By making the woods devoid of color, Vincente isn’t just capturing the place at night. It’s like Friday is Dorothy when she wakes up in The Wizard of Oz, except the real world is in color and the woods aren’t a dream.
Friday #1 is available in English and Spanish on Panel Syndicate, where you can name your price for a digital download. The issue might leave you feeling Friday’s frustration, but that just means Brubaker and Martin have done their job.