ADVANCED REVIEW – FRIENDO

FRIENDO #1
Continuing in the now long running and insanely consistent tradition of smash hits coming from VAULT COMICS, Friendo is set to explode onto shelves at the end of September.  Alex Paknadel is delivering another entry to the lineup that further establishes VAULT and their targeted approach to assaulting the comic industry with books that push every boundary of what you can do in the medium.  Set to debut alongside FEARSCAPE (our thoughts HERE), FRIENDO is going to instantly grab you and not let go.
 
What Paknadel has presented us with, is a satirical take on not just our present day but where we very well could be going with the “immersion” of our experiences.  Everywhere we look there’s one form or another of marketing being shoved down our throats.  Product placement here, check out our partners there, and this second of your life presented by this fucking thing.  Growing up the commercials seemed whimsical and a way to transport to a completely different place.  That’s partially due to being a kid in the absolute golden age of toys/etc in the 80’s, and slightly less due to the ignorance of being a child.  As a grown up I’ve been turned off of many things I love due to every Extra Point and Field Goal landing in the ‘good hands of AllState’ or having to book a trip to NRG Park instead of the Astrodome (yes, I’ve got some age to me).  The biggest difference is that it is no longer subtle, but rather down right insulting of our intelligence at this point.  In FRIENDO we are given a scenario that I can honestly see being somewhat of a reality before my dust is used as a way to advertise the authenticity of my kids.  
 
Leo Joof has a snazzy pair of sunglasses.  He’s already crashed and burned as an actor so hey, what’s the harm in letting him have these glasses that come fully loaded with an augmented reality/AI marketing interface assistant called “friendo.”  This neat little trick puts a full bodied “person” in the wearer’s real time environment.  The purpose?  A live feed, immediate, real time, essentially living/breathing advert.  That store has 30% of toe separators, she’s wearing Banana Republic Pier 1 Import limited edition anklets, and oh look that sector of air is sponsored by GE Green.  I’m being a bit over dramatic …. maybe.  The first couple of pages deliver a line that speaks to a truth of today: “do your bit before these industry bitches get distracted by a laser pointer or something.”  I laughed because it sure as shit ain’t just cats chasing that little moving light on the floor.  Even the actual introduction to our “reality” with Friendo got a chuckle due to being all to real.  Premium or Free version pal?  That’s right chump, free and shitty it is.  Preferences set and a quirky, odd inferred joke later “let’s go spend some money.”  Just like that.
 
Paknadel makes all of this very easy to dump onto Leo as he has set up his weak and susceptible mind with two quick but overly effective hits.  The opening of the book glimpses an interaction with Leo and his psychologically abuse and fanatical father.  The immediate transition to present day let’s us know that he’s not the bread winner in his relationship and the very glasses/friendo are a gift from his lady.  It all makes sense and with minimal effort we’ve been given a whole hell of a lot about Leo.  It follows that when he and his friends are out on the literal burning streets of California, he’s oblivious to being separated for just long enough to lose them.  The delivery of that moment though, is made to make us question whether it was the elements, Leo himself, or Jerry (the friendo) that caused the disconnect.  There’s an effectiveness with the delivery of things like this that run rampant through the book.  Maybe it was the fact that the algorithms used to set up the construction of the personalized interface were horrifyingly simple but overly effective, we’re told it sounds like Leo’s bff from school that od’d at burning man, but there’s something that leaks off the page to make the interactions between Leo and the friendo uneasily real.

The seamless interaction of the AI and streamlined dialogue are expertly done.  Not once do the lines feel forced or the “placement” seem awkward and out of place.  They are creepily on point with the casual conversation.  The friendo also exhibits a very life like reaction to things that mirrors the “I just watched that TV show and now I’ve got an ad for their t-shirt on my app” shit that’s happening to us now.  The best part of just how integrated it all is, is towards the end of the book.  During the last event of our opening chapter (that ends up being another lesson) while the stakes are life and death, our AI manages to drop a hint for counseling that fits the bill of a witty friend cracking a joke in the face of danger.

Visually the book is just as much of a treat as the story within.  There is a plainness to the art work that proves the less is more phrase.  The point of this book is not Michael Bay-esque.  The visuals don’t need to present that.  What we’re given is a representation of what Big Corp and the like are trying to sells us on.  Your world is uh, yeah … but what we’ve got is where your world comes to life!  It reflects the “not what you are but what’s available to you” motif perfectly.  When needed there’s more detail on display and the colors ramp up.  It is certainly not lacking.  The art is purposeful and compliments what is being done very well.

TL;DR?  JUMP ON FRIENDO!  PROMISE, IT’S FANTASTIC!

PRE-ORDER WHILE YOU STILL CAN!  HITS SHELVES SEP 26th!

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