And when it comes to balancing the equation, so to speak, he sucks at that too. Quelle surprise.

Paknadel and the team are at it again. Friendo #4 continues Leo’s wild ride from the swerve of last issue’s ending with exactly what he’s always wanted: fame. And, unsurprisingly, it kinda sucks. It doesn’t fill the void inside of him, it doesn’t fix Jerry and it sure as hell doesn’t make any sense at all.

I pride myself on being a comics fan of taste, and the creators I love the most know damn well how to take you on a hell of an adventure. They know how to establish characters with tender brutality and build tension until it’s piano-wire thin and screaming from the gut at the edge of the abyss. And they know when to kick you over the edge or when to pull you back.

Put simply, I like good shit. And Friendo is, and continues to be, good shit.

Leo is fascinating for so many reasons, not the least of which is Paknadel’s searing take on Millennial culture. He transcends one generation, however, with a cold and clear Gen-X core understanding of the wound at the center of things and the sick sheen of Boomer idealism still dogging every step. He’s all of us, of course, and so much more. We all made this nightmare, and we’re stuck in it now.

Revelations unspool pretty rapidly in limited series, and Friendo doesn’t give you much time to dwell on them in between increasingly outlandish and delightfully weird vignettes. Jerry and Leo’s sobering moment of truth in the latest – and possibly last – Cornutopia passes pretty quickly, because there’s a more pressing issue at hand. Zajicek’s dogging his every step, things get even more painful and the last ride is rapidly approaching.

The last thing I want to see in the entire world right now is a 9-panel grid, but hats off to Simmonds for nailing it. Zajicek’s montage is a thing of beauty, as is every physical detail Simmonds gives him. Jerry appears to be rotting at his core while maintaining a ghoulish granny vibe, and he’s still sporting his miraculous gut wound. Plus, we’re introduced to another Friendo in this issue, whose delightful form adds even more weirdness to the mix. Simmonds’ imagination is on full display, as is his keen understanding of what works in terms of page structure and character design. Friendo is a perfect example of layout experimentation that works. Nothing feels cheap (at least, unintentionally!) and every POV, every angle adds up to an overbearing sense of stimulation and dazed despair.

Cunniffe’s colors continue to amaze me. I wish every scene of banal apocalypse was rendered in such a cheerful and sinister rainbow. We’re stuck in the muted day-to-day, but Cunniffe gives us an almost Technicolor nightmare to enjoy, complete with the glitch factor and endless, endless light sources. Nothing to see in the shadows, kids. We’ve yanked it all out into the daytime.

Esposito is a treasure. Each issue of Friendo boasts more and more wild stuff on the page, and as a letterer you have to find the right balance between complimenting a book’s style and making your work seamless. Esposito absolutely nails it. Letterers are some of the unsung heroes of comics. We need to appreciate them more, and we need to continue to appreciate and spotlight Esposito’s exceptional talent and craft. It’s gotten so I’ll pick up a book if he’s on it, because I know at least one aspect of comics craft will be on point.

Leo’s down in it, and we’re about to join him. We’ve got one more issue to go, and I’m not sure how this rollercoaster of pain and hilarity is going to end. I’m not sure how to take it all in, even, aside from the sigh of relief that comes when I open an issue of Friendo and see the brutal insanity of unfettered consumer culture come to hideous, banal and hysterical life on the page. Seeing the chaos reflected back at you, plotted so meticulously and rendered in exquisite visual detail, is a weird and awful blessing right now.

At least someone else sees it, yeah?

And honestly, we could all go out far worse than Leo in pursuit of a childhood dream. However much we might want to piss on it. And we probably will.

Friendo #4 is out in just a few weeks, in time for everyone’s favorite hell-scape holiday celebrating love, possession, obsession, chaos and heartbreak – and chocolate!
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