A perfect blend of coming-of-age drama and ghostly tales, Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks is this week’s Pick of the Week. I hardly ever have the time to devote to reading long-form comics (which is why I typically prefer the quick-pace of comic strips), but this one just snatched up my attention and I immediately read through the entire archive. Maybe I have a soft-spot for stories about awkward teens finding their way, ‘cuz uhhh, I used to be one. Maybe I also enjoy paranormal stories and thrillers. Either way, those subjects coupled with some expressive black and white artwork is a one-two-punch for me; I was hooked.
The story centered around Maggie, a 14 year old freshman who is entering public school for the first time after being home-schooled for years. Being a freshman sucks enough as it is, imagine being tossed into the fire with no experience with classrooms or mobs of kids or making new friends that aren’t your brothers. No doubt Maggie is excited as well as extremely nervous.
Maggie takes solace in the fact that her 3 older brothers did the same thing… home-schooled until they entered high school. Some are protective and supportive, others have their own issues. Being the little sister of 3 older raucous brothers takes it toll though, and as the reader gets acquainted with Maggie, you’ll see how she differs form your average teenage girl.
The above comic shows Faith’s ability to toss in some humor and lightheartedness to a rather dramatic and spooky story. Some of the funniest moments are simply seeing the goofy faces the bothers are making in the background of a panel. Keep an eye out for similar somewhat hidden gems, as this comic is full of them.
Not only does Maggie have to learn how to navigate the school grounds without becoming hallway roadkill in the process (after only having to find her way to the dining room table for her day’s worth of education), but now there’s a g-g-g-ghost. We find out quickly, the ghost is no new phenomenon… Maggie has passed through this cemetery since she was a young child, and has been confronted many times by this sorrowful quiet female ghost. Why? Well, I cannot give everything away!
After clumsily finding a few “fringe” friends, Lucy and Alistair, whom Maggie can connect with, she slowly eases into the freedom that being a teenager brings– watching a classic thriller at the theater, late-night walks around town, and browsing through the old quirky town museum where we first learn about “The Hand”, something her friend Lucy finds quite intriguing.
Then comes the obligatory old ghost story that could or could not have to do with current paranormal events… a mysterious disappearance of a ship’s crew, a broken-hearted captain’s wife, and the spooky HAND, all that remained from the Captain…. what does it all mean?
If I told you, I would ruin the experience of reading it day by day, and taking in the awesome brush/pen work Faith has mastered over the years. You can also pre-order the book published by First Second, if you can’t find the patience to wait for the next page to post! Friends With Boys is as captivating as it is stylish, spooky as it is endearing… and just a bit rough-around-the-edges. A must read, folks.
Dawn Griffin is a self-described “crazy chick”. She likes steak, Cleveland sports, video games and oh yeah, comics. She spent her high school years either playing street ball, pitching, or drawing comics and submitting them to syndicates. Once she –accidentally– discovered the world of webcomics, the sydication route became a pointless hurdle. After all, “Crazy Chicks” do things their *&%$ selves. Dawn is the mastermind behind Zorphbert and Fred, and the illustrator of the Abby’s Adventures kids book series. She can be easily bribed with ice cream.