A Friendly Game

A Friendly Game Graphic Novel Review

2010, Slave Labor Graphics
Story: Joe Pimienta, Lindsay Hornsbys
Script, Inks: Lindsay Hornsby
Pencils:
Joe Pimienta

As anyone who suffered a speech impediment, thick spectacles, tentacles-for-arms or any other physical distinction at school will attest, children can be evil little bastards. But few are as demented as A Friendly Game’s central rascals Todd and Kevin, whose afternoon-passing games take a sickening turn after they find and dissect a dead mouse caught in a trap.

What started as a one-off act of morbid curiosity soon becomes an obsession, with the boys entering a game of one-upmanship, escalating their prey from rodents to small mammals and finally a puppy – the last of which causes Kevin to quit. Todd, however, sees Kevin’s retraction as a need to take the game to the next level, raising the stakes even higher.

Slave Labor Graphics are keen to promote A Friendly Game as No Country for Old Men with kids, but it’s far closer in tone to River’s Edge, Funny Games or Mean Creek. This is a study of adolescence sociopaths who possess the same capacity for evil as adults, despite their diminutive stature.

A Friendly Game

A Friendly Game

A Friendly Game is the first graphic novel by Joe Pimienta and Lindsay Hornsby, whose writing/art duties appear to be so intertwined that I won’t even attempt to distinguish them. It’s a finely illustrated book, and in spite of the b&w manga-esque presentation and wide-eyed characters, Pimienta/Hornsby paint a pretty intimate picture of small-town America.

The central problem with A Friendly Game, however, is that it lacks a full first act. The boys’ initial animal mutilations occur just a few pages in, providing little space for psychological insight or moral dilemma. The book’s most interesting concept; that the more moral Kevin actually initiated the game and feels responsible for turning Todd into a monster, is also never fully explored.

But these shortcomings aside, there’s a lot to admire about A Friendly Game, and I’d like to see what Joe Pimienta and Lindsay Hornsby come up with next. I should perhaps add that while the book depicts scenes of animal cruelty, Pimienta and Hornsby never indulge that sense of fetishism that modern horror movies do; it’s never implied that Kevin and Todd’s games are anything but the work of a twisted, deplorable mentality. A shame, then, that the book doesn’t attempt to delve beyond the surface of such a mindset.

6/10

Carl Doherty has written about movies, video games, comic books and literature for almost a decade, forging ill-informed critiques for numerous websites, blogs and publications that no one has ever heard of. His debut novel, the epic fantasy comedy Welcome to The Fold, is available now on Kindle here (UK) and here (US).

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