Characters like Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, and Harriet the Spy are staples in children’s literature. Young amateur sleuths exposing the truth behind small-town mysteries have captivated many readers for decades. Remembering the stories of detectives from his youth, Ed Brubaker asks the question, what happens next? As they age, do these detectives evolve and grow? Do they dive deeper into more dark and complex investigations? Do sexual tensions change relationship dynamics? In collaboration with the artists Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vincente, Brubaker explores these questions in the incredible mystery horror comic Friday: Book One: The First Day of Christmas.
Friday Fitzhugh returns from her first semester at college to Kings Hill, a small town where she spent her youth investigating mysteries with her detective partner, Lancelot Jones. Before Friday left for college, she and Lance solved mysteries from their “Jones and Fitzhugh Investigations” clubhouse under a tree trunk. Since their senior year and summer after graduation, their dynamic has changed, and Friday is desperate to talk to Lance and clear the air. However, Lance is in the middle of a strange investigation with the sheriff and has no time (or will) to hash things out with Friday.
The comic is narrated through Friday’s inner dialogue. Her frustration with Lance and confusion about their relationship is forefront in her mind and the comic. However, that is not the case for Lance. He is singularly focused on an investigation that brings them into a dark forest with a crazed man shouting prophecies about a white lady in the woods.
Brubaker’s writing and the art of Martin and Vicente play with the tensions of a childhood that has reached maturity. Much of the comic is reminiscent of quintessential young detective stories. The main antagonists for Jones and Fitzhugh Investigations were brothers named Wally and Weasel Wadsworth. The comic even includes images of book covers describing their past adventures, “Revenge of the Sea Maiden,” “Night of the Teenage Crime Wave,” and “The Legend of the Lime Cave.” These cases and character names are juxtaposed against a much more mature story.
This tension can be felt in the relationship between our two detectives. While Lance is desperate to stay in the world of his investigations, Friday, who now as an 18-year-old cusses and smokes and drinks, wants to focus on the relationship instead.
Martin and Vincente’s artistic style also explores this dynamic. They created a setting and used an illustration style that feels straight from the 70s. While rarely mentioned in the text outside of the title, Christmas imagery also invades much of the background. But the coloring and the snowy weather are dark and angry, evoking moods from a horror story rather than one about amateur detectives.
Friday, Book One is chapters 1-3 of a digital comic that was originally published on Panel Syndicate in 2020. In addition to winning the 2021 Eisner award for best digital comic, Brubaker was also nominated for the Best Writer Eisner award for his writing for Friday and Pulp (another phenomenal comic, reviewed here).
This comic will be well received in a high school library or collection serving teens, but since it plays with a genre that many adult comic readers remember from their youth, I think there’s much appeal beyond a teen audience. I recommend this book for any graphic novel collection for teens and adults.
Friday, Book One: The First Day of Christmas
By Ed Brubaker
Art by Marcos Martin, Muntsa Vincente
Publisher Age Rating: 13-16
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)