Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Thirty Days of Short Reviews #6: Friends

Friends is a crazy book by German cartoonist Jan Soeken, published by Polish concern Centrala (by way of England). It's inspired by the true story of two German police officers tromping through the forest in order to attend an initiation of the German version of the Ku Klux Klan. This story doesn't concentrate so much on the ideology that fueled their desire to join a hate group; instead, this is a story about two stupid guys (each of which is stupid in their own unique way) getting lost in a forest. One of them, Hermann, sees joining the Klan as a huge jump in social status. (A "meet and greet" was planned after their initiation ceremony.) The other man, Thomas, seems to be joining the Klan as a way to somehow potentially meet women, since he had just broken up with his girlfriend; all in all, he's far more ambivalent about that idea.

That Hermann is angry about Thomas' ambivalence essentially provides the impetus for the slender book's plot. Thomas annoys Hermann by getting lost, taking off the hood of his Klan outfit, complaining about what they have to do in order to join the Klan, etc. Hermann annoys Thomas by taunting him about his girlfriend and in general being a bully. That conflict reaches a flashpoint when they encounter a guard dog tied up in a fenced-in area in the middle of the forest, surrounded by barbed wire. When Thomas, in a fit of pique, throws his hood into the dog's compound, it kicks off a series of hilarious and awful situations that escalate as the book proceeds. Thomas is full of good intentions and poor judgment, while Hermann's cruel single-mindedness, which leads to an horrible--if fitting-- final scene/gag. Soeken's comedic timing is excellent as he turns a classic comedic trope (the bully and the sad sack) on its head with art that's scratchy and pleasingly minimalist but still quite expressive.

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