POC COMIC-BOOKS

FRENEMY OF THE STATE #1


Ariana Von Holmberg is an heiress with a secret. But what she’s hiding isn’t a sex tape or a drug addiction or an affair with a professional golfer – it’s a new career as a CIA operative! What better cover for an agent than a globe-trotting care-free femme with a penchant for flights of fancy? But can Ari balance her high society obligations with her new role as a spy or will the weight of two worlds bring her dual lives to a violent end?

I remember reading about this series when it was first announced from Oni Press about 3 years ago, but it didn’t strike my interest at the time. I kinda just figured this was the case of some Hollywood actress putting out a comic as R&D for a potential TV series or movie, so it would basically just read like storyboards, not like a real comic-book. Well, I recently saw that it was free on Comixology, so I went ahead and downloaded it, just on impulse, but that was a few weeks ago. I only just now got around to reading it, during my morning break at work today, and I am so glad that I did!

Created by Rashida Jones (yes, THAT Rashida Jones), who also co-wrote it along with Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis, with art by Jeff Wamester (colored by Rob Ruffolo), this issue opens as the paparazzi and tabloids are all abuzz about the “unbirthday” party of Haven Douglas, a typical celebutante socialite, in the mold of Paris Hilton/Kim Kardashian. Along with other young celebrities, Ariana Von Holmberg, the daughter of a famous actress and rich foreign Count, arrives with her bodyguard. As Ariana and Haven meet, it’s clear that the two aren’t exactly close friends (hence the term “frenemy” for friend/enemy). As the party gets in full swing, we see Ariana sneak off into Haven’s father’s room, to get to safe hidden behind a large picture. Then in flashbacks we see how she got here. Born rich and famous she lived a charmed life, but also has a violent temper, and is a whiz at both finances (we see her giving her own mother financial advice) and computer hacking. One time she was hacking a security camera to catch her boyfriend, Ben, cheating on her, and ending up breaking into his home to punch him out. That turned out to be a big mistake, as Ben’s father is a U.S. Senator, so breaking into that house is a major offense. That’s when she’s approached by a C.I.A. agent named Byrne (who happens to be the man who was posing as her bodyguard at the party), and is given the option to become a secret agent for them, in exchange for all charges against her getting dropped. They want her because of her fighting and computer skills, along with her position in High Society, which gives her the perfect cover to get into certain places (like a socialite party). After some reluctance, Ariana accepts the job, and now we’re back in the present. Ariana’s not even sure why she’s breaking into the safe, her C.I.A. handlers just told her to do it and take whatever is in it. What she finds is a thumbdrive and, instead of just taking it like she was ordered, she stops to actually see what’s in it first (I won’t spoil that). This extra time leads to her getting caught by security, then getting into a fist-fight, then shots are fired, and it ends with Ariana plummeting to her death from the top of the building…TO BE CONTINUED

What a great opener. I was sucked right into the story from the start, and as soon as I finished I immediately went back on Comixology and bought the remaining 4 issues of this series (which I will review in the days to come). I liked the dialog, including the internal narration of Ariana, it all rang true. I guess Rashida is able to call upon her own experiences growing up as the child of celebrities. Other nice bits like, after the C.I.A. first hires Ariana, she says “I’ll skip the training montage” and it gets right to her being given her first assignment. And while it didn’t feel like just a storyboard for film/TV, like I thought it might, I definitely could see this adapted to the big or small screen, with Rashida in the starring role (although the lead is White, but Rashida has played plenty of “race-neutral” roles before, so this would be nothing new for her). I also enjoyed Jeff Wamester’s crisp, clean art style, beautifully complimented by Ruffolo’s coloring. This series is off to a great start. I give this first issue a Chacebook rating of 5 STARS.

Like I said, you can currently download this issue FOR FREE on Comixology. So what have you got to lose?

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