Royal Nonesuch reviews the first issue of FRENEMY OF THE STATE, the new comic co-written by actress Rashida Jones!
Credits & Solicit Info:
Title: Frenemy of the State #1
Writer: Rashida Jones , Christina Weir, Nunzio DeFilippis
Artist: Jeff Wamester
Format: Standard, Full Color
Page Count: 32
Age Rating: T+ – Older Audiences
Target Audience: Fans of high action comedy adventures.
Solicit Text: An all-new series from the star of NBC’s PARKS&
RECREATION and veteran comic scribes DeFilippis& Weir! 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?
Fame and wealth are strange and difficult things to understand for those of us on the outside looking in. It may even be outright bizarre, or at the very least somewhat frustrating, to those living inside the gilded cage. Either way, it can't be an easy existence. It's no wonder that in an environment like that, drugs, out of control partying, and trainwreck careers are all too common.
Then there's actress Rashida Jones, star of television's Parks and Recreation. The daughter of legendary record producer Quincy Jones and television actress Peggy Lipton, Jones was pretty much born into fame. However, she comes off as a lot more grounded, certainly more accomplished, than some of her high school classmates (a menagerie that includes the likes of Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie, and Kim Kardashian). Jones was a piano prodigy as a young girl, and studied law at Harvard University. She went on to become an actress, with roles in NBC's The Office, as well as last year's feature film I Love You, Man. Famous for having actual skills rather than for simply coming from a wealthy family, Jones sticks out a bit from some of the crowd she grew up with.
If that fact weighs on her mind at all, it seems to inform the premise of FRENEMY OF THE STATE, a new series co-created by Jones and the husband and wife writing team of Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir. The first issue, which hits stands tomorrow, starts off in the world of overpriviledged rich kids stroking their own egos, but soon focuses on Ariana Von Holmberg, the lead character who happens to strike a bit of a resemblance to Jones. Ariana may not think much of her peers, but she has problems of her own. She has a tendency to use her skills to tap into security systems and spy on her ex-boyfriends. When she runs afoul of a boyfriend who has family in high places, she's faced with a choice: go to jail, or join the CIA (if a unified field theory of fiction ever does get defined, the first thing we'll all learn from it is that government intelligence agencies really have some odd recruiting practices). Her first assignment: procure something from the vault belonging to the father of one of her friends.
Teenage girls could use someone to identify with in comics, but Ariana seems an unlikely choice. Though preferable to the spoiled brats around her, she's still not necessarily the most likeable character in the world. On the other hand, she is interesting, funny, and somehow easy to relate to, and it looks like she's in for some changes due to this new life she's leading. Experience makes us grow as people, and it looks like that's what this series will be about. That's what makes the reader naturally root for her. It should be exciting for readers to see how Ariana deals with becoming exposed to the whole world, after leading something of a sheltered existence.
The script does a good job of capturing the interminably superficial world of spoiled teenagers (the type of world that would put such a portmanteau as "frenemy" into wide circulation), and though the premise is high-adventure wish fulfillment, everything feels pretty natural and organic. The artwork by Jeff Wamester and Rob Ruffolo shows some odd perspective and proportion at times, but the style works fine for the story. It's a bit simplistic and unrefined, but it could work better the more accustomed the art team gets with the world. The one spot where the art and writing don't quite mesh is when the story shifts into a flashback. It's a little confusing, as it isn't clear that we're not in the same timeframe until much later in the issue.
Ultimately, if the first issue is anything to go by, FRENEMY OF THE STATE could make for a good comic book for the teenage girl audience. Its sense of fun and excitement may reach further than that particular demographic, though.