Faith Erin Hicks' "Friends With Boys" is her best work to date, an engaging beautifully illustrated black and white coming of age story about a girl going to her first year of public school after years of home schooling and the recent disappearance of her mother.
Hicks story is surprisingly bold. While on the surface it's a simple story of a girl named Maggie, her three older brothers and their strange family situation (her mother has just left them), there's a bizarre supernatural element that pays off in unexpected ways. The way this element resolves serves as a powerful and painful metaphor for the situation in which Maggie and her brothers find themselves. Hicks makes an unorthodox storytelling choice not everyone will respond to, but the end of "Friends With Boys" is all the more powerful for its unflinching honesty. Everything is not tied up in a neat bow at the end of the story and serves as a powerful truth. So few things in life are indeed tied up in a neat little bow and I appreciate Hicks honesty, especially in a Young Adult comic.
Hicks' art is absolutely hypnotic. Expertly paced and full of energy, she excels at character design and expression. Combining the best of her animation experience and her love of comics, she creates a fluid, incredibly well designed book impressive at every turn. Hicks manages to create completely distinct characters who are never confused for one another, even in black and white. Each character Hicks creates has their own personality and voice, even without words. It's nearly impossible to resist falling in love with Hicks characters (especially Lucy) but she manages to keep them balanced and realistic.
While Hicks' debut comic "Zombies Calling" was great fun, her books have gotten progressively better over the last few years. Her artistic skill grows and her writing becomes more layered and nuanced with each new book. "Friends With Boys" is so good it leaves one simply excited to see what she'll do next.