RQW #1-3

By Ray Friesen
24 pages, black and white
Published by Don’t Eat Any Bugs Productions

I’m not quite old enough to remember when the “Perils of Pauline” movie serial ran in movie theatres during the 1930s, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating it. Each new installment had another crazy adventure for Pauline and her scientist father, ending as always on a bigger and better cliffhanger. We may not get the serial adventure in movies these days, but we do still get something just like it in comic books. When reading Ray Friesen’s comic RQW, all I could think is that a serial of this in the front of all of a studio’s movies aimed at teenagers would be a tremendous success.

Raymond Q. Wonderful can’t seem to stop from getting into trouble. Within minutes of visiting his Uncle Clark for the summer, he, his cousin Fidget, and Mellville the penguin are delivering a top secret package to the palace of King Houngadounga. Crashing planes, vats full of piranhas, and Aztec owls are just a few of the strange things Raymond’s going to find himself running into. How will he ever escape? What will the rest of his summer be like? And will he ever get to fly first class?

One of the first things you’ll notice about RQW is that there isn’t so much of plot, as an extended ramble. It’s sort of like those jokes that meander on and on with no signs of ending for a solid ten minutes… except that unlike most of those jokes, RQW is funny, and quite frequently at that. Plot twists happen at the drop of a hat, as do random shopping expeditions, goofy jokes, and shifts of location. It works, I think, because Friesen doesn’t seem to ever take RQW seriously. He may or may not be making it up by the seat of his pants, but he certainly does his best to give you that impression. As each non-sequitur shows up, it’s more over the top and bizarre than the one before, and it’s hard to keep from laughing. Each cliffhanger is resolved in a humorous way rather than trying to fit in strange plot twists, and that really sums up the entire book—humor over plot. We’re starting to see more all-ages adventure books hit the market these days, but RQW is definitely the silliest.

At a glance, Friesen’s art reminds me of the doodles and characters that friends of mine would draw in their notebooks. Friesen draws his characters with simple, stripped down lines; Raymond Q. Wonderful’s face is just a pair of circles for classes, and a line each for nose and mouth. It really works, though. I think it’s because it fits Friesen’s story structure, as something light and breezy and not really taking itself that seriously. Some of the panel-to-panel storytelling in the first issue is a little rough, but Friesen’s got a good handle on sequential art by the third issue and he’s able to get his story across to the reader just the way it should.

With comics-within-comics and some of the stranger cliffhangers around, RQW really is in a league of its own. That’s fine with me, though; I don’t think the world could handle a legion of RQW-esque comics. As its own unique creation, though, it fits in just fine. Friesen’s a young creator who with any luck will be around for a long time to come. He’s got a lot of raw talent and I’m definitely going to keep a close eye on him. You can find issues of RQW at the Don’t Eat Any Bugs Productions website.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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