The saying goes that all good things must come to an end. In the case of Faith Erin Hicks’ coming-of-age webcomic Friends With Boys, that ending was planned from the very start, as FWB was intended initially for print (and indeed is currently available in comic book stores). Fortunately for us, Hicks was able to talk her publisher, First Second, into serializing the comic on the internet and develop a larger readership before the comic hit the stands. The drawback to this is that FWB will only remain online in its entirety for another week; by March 6, 2012, it will be removed from the web with the exception of the first 16 pages to give new readers a brief taste before they decide on purchasing the graphic novel.
This is actually an interesting variation on what Studio Foglio and related webcomic companies do; the Girl Genius archives have been available for free since they first appeared online in 2005. The difference is, of course, that at 206 pages, FWB is far more easily read in an archive crawl than the truly massive GG archives; in essence, the difference between the two is that FWB (with its set introduction, climax, and denouement) is a stand-alone novel, while the GG graphic novels are an ongoing series. Thus while I’ll miss the comic when it vanishes from the web, this was never meant to be FWB’s home. Instead, in time I’ll track down a copy and it’ll join my growing collection of print compilations.
The comic itself remains true to life in that there are elements left unanswered. To give a minor spoiler, we never do learn what happened to Maggie’s mother, and if Maggie’s parents ever reconcile and get back together. That does make some sense if you consider Maggie’s mother to not be a plot point, but an aspect of her setting and history; we never meet her mother, and only hear from her through Maggie and the other characters. Ultimately, she’s a cipher… and doesn’t play an actual role in the growth of Maggie into a young lady with attachments to the world outside the shelter of her family.
Likewise, we never learn any specifics of the ghost (though the revelation concerning Maggie’s brothers was intriguing, and amusing when Lloyd points out the significance of his t-shirt). Why does she haunt Maggie and her family? Why can Maggie see her? Hicks leaves this up to the readers to decide, along with the symbolism of the ghost and Maggie’s odd relationship with her. But on the whole, Friends With Boys is a story of a teenage girl making friends for the first time, and moving away from the safety of her old life. It’s a story that’s well told, and worth reading, whether you catch it online before it fades like a ghost in the morning light, or buy the graphic novel so its story can endure.