Classic Teen Sleuths Meet Hammett-Style Noir in The Death of Nancy Drew!

Writer:  Anthony Del Col

Artist: Joe Eisma

Colorist: Salvatore Aiala

Letterer: Crank!

Cover: Joe Eisma

Editor: Matt Eidelson

Publisher:  Dynamite Entertainment

Available:  June 3, 2020

Price:  $3.99

Coming June 3 is the latest title in Dynamite’s Teen+, Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys line, Death of Nancy Drew. Death takes place after the events of Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie (and I’d seriously recommend you take a gander at that run as well) and is linked thematically, stylistically and sequentially, but is its own stand-alone story.

For the seven or eight of you remaining on Earth who haven’t heard of Nancy Drew…well first off, read a book. She’s been in lots of them (and movies, and tv shows), in a pile of formats, since 1930. Originally designed as a ‘tween female’s reading alternative to The Hardy Boys, the forever-fashionable Nancy has been sleuthing her way throughout River Heights for nearly a century.

‘Cept now she’s dead.

Death opens with an extended intro from the perspective of Joe Hardy as he grieves the loss of his would-be-if-he’d-ever-admitted-his-feelings-but-now-she’s-dead-so-he-can’t paramour. Seems the detecting damsel took on more than she could handle, at least in Joe’s eyes: while the rest of River Heights, including Nancy’s father and even his own brother, is convinced her death (by drowning, after her car flipped into the river) was an accident, Joe is certain she was murdered. And given Drew’s penchant for trouble—specifically, causing such for River Heights’ most notorious crooks, including the Syndicate responsible for the murder of Fenton Hardy (Joe and Frank’s father, as detailed in The Big Lie)—he might just be on to something.

With a whole town, including its less-than-reputable police force stonewalling him, though, proving it’s gonna be easier said than done.

As he did with The Big Lie, Del Col introduces a noir, almost Parker-esque flavor to the classic teen sleuths—almost as though we’ve found Joe, Frank and Nancy dropped into the heart of a Dashiell Hammett piece. And I have to say…I love it. Definitely more older-teen to young adult themed, with references to drug use, organized crime and murder (get this—Joe SWEARS—and intentionally irritates the cops!)—decidedly not your kid sister’s Nancy Drew—but such an interesting take on the characters and their world. Del Col, in keeping with the noir style, keeps everything first person, and despite the volume of information to be conveyed, is spare in his dialogue and narration (said narrator being Joe Hardy), trusting the image to convey as much as his words do. Excellent flavor and attitude—and perfectly accentuated by…

Joe Eisma’s lines. What wonderful, dark, spare, haunting lines. Echoing Darwyn Cooke’s style, Eisma balances shadow with more shadow and a bold grace that just drips classic ‘40’s noir. Particularly effective are his facial expressions—so much is conveyed with so minimal employment of line, via angle, cock of the head, slant of the eye. Maintaining just enough of the traditional look of the original characters, he informs the reader before they process the first thought balloon on page one that this is a new-old format Nancy Drew, that whatever you thought you knew of the characters is about to be challenged…and you’re gonna like it. He couldn’t have achieved this significant accomplishment, however, without…

Salvatore Aiala’s colors. Brooding, haunting blues, greys, browns and greens, all with just enough muddying to reinforce Del Col’s noir motif. Again, everything looks, sounds, feels as though we’re navigating the world of Same Spade. And everything is framed about the always-perfect lettering of…

Crank!, who once again matches font to form, making for a fluid and comfortable read. The words flow like part of the art themselves, rather than intruders within it. Awesome work all the way around, a first issue that’s got me chomping at the bit for the upcoming series.

So if you grew up like I did, reading the tricksy and twisted adventures of Frank, Joe and Nancy (or even the Bobbsey Twins), watching them on TV on Sunday nights, or you just appreciate a good noir mystery, this one’s definitely for you.

Death of Nancy Drew, Part One will be available June 3 from your local comic store, Amazon, comiXology or the Dynamite Entertainment website (dynamite.com).

Score: 13 (of 13)

Review by Andy Patch

Contributing Editor, thePullbox.com

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