Nancy Drew #1
Triona Farrell (Colorist), Ariana Maher (Letterer), Jenn St-Onge (Artist), and Kelly Thompson (Writer)
June 13, 2018
A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
America’s most famous teen detective is back, this time in comics form. In Nancy Drew #1, Kelly Thompson, Jenn St-Onge, Triona Farrell, and Ariana Maher make the nearly century old character feel fresh and modern, while staying true to the basic concept.
Before we get into that, though, cards on the table time. I’m pretty immersed in popular culture, so I totally know who Nancy Drew is, what she does, and why she’s awesome. But … I’m not actually sure I’ve ever read a Nancy Drew book before and my memories of watching the 2007 film on cable are vague, to say the least. So, good news is that I’m approaching Nancy Drew #1 with fairly fresh eyes, but the bad news is that I’m not well-positioned to talk about how this feels to a hardcore fan of the character.
With that out of the way, let’s dive in.
I really enjoyed this issue. It opens with a fun action scene complete with a goat riding in the sidecar of a Vespa (while wearing a helmet, no less), sets up Nancy as the Veronica Mars of her local zip code, and introduces us to her pals/unindicted co-conspirators Mia Hudson and Noah Jessup before doing the mid-issue shakeup teasing a new mystery that requires Nancy to dredge up a past she thought she’d left behind her seven years before. It’s a great setup—if not entirely original—that gives you a feel for who Nancy is, what she does, and why we should care.
The in medias res opening works in large part because Nancy’s facial expressions, brought to life by St-Onge. Without seeing the full extent of the peril Nancy is in as she dangles on a rope above a swampy lake, St-Onge’s first two panels show the apprehension in Nancy’s face, before switching to a look of determination in the third panel.
The scene also does a great job of showing off Maher’s work as a letterer. For Nancy’s internal narration, Maher uses a lettering style reminiscent of a teenage girl’s handwriting, as well as a caption box designed to look like lined paper or 3″ x 5″ notecards. The lettering immediately tells us at least as much about Nancy as St-Onge’s art or Thompson’s script.
Which isn’t to say the art doesn’t tell us a lot about Nancy. St-Onge gives Nancy a wardrobe that is classic, while still feeling appropriate for a 17-year-old. Her hair is slightly longer than shoulder-length and stylish, but with a hint of ombré fading from red to a fiery orange (consistently colored throughout by Farrell), and a cat eye makeup look that both give her a hint of fun. (Farrell also does an excellent job on Nancy’s smoky eye, as you can above.)
St-Onge’s style here is reminiscent of her prior work on Bingo Love and Jem & The Misfits. Her heavy, rounded lines with few sharp angles give everything a friendly softness even to her adversaries, a look not unlike a lot of other all-ages comics, without fading into the crowd. St-Onge’s work here brings to mind Brittney Williams’ art on Goldie Vance, though with a few less angles and a greater focus on the mouth in expressing emotion.
St-Onge and Farrell’s art also nicely complements the tone of Thompson’s script, which seeks to be fun, while still telling a compelling mystery. As someone who read (and loved) Thompson’s work on the Kate Bishop-starring Hawkeye, this first issue felt like it was hitting a familiar tone, though perhaps one suited a bit better for a younger audience. Nancy definitely isn’t Kate, but there are enough similarities (including the Vespa) that fans of Hawkeye will likely feel right at home here. And while Nancy is first introduced alongside new characters Mia and and Noah, some of her classic supporting cast quickly shows up, including pals Bess Marvin and George Fayne, as well as a couple of boys by the name of Hardy with whom Nancy has a history of teaming up.
All-in-all, there’s a lot here to love, though the mystery involving Nancy’s mother feels a tad familiar so soon after Hawkeye. I also wish we had more time to get to know Mia and Noah before Nancy skipped town. It isn’t clear from this issue if they are going to be critical members of the cast or merely extras on the way to meeting her real friends, and Mia especially feels like she could be a lot of fun. Longtime fans might also be disappointed in the absence of a few other supporting characters, especially Nancy’s dad Carson Drew or her longtime love interest Ned Nickerson, though both will likely turn up eventually.
For my part, though, there was definitely enough to pique my interest and make me want to come back for issue #2. I’m just crossing my fingers the goat will be back.