Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Death of Nancy Drew #1
Written by Anthony Del Col
Art by Joe Eisma and Salvatore Aiala
Lettering by Crank!
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
With the announcement of The Death of Nancy Drew, social media exploded in outrage, fuming at Dynamite Entertainment for tarnishing the original girl detective’s legacy by murdering her on her 90th anniversary. But this is comicstown, Jake, and death is rarely what it appears to be — if you have even a passing knowledge of genre tropes, you’ll find that both the hype and the outrage are unearned here, as writer Anthony Del Col and artist Joe Eisma deliver a solid but standard noir story that excels in emotion, even if the central mystery feels generally old hat.(opens in new tab)
So much of this book rests on whether or not you believe in the core conceit — Nancy Drew’s car has gone over a bridge, and her teen contemporary Joe Hardy is determined to find out what happened to his long-time crush. Del Col paints the Hardy boy as a sullen, moody detective, and he’s honestly a compelling character to follow — fans of Riverdale will enjoy Del Col’s examination of nostalgia and the past being traps that too many of us are caught in, our leading Hardy Boy included. The only people who have been able to escape the cycle are Joe’s older brother Frank, a charming rogue who still engages in some pretty manipulative gaslighting, and Nancy herself — although it hardly takes a detective to guess the real score here.
That said, while Joe’s characterization fits nicely in the detective noir genre, the actual detective work and exposition drags a bit — it’s almost as if Del Col knows that this story can’t just rest on Joe’s shoulders, but the actual world he’s built around him still feels a bit flimsy. We get some montages showing off the rest of the denizens of River Heights — particularly Nancy’s family and friends — but it’s a lot of telling rather than showing, stalling the series’ momentum and robbing artist Joe Eisma of opportunities to add some excitement to the visuals.
This does feel like uncharted territory for Eisma otherwise, as pairing him with colorist Salvatore Aiala give his work a moodiness and depth I haven’t seen elsewhere from him. I do think these colors are a bit hit-or-miss, though — the airbrush-style rendering sometimes lends Eisma’s inks an oppressive sense of atmosphere, but at other times, it only highlights the sketchiness of Eisma’s style, sometimes pushing them into the realm of looking unfinished. Still, Eisma does effective work in painting a scene, excelling most in showing characters inhabiting this sinister world — yet given how his last page tells so much with just his expressiveness, I hope Eisma is able to take more time to explore his characters’ emotions in future installments.
While plenty of people were gnashing their teeth at The Death of Nancy Drew, I can promise that those frustrations and concerns are undeserved — if anything, this book’s sins are mainly that it feels more run-of-the-mill than taking any sort of big, controversial swings. But Del Col and Eisma each demonstrate plenty of potential with this first issue, and I think they’ve definitely done a solid enough job that readers should give their sophomore issue a shot.