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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
<i>Nancy Drew</i> gets a 21st-century update with beautiful art and <i>Veronica Mars</i>-style mystery

Nancy Drew gets a 21st-century update with beautiful art and Veronica Mars-style mystery

With the successful relaunch and expansion of the Archie universe, it’s no surprise that publishers continue to revisit other aging classics. They have name recognition across multiple demographics, and many of them are overdue for a revamp. Nancy Drew #1 (Dynamite) is the perfect example of how to initiate a character into this brave new world of rebooted media franchises, fun and full of nods to previous canon without relying so heavily on it that it will confuse new readers.

Nancy Drew is firmly targeted at YA fans and folks who might be newer to comics, providing Raina Telgemeier’s audience a safe place to land as they grow beyond middle grade offerings while still providing fun for older readers. The art has a colorful, bright sensibility familiar and comfortable to those who have been reading YA graphic novels, not so cartoony that it feels too childish. Artist Jenn St-Onge is fresh off the successful Kickstarter and subsequent publisher pick-up of Bingo Love, written by Tee Franklin, and has also contributed several covers and guest issues for titles like Giant Days. Her skill has continued to improve over the last few years, and her style has solidified into something immediately recognizable but far from distracting. She’s always been good at character design, and she’s stepped up her game on expressions and the flow of action sequences. Colors by Triona Farrell elevate St-Onge’s work even more, particularly when it comes to the hair and makeup of the female characters; the care and attention invested in the characters’ appearance feels appropriate for their age rather than forced.

This isn’t the first time that St-Onge and writer Kelly Thompson have worked together on a book full of young women. With Jem And The Holograms: The Misfits, Thompson and St-Onge had a chance to humanize the villains of Jem’s story, and did a great job with it. In Nancy Drew the task of creating a protagonist who’s both a little too clever for her own good and sympathetic could be a daunting one, but Thompson has experience here, particularly in Hawkeye.

Comparisons between Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars would not be unwarranted. Nancy is sharp and brash and a little distant in much the same way Veronica was, but she also seems more open to lasting friendships and accepting more help from people who care than Mars. As she returns to her former home town to investigate a mystery that cuts a little too close, the first issue gracefully introduces her social circles past and present, including some appropriately updated Hardy brothers. This first issue does a lot of heavy lifting in terms of setting the scene and outlining the characters, but ends on an exciting and literal cliffhanger that will entice some readers back for more.

The story isn’t a complicated one, but it doesn’t need to be. Nancy Drew occupies a similar niche to Lumberjanes or Nimona, a kid-friendly book with intrigue and danger but not so much violence as to be worrisome for younger readers. It’s charming and funny and absolutely beautiful, but struggles with some of the same common sense issues that appear in TV shows and books targeted at this age group. Nancy has an inexplicable amount of money and freedom for someone who is ostensibly in high school. There are no adults in the book, not even in the off-panel Charlie Brown way, and combined with her sharp dialog it does leave the impression that Nancy’s several years older. It’s easy to dismiss most of this as a side effect of the teen adventure drama, but Misfit City tracked into similar territory without these same stumbling blocks. Perhaps the most unbelievable thing in the entire issue is that Nancy, a modern-day teenager, uses an old-school Bluetooth earpiece to call her friend, which is unexpectedly distracting. That said, using Nancy’s diary entries as voice-over in the panels is cute and clever, just like the rest of the book.