Remember when there was an uproar over news that Nancy Drew was to be killed off in a new comic book "celebrating" the character's 90th anniversary? Having the bandwidth to interrogate a boneheaded comics marketing ploy feels like a real luxury now, and maybe it always was. That's all the title The Death of Nancy Drew is: a marketing ploy. It managed to snag a headline in the New York Times, in addition to almost every comics and pop culture website. Comics readers have seen these stunts before. The Times also covered the deaths of Superman and Captain America, but the real meaning of these events has become predictable and so there's not even any shock value left to be enjoyed in these pages. The pandemic-induced delay of this titles release has allowed any interest drummed up by this "shocking" news to fade and that's ultimately for the best as there's nothing of value to be discovered behind the familiar cycle of hype.
The Death of Nancy Drew is a viscerally unpleasant comic book to read. When I first glanced at these pages, I was inclined to think it was simply too late and my eyes were tired, but the panels are every bit as ugly under the light of day. The line work is often undifferentiated and left so thin that it's difficult to perceive forms and depth. Character's faces are difficult to differentiate without a shade of stubble, making it impossible to discern who is who in any panels that convey distance. Expressions are generic when they offer any clarity to begin with. Muddy colors that make it difficult to locate a car dredged from a river (the focal point of a key panel) worsen the overall amateurish effect of this issue.
Comics are a visual medium and that makes reading this story difficult enough, but what's in these panels does not undermine a plot and other writing elements which are already troublesome in their own right. Joe Hardy's narration dominates these pages, leaving only intermittent gaps for dialogue that is every bit as plain and functional as the ongoing stream of exposition. Readers are delivered quick synopses of characters accompanied by their relationships and motives. It is written like an introductory speech for a DIY murder mystery party, a scenario that has no chance of being enjoyable when read alone.
There are a number of uncomfortable moments along the way. Joe's dismissal of a dead body he discovered for being a "punk criminal" and the rare moment of characterization being reduced to a one-dimensional and sexist rebuff of someone being a "slut" maintains the shallow appearance of this comic. These moments also undermine any potential charm found in reframing these classic teen mysteries in a more mature setting. One could set this side-by-side with a similar framing in Friday #1, but that would do a disservice to a competently composed comic book.
If entertainment is to provide some form of relief or distraction from events that deserve to make headlines, then that entertainment ought to be competently assembled with a price tag of $3.99. This is not and the reading experience is bound to leave many readers even more frustrated by the time they arrive at the final, completely unsurprising page. If you hadn't already forgotten the headlines this title stirred up, then know that The Death of Nancy Drew #1 is best left forgotten.
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
On June 3, 2020
Written by Anthony Del Col
Art by Joe Eisma
Colors by Salvatore Aiala
Letters by Crank!
Cover by Joe Eisma