Nancy Drew: Vampire Slayer + Bonus Hardy Boys (Stefan Petrucha et al.)

Nancy Drew Vampire Slayer Part 1 CoverThe Plot
When Nancy, Bess and George meet the pale and creepy Gregor Coffson one night in the graveyard, they might be excused for wondering if he might be a vampire. Especially when, as time goes on, the evidence continues to mount in favor of that conclusion. But Nancy Drew is not so superstitious as that, and she’s determined to figure out what’s the real secret that Gregor is hiding. In the meantime, Bess, George and Nancy’s increasingly jealous boyfriend Ned attempt to protect Nancy from the dangerous vampire threat.

My Thoughts
Several years ago, when the first Nancy Drew graphic novel arrived, I was quite excited. While the literary value of Nancy Drew has been debated, the books have always been brisk and entertaining no matter what their incarnation. (Though I’ll be upfront: if forced to choose, my preference is for the original originals, the long form versions of 1-34.) Unfortunately, the quality of the first graphic novel was poor and, disappointed, I avoided them after that. But when we discovered there was an apparent relaunch of the graphic novels with the intriguing title of Nancy Drew: Vampire Slayer it was impossible to pass up.

It seemed we were the only ones who felt that way, however, as the volumes proved extremely difficult to acquire through ILL — only one or two libraries in the state would even admit to having a copy, and in the end we weren’t able to borrow volume 2 at all. So I ended up buying them, and in the process discovered that while Vampire Slayer 1+2 provided a “complete” story there was an even more complete story comprised of five total graphic novels: the aforementioned Vampire Slayer 1-2, Hardy Boys relaunch volumes 1-2, and Nancy Drew volume 3, which was a Hardy Boys crossover and promised to tie up all of the plotlines. Immediately, my completist compulsion kicked in and I ended up with all 5 of the volumes.

First impressions were not great: the volumes themselves are disappointingly slender, with most of the money apparently gone to glossy full-color pages when it would be better spent on a longer script with black and white line drawings (because let’s face it, the crowd they’re trying to attract is fans of manga, not American comics). Nancy Drew 1 and 2 were written and illustrated by the same team responsible for the initial line of Nancy Drew graphic novels, a fact which immediately put me on alert.

Nancy Drew: Vampire Slayer opens with Nancy and her friends Bess and George on their way to a movie, all three of them in costume for the ticket discount they’ll get. George, always described as a tomboy, is nicely androgynous and ungirlified (she’s even dressed up as a teen wolf to start with) in contrast with her cousin Bess, who’s always been the girly girl of the bunch. Unfortunately, Bess’s other defining trait — her weight (by no means fat, she’s definitely not supposed to be really slender) — is not conveyed in the drawings well at all, as she appeared to me about the same size as Nancy. But then, the Sho Murase’s art overall was fairly uneven; the characters’ body shapes and faces often elongated or altered depending on the panel.

Our trio soon finds themselves being chased by a vampire, or at least a boy with fangs which are never adequately explained. But then, in a shocking twist, it turns out he’s not actually chasing them but fleeing from Nancy’s dog who we never see or hear of again. The boy’s socially-awkward and odd behavior cause Nancy’s mystery-sense to tingle, and by the time the three of them have finished watching the movie, she’s worked herself up to fever pitch.

Her fever is not relieved when the ‘vampire’ approaches the girls after the movie and introduces himself as Gregor Coffson. His secretive behavior only drives Nancy wild with curiosity and she’s soon devoting all of her time to cultivating him in the hopes he’ll spill the beans. Bess and George and Nancy’s boyfriend Ned, left pretty much completely out of the loop, are thus left to their own devices as they spin ever more ridiculous theories as to what Gregor’s secret might be.

The editing in these two volumes is truly horrid, as evidenced by the fact that no one managed to catch the fact that “Garina” is identified by name several pages before her identity was supposed to be revealed. But even a good editor couldn’t rescue a plot this lame. It reads like something I wrote in the seventh grade.

In contrast to Nancy’s inane outings, where we take two entire volumes to meander through Gregor’s amazing secrets, the two associated Hardy Boys volumes (Crawling with Zombies and Break-up!) are not completely awful. Written by Gerry Conway (famous as the killer of Gwen Stacy) and drawn by Paulo Henrique, the main weaknesses here seem to result from a lack of pages: more space would have given more time to develop character motivations which must necessarily remain very shallow. I again think the series would benefit from a more manga-esque treatment, meaning a longer B&W book instead of a short color one.

Each of the Hardy Boys volumes contains a complete adventure tied together with several underlying plot threads — the shady person or persons behind both schemes, and the growing frustration with one another that’s causing the unravelling of Joe and Frank Hardy’s relationship. Though the plots are simple, I found them better executed, and the artwork was far more consistent (and thus less distracting). Henrique’s artwork appeared to me heavily influenced by a combination of shonen manga and video games. There were several panels I felt might have come straight out of Dragonball Z or Double Dragon. My only complaint was a very weird continuity error introduced by the artwork in the volume Break-Up: Joe and Frank are knocked out and captured wearing one outfit and then when they next appear, they’re wearing something completely different. Are we supposed to believe that the kidnapper took the time to remove their clothing and redress them like a pair of Ken-dolls? If we are, that opens up a whole new can of creepy worms that’s not actually addressed anywhere by the script.

Naturally, the Hardy Boys soon discover that the only clue as to the criminal mastermind behind the rash of Bayport happenings is a phone number in River Heights. Coincidentally the home of Nancy Drew. So the boys head off to meet up with her in Nancy Drew Together With the Hardy Boys. This volume is pegged as Nancy Drew: The New Case Files #3, though I have to wonder if it’s also serving in that capacity for the Hardy Boys series. It’s not clear. The script for this volume was penned not by the Nancy Drew regulars, but by Gerry Conway, which gives it a tone far more in keeping with the Hardy Boys books than the Nancy Drews. Unfortunately, Conway is saddled with the ludicrous plot introduced in the two Vampire Slayer volumes, so after some random happenings in River Heights, everyone heads off to Romania — because, of course, Ned has fled the country in the wake of his supposed ‘breakup’ with Nancy and is now in need of rescue.

In the end, my biggest disappointment with the “New Case Files” series was perhaps the discovery that it wasn’t really new at all: even though the books are starting again at #1, they’re actually a direct continuation of the initial graphic novel lines and frequently reference previously established graphic novel canon. It’s not clear to me why the decision was made to return to #1; perhaps there was just a hope that more people will buy something labelled #1 as opposed to #21. Because this is the case, the “New Case Files” have all the same weaknesses and flaws that were inherent in the graphic novels before – no efforts have been made to improve the product – so they’re just as lousy.

It’s unfortunate, because there was a real opportunity here to reboot Nancy into the 21st century. Giving George and Bess some real skills to make them helpful to Nancy was also wise. But like the “Nancy Drew Case Files” series from the 80s, there were some missteps. For instance, in Nancy Drew Together With the Hardy Boys, Nancy loses her temper with the sniping Frank and Joe and tries to remind them how good they are together as a pair. But really, she is angsting about her breakup with Ned, and concludes by equating “Nancy and Ned” with “Frank and Joe”. Which is just patently ridiculous. Ned is and always has been a sidekick – not even the most important one – and nothing more. Mysteries come first with her, not him.

In Short
The Nancy Drew graphic novel series continues to disappoint with the latest installments, which have been labelled as “New Case Files” and marketed as #1 and #2 of a series. But actually they’re just a direct continuation of the previous graphic novel line, which favors gloss and show over actually taking the time and effort to tell a coherent and reasonable story. Take a pass and reread The Secret of the Old Clock which is infinitely better in either incarnation.


J’s Take on Nancy Drew: Vampire Slayer

Nancy Drew Vampire Slayer Part 1 CoverIt turns out Nancy Drew: Vampire Slayer didn’t mean Nancy Drew was taking on the role of a vampire slayer. It’s just that the so-called mystery involved a vampire slayer. This is a two-part graphic novel story about Nancy Drew, which turns out to be ridiculously difficult to get through interlibrary loan. You’d think Nancy Drew + vampires + graphic novel would’ve been a definite library buy.

Not that I can recommend it to any library book selectors, because it’s pretty bad.

Nancy Drew has two friends, Bess and George. I was a little surprised to learn George was a girl, as two girl sidekicks is a little unusual. By the middle of the second volume, I was fantasizing they were a couple, just because it would’ve made things a little more interesting. And believe me, it needed all the help it could get.

Nancy also has a boyfriend, Ned. And she likes finding mysteries to solve. Even when none exist. In this story, she befriends a pale dude whom everyone thinks is a vampire. He’s being stalked by a vampire slayer even.

Let’s start with the artwork, because that’ll be quick and easy. It struck me as uninteresting, uninspired, uncreative. It just was sort of there.

Nancy — Man, is she annoying. Mostly because of all the narration. A lot of narration. Excessive narration. Superfluous narration. And do people really refer to their friends as ‘pals’? Like, repeatedly?

Bess and George — Of course one of them, I already forget which, is like a computer hacker. Because every detective needs one of those if they aren’t one themselves. But mostly they just hang out and be girly and get themselves into trouble.

Ned — Dude sports a collared shirt and a sweater! I mean, probably this is a hangover from the original books.. that’s the only reason I can think he’d be dressed like that. Unless he’s on his way to prep school. He also gets totally jealous of Nancy hanging out with this vampire, but never actually talks to her about it in any useful way.

Vampire — This is going to be a total spoiler and ruin the mystery for you!!!! Okay, you’ve been warned. He has porpheria which means he can’t handle light and is totally obsessed with his homemade vegetable juice chock full of beta carotene. To the extent that he doesn’t seem to actually eat anything. Also, he’s rich. And he totally faints for some reason. And he’s a recluse, for some reason, so he doesn’t know how to socialize with people. And Nancy feels all protective and ‘poor guy’ because of his illness and his inability to socialize and just ugh, ugh, ugh. I was given no reason at all to like this guy. Towards the end I was hoping he really was a vampire and the whole porpheria thing was a lie, because then it wouldn’t have been so totally lame!

Yea, I won’t even bother to go into the whole… twin thing.

The mystery, was no mystery. The plot, was totally contrived. (Ohnoes, we’re trapped in the house with a vampire slayer. And I have no idea my plucky pals are right outside spying on us through the security cameras.)

Nancy’s girlfriends (ah, if only they were her girlfriends and not just friends who are girls) are obsessed with this vampire movie, “Dielight”. Which I thought was silly.. why not just name the movie you’re really thinking of? Or create a completely different movie they’re obsessed with, like “My Creepy Stalker is a Vampire” or, y’know, something. But I was willing to let that pass without comment until there was a reference to Myfacespace or.. something like that. It just gets ridiculous.

I did have to look at book 1 again to doublecheck, but nope, not a single person of color in either volume. Not even in the audience in the movie theatre. The characters come in just two shades: white and whiter.

Finally, protip — it’s spelled straitjacket, not straight jacket, ‘k? Thnx.

Also, did you know Nancy was in this vampire’s house before? In a previous graphic novel adventure starring a magician? What? You didn’t? Good thing they mention it at least three times in this one! Otherwise you’d miss out on running out to purchase it to find out what happened before in this house!!

Did I mention I hate footnotes that try to sell you other books by the same author/publisher? It’s like… let me just jar you out of the story for a minute for a commercial.

In short: Save yourself time and money and skip this.


Nancy Drew: The New Case Files, Vols. 1-2

By Stefan Petrucha, Sarah Kinney, and Sho Murase | Published by Papercutz

Nancy Drew Vampire Slayer Part 1 CoverYou might wonder why I read a couple of Nancy Drew graphic novels, but when I tell you that these volumes comprise parts one and two of an arc called “Vampire Slayer,” perhaps you will understand. It was the unlikely union of Nancy Drew and Buffy—and yes, said show is specifically referenced in the endnotes—that compelled me and my compatriots at Triple Take to make this our pick for this month. I admit I didn’t expect to like this very much, but the story turned out to be even more blah than I was anticipating.

Here’s the premise: Nancy and friends Bess and George are on their way to see the hot new movie, Dielight. If they arrive in costume, they get a discount, so when they are chased by a pointy-toothed guy in the cemetery (is it supposed to be a fun twist when it’s revealed that he’s actually running from Nancy’s dog?) they assume he’s headed there, as well. He doesn’t show up for the film, but Nancy spots a mysterious-looking cloaked figure lurking alone in the back of the theatre.

Afterwards, tooth dude pops up again and introduces himself as Gregor Coffson. He is super intrigued by the fact that Nancy is a detective and asks her out, prompting this oh-so-hilarious exchange:

Nancy: Thanks… I’m flattered, but I already have a Ned… I mean… boyfriend.

Gregor: So?

Ned: Hi. I’m boyfriend. I mean Ned.

Gregor: Oh.

Oh boy am I ever rolling on the floor now. *eyeroll*

Anyway, things don’t improve very much from here. Gregor indicates that he has a secret, but he won’t divulge it until he is sure that he can trust Nancy. And because Nancy is a big nosypants, she ends up hanging out with him all the time, oblivious to Ned’s growing jealousy. At first I was pleased that Ned was confident that Nancy would not cheat on him, but that doesn’t last long and he soon begins throwing jealous hissy fits. Gregor’s secret turns out to be totally lame—someone’s stalking him because they think he’s a vampire—and so does the resolution of the story.

Ultimately, the adjective that most comes to mind when describing this story is “lazy.” In addition to the fact that Gregor’s secret is a letdown and Ned’s reaction predictable, there are other signs of shoddy craftsmanship. Gregor claims not to have a cell phone, but then how is he receiving threatening text messages from his stalker? The big reveal (spoilers, if you care) that the stalker is actually Gregor’s long-lost sister Garina is torpedoed when Nancy refers to the girl as Garina several pages before the existence of Gregor’s twin even comes up. And I’d swear that one scene of Gregor and Nancy sitting at a table was simply copied and pasted from one place to another, with only a slight adjustment of Gregor’s arm and the application of some green tint to Nancy’s shirt to differentiate them.

Probably they thought that only kids would read this and no one would notice, but kids deserve effort and originality, too. About the best thing I can say about this is that Nancy’s friend, George, is appealingly androgynous. She should get her own series.