Writer: Anthony Del Col
Artist: Joe Eisma
Colorist: Salvatore Aiala
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys: The Death of Nancy Drew marks the 90th anniversary of the indelible young sleuth. It follows the noir tale Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie, where Nancy helps Frank and Joe investigate the untimely death of their father. The limited series has already stirred concerns among fans that the titular heroine has been “fridged” for an edgy take on one final mystery. The whole ordeal reminds me of the infamous death of Sherlock Holmes in The Adventure of the Final Problem (an equally ominous title), which caused widespread outrage and cancelled subscriptions to The Strand — the publication that printed the Sherlock tales.
Fan theories have swirled from Nancy solving her own death through flashbacks by leaving clues for Frank and Joe to Nancy’s ghost returning from beyond the grave, which wouldn’t fit well in the franchise’s mythos. Most concerning was apparently placing Frank and Joe at the center of the story and using Nancy’s death to further their own journey and growth. After all the theorizing, the question remains: Why celebrate an iconic female character by killing her off before the story begins?
The creators have commented on the backlash without confirming her fate, stating that Nancy will absolutely be the main protagonist with plenty of agency (even if it is through flashbacks) and that “it was purely coincidental that our story lined up with the anniversary.” I, like many others, believed her death was fake or perhaps even metaphorical as she leaves the sleuthing life behind and assumes a new identity. It seemed unlikely they would be so brazen as to fridge her on her anniversary — then again, there is a disappointing legacy in comics of making stupid mistakes when it comes to female-lead titles. Despite my optimism regarding the nature of her demise, the premise did leave something to be desired. So like many childhood fans of the brilliant detective, I flipped the cover of The Death of Nancy Drew #1 with dread-tinged intrigue.
Without divulging the key plot point, this first issue isn’t going to completely address the issues surrounding its premise, but the final-page reveal will answer a crucial question. My feelings toward the story thus far are lukewarm, but there is plenty of potential. I think the next issue will be the true litmus test. The first half of the story leans heavily on establishing and developing Joe Hardy’s character, who is obsessively investigating Nancy’s death. It has been deemed an accident by the police and those closest to him, including his brother Frank, but Joe clearly can’t let her go.
Obviously, my first concern was the story going in the very direction I feared it would, and the heavy exposition from Joe didn’t help. There are few scenes with dynamic conversations, and I couldn’t quite connect with the various supporting cast from the series whom he meets. Though I like the classic thought-delving from detectives, it felt unnecessarily expository in places, literally telling the reader what he thinks and feels in the moment. That being said, the story certainly didn’t lack intrigue, with the Syndicate that Nancy uncovered in The Big Lie fueling much of the mystery. I definitely want to see where things are going, and as much as I don’t want Joe and Frank to take the lead, they are thus far compelling characters.
As expected, the noir-inspired artwork from Joe Eisma is solid, and despite the controversial premise, I love his concept for the cover. He has also clearly perfected the raised eyebrow! I found the coloring a bit flat on a couple panels, but overall, I thought the matte style was a good choice.