Nancy Drew #1: The Demon of River Heights

Posted: Tuesday, July 5, 2005
By: Darren Schroeder

Writer(s): Stefan Petrucha
Artist(s): Sho Murase
Publishers: Papercut Z (Self Published)
From: USA
Price: $7.95(US)

Ben and Quentin have come to River heights to make their student film, roping in Ben's cousin along with Nancy tin a steady-cam horror story mixing Blair Witch with the local folk story regarding a strange demon known to haunt the woods. When the boys don't return from one evenings filming the girl detective decides it is time to put here skills to work.

These days crime seems to swamp our television screenings and the popular psyche. It used to be lone individuals who did all the sleuthing, now is is the arena of forensic scientists, clairvoyants, pathologists, military police to root out the criminals. Where had all the nosey amateurs gone? The return of the classic Nancy drew suggests there might still be room for bratty kids who think they know better that the adults.

Last time I saw Nancy was back in the mid eighties, She was hanging out with those insufferable Hardy boys in her conservative long skirts and with a large handbag. Time have changed, but Nancy is still a self-confident nosy parker with a Farther who is bother financially successful and a bit of a sap. You'd think a lawyer would be a little quicker on the uptake crime wise, but no, Nancy has to sort things out.

While the writing harks back to the solid conventions of very childhood sleuth every written, the Artwork harks back to every manga styling technique that has ever been drawn, with very fluid illustrations of the characters. They are full of life with floppy hair. The fabric of the clothes is skilfully "animated" on the pages. The characters all look far more interesting that any of the dialogue that escapes their lips.

Added to the rather banal dialogue are encounters with a range of threats and dangers illustrated with an energetic range of CGI "3D" objects and computer effects; you know the ones - blurred outlines for movement, layered images etc. The pages look like they have been constructed out of stiles from a anime film or TV series.

For all the updates the plot is very old fashioned. Would the criminal really be honourable enough to let the meddling kids live?

The confrontation and denouement with excessive exposition by the villain has been parodied in just about every medium for the last 10 or twenty years,
so it's appearance in the very first issue suggests Petrucha isn't out to do much new with the genre.

The prime target for this comic would have to be young kids who might not realise how cliched all this sort of thing is. The problem is there's nothing very exciting about it on anything but a visual level. Kids won't learn anything about anything from reading this book. It's second rate storytelling. Nancy inhabits the same sort of storytelling space as the characters in the Scooby Doo team - find clues, get scared, discover the truth, tell the adults. Compared to a lot of the real manga out there aimed at the same kids, this looks rather tame.

In a Word: Elementary.

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