Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Big Lie
Written by: Anthony del Col
Art by: Werther Dell’edera
Published by: Dynamite Entertainment
Review by Cameron Kieffer
When teenage sleuths Frank and Joe Hardy are accused of murder, they must team up with the mysterious Nancy Drew to find the real culprit and clear their names. To fans of the characters, this may not seem like your typical Hardy Boys mystery and believe me, it is anything but.
Originally released as a six-issue mini-series, this graphic novel is a hard-boiled take on the classic characters that eschews the innocent fun of the original tales in favor of a darker, edgier tone. The fact that the murder victim is the boys’ own father should tell you this is not your daddy’s Hardy Boys.
Right from page one, it’s clear this is vintage noir. The melodramatic narration reads like Sam Spade took a trip to Frank Miller’s Sin City, albeit in a much more grounded sense. The art matches the writer’s voice perfectly with its flat colors and rough, sketch-like line art. The art is simultaneously stylized and realistic. However while the tone and source material makes for an entertaining match, the story’s weaknesses lie in the characterization and dialogue. When we first meet the boys, they’re already suspects in their father’s murder and are clearly not happy about it (but really, who would be?). The relationship between Frank and Joe is strained and while it’s interesting to learn more about them, there isn’t much to really make you care about them. They mostly come off as jerks.
Nancy Drew, on the other hand, is an intriguing character. Here she’s portrayed as more of a femme fatale than a plucky teen detective but the shift works surprisingly well. She’s not only intelligent and strong but also, dare I say, fierce? Nancy also establishes that she wears the pants in this reluctant threesome and manages to convince the two brothers to set aside their morals in order to infiltrate the criminal underground and discover the real murderer.
While the story takes itself quite seriously, it is fun to read and fits in well with more recent crime tales like The Fade Out and Criminal, but also other grim and gritty reboots such as Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Tales of Sabrina. I might have preferred a more tongue-in-cheek approach to the characters but it’s clear that wasn’t the intent here and the darker, more serious take does work pretty well. The story takes a few twists and turns before the final reveal, which I won’t spoil here.
Needless to say, if you want to know what happens, you’re best bet is to pick up the trade which collects all six issues of the mini-series.
Check it out! While I didn’t love the book, it did make for an entertaining read. The art is beautiful and the story itself is pretty great, despite the mostly bland dialogue and narration. I just wish there had been more personality in the words and that we were given more reason to care about the title characters apart from their names.