Writer: Stefan Petrucha
Artists: Sho Murase, Rachel Ito(3D)
The cover clues you into the theme of this issue of Nancy Drew. It's a celebration of the archetype girl detective's seventy-fifth anniversary. The witty artists foreshadow what's in the pages by showing the current Nancy cast a silhouette that's similar to the period Nancy seen on many a book cover, though not in the time period in which "The Haunted Dollhouse" is set.
Stefan Petrucha keeps Nancy modern in mind and to his ideal, an ideal that would have likely been endorsed by Mildred Wirt Benson, the original author of the Nancy Drew mysteries. Mr. Petrucha sends Nancy back in time via the River Heights nostalgia fair and quickly entangles her in mystery and suspense that's far from kid's stuff. In fine Nancy Drew tradition, the solving of the puzzle will lead to a life- threatening discovery.
Petrucha, Murase and Ito accurately depict a period setting. The saturation of the thirties is so accurate I expected Sapphire and Steel to appear in River Heights to tell the revelers to cease and desist. Nancy in period clothes that were worn by the original Nancy Drew tools around in that Nancy's beloved Roadster, attends a party on a riverboat, picnics with Ned and spends time with her cousins George and Bess, also dressed to the nines. She lets her curiosity get the better of her when a Dollhouse provided by a patron of the spirits begins to predict real life crimes occurring in River Heights. This patron incidentally has ties that go back farther than the thirties, but her influence unbeknownst to many was dramatically felt during the time period.
Petrucha provides a cunning fairplay mystery where once Nancy uncovers the culprit, she and the reader still needs to dope out the motive--a trickier prospect. Petrucha lays his clues carefully and overtly. Most readers, even those with respectable Nancy Drew knowledge, will likely be unable to deduce the rationale of the criminal until Nancy solves the crime for her followers.
Petrucha takes advantage of the setting to add twists to the characterization of the established cast. He cleverly brings George and Bess even closer to their original incarnations. George without the comforts of a modern day technopolis descends to a downcast attitude and a touchier temperament that's more attributable to the original George, who was often like a Doc Savage "brother" and just as two-fisted. Petrucha recreated Bess to be a mechanical genius, and the period does not limit her winning abilities at all, just extends them.
While this reviewer will continue to hate manga, there's no denying the talents of Murase and Ito who flawlessly capture the look and feel of a thirties Nancy Drew story. They further distinguish the design of the characters and rise above the typical generic look and feel of most manga. Needless to say they do not succumb to saucer-eye and waif-woman syndrome. Instead, through a manga-orienated influence they keep a snappy pace that's set off by the titian hair of the most curious girl in literature.
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