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Nancy Drew #16

Posted: Saturday, January 31, 2009
By: Ray Tate

Stefan Petrucha & Shannon Kinney
Sho Murase, Carlos Jose Guzman (3-D)
Papercutz
"What Goes Up..."

When a character's adventures grow stale, one of the tricks writers will sometimes employ is to change the scenery. Petrucha and Kinney take Nancy out of the old dark house and away from the body in the library. What gives their change in setting verisimilitude is that they do not let the new arena for mystery stray far from River Heights.

Nancy, George and Bess go up, up and away in a beautifully constructed balloon. Such an entertainment wouldn't be a far-fetched find in a little town or a small city. So, it's plausible that Nancy might, for fun, take a little ride.

Petrucha and Kinney spool from that single setting a stream of story threads. The balloon acts as a catalyst for suspense in the early scenes and the tension increases as it appears Petrucha and Kinney might take Nancy on an implausible journey.

Fortunately, Nancy stays grounded long enough to irritate Chief McGinnis and meet a possibly deadlier group of villains. This plot development adds to the excitement. Too often, kids' literatire becomes bastardized into something that's unfit to read because it has been censored into harmlessness. The characters are never in any danger. Traditionally, not Nancy Drew.

Petrucha and Kinney put Nancy in the sights of a gun and characterize somebody that's merciless enough to use it. That is more realistic. While a younger crowd might gasp at the actions of the Big Bad, I imagine they won't be mentally scarred, as some well-meaning doves believe. When I was a kid, I always wondered why anybody would tie up the Super Friends. The logical step would be to try to kill them. Genre fiction requires a threat, otherwise there's no point in reading.

The characterization of George and Bess gives the story further buoyancy. Nancy says it herself. It's rather sweet that George and Bess give in to her obsession. I suspect it's to protect her from herself. The girls become additional targets, but that's not their only role in the story. Multiple purposes give the supporting cast depth. George and Bess provide Nancy a springboard from which she can reach for the solution of the crime--they become instrumental in the rescue. They form the story's cadence through different voices.

Though I still find manga distasteful, I really can't help admiring Sho Murase's work. It's difficult to think about Nancy, George and Bess without thinking about Murase's singular designs. For this story, she adds a villain who is visually nasty by way of a series of poses that describe his conviction and his cold heart.

In a lesser writer's hands this latest Nancy Drew case could have been a real mess, but Stefan Petrucha, Shannon Kinney, Sho Murase and Carlos Jose Guzman are the usual suspects. As a result, Nancy Drew is at an all time high.



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