The mystery comes to a close as Nancy and the gang rush to save Bess, expose the murderer, and learn what the Locke Lobster has to do with Deadman’s cove. Caution, there will be cliffhanger spoilers within.
Written by Kelly Thompson
Illustrated by Jenn St. Onge
Colored by Triona Farrell
Lettered by Ariana Maher
WHERE’S BESS!? Nancy and the gang race against the clock to find Bess before she meets the same fate as the other women in their case. Can Nancy solve the mystery in time to save her friend and close a case that’s haunted Bayport for nearly a decade? It’s a sprint to the finish by writer KELLY THOMPSON (Hawkeye, West Coast Avengers) and artist JENN ST-ONGE (Giant Days, The Misfits) in this fiery conclusion!
Thompson and St. Onge have done a magnificent job of transposing “Nancy Drew” and the gang into the modern world. The mysteries they solve are rooted in modern concerns, like drug running in small towns, police incompetence/corruption, and the troubling reality that is overlooking murders simply because the victim isn’t part of the majority. It makes for an engaging story that can take many different directions depending on the actions of the characters. The relationship between the various members of the group has been realistic and fraught with the kind of tension that only good, estranged friends can have. It’s unfortunate, then, that this ending isn’t a satisfactory one.
For much of this case, the creative team has had to balance these two competing storylines: Nancy’s return & the fallout of that and the mystery itself. When one became the focus, the other faded into the background, much to the detriment of both. In this final issue, the focus is firmly on the resolution to the mystery, which is less of a closure to the case and more of an action set-piece that coincides with the catching of the villains. An action packed ending as the race to catch the culprit is standard for any piece of detective fiction but the way it is presented reminds me more of the conclusion to a Fast and Furious movie, as it ends with multiple explosions and someone jumping out of a window dramatically, than it does any kind of mystery thriller.
By ending it this way, and having the action take up much of this final issue, it took away from the decompression we needed, specifically in relation to Nancy and her past. There was an exploration of it in previous issues but there was never a conclusion to it. The murders at Deadman’s cove and trying to repair her friendships took to the forefront. Even here, in the final issue of the mini, there is no mention of it. It stuck out because that was one of the most interesting parts of the first issue. It lingered in the background and while there weren’t any answers, it was there and present in Nancy’s mind. Without it, issue #5 doesn’t necessarily suffer, but it contributes to the lackluster feeling of the conclusion.
The final confrontation with the villain, too, is lackluster. He’s committed horrible acts for OVER A DECADE, which makes it satisfying when Nancy & crew take him down, but his motivations are exceedingly shallow and therefore, he is nothing more than an obstacle instead of an end boss. It’s disappointing, not least of which because he hasn’t actually played much of a role in the series. His defeat doesn’t resolve much that hasn’t already been resolved since we still have to spend a page or two watching Nancy convince this possibly corrupt cop that there were drugs in the Locke Lobster and then having Bess swoop in with a casual, there’s drugs on the boat too. Speaking of, the Bess kidnapping section also stretches on for way too long. It could easily have been condensed and not much would be lost.
I’m highlighting this because, one, we never see the actual end fight between Nancy & evil Lobsterdude or how the flare gun caused the building to explode and, two, the interpersonal drama is so much more engaging. By focusing on action, some of which we never see, instead of the mystery OR the drama, the series suffers. Visually, this issue is also hampered by some of the ticks in Jenn St. Onge’s art style, most notably during the more emotional scenes. Her facial expressions can be stiff when anger or sadness is involved. They’re never pushed quite far enough due to the soft, round designs of all the characters. On the flip side, this makes the smaller emotions more noticeable, especially with Nancy. There are also a few moments when facial expressions clash with the intent of the dialogue. The most noticeable place is right after Bess is ungagged; she looks like she’s just stood up from a relaxing day at the beach, while delivering lines that would be delivered quickly due to the situation.Continued below
That said, St. Onge’s art in “Nancy Drew” #5 still sets the right tone for what they want to accomplish. The character designs and posing is solid and realistic. The environments help position the action and while the heavy reliance on action was a misstep, the portrayal of it was the right intensity and moved along at as good as pace as it could’ve. I do wish we had retained more of the mystery and more of the mild haunting atmosphere evoked by the original novels’ covers. but for what we got, this was a solid first step towards Nancy Drew for a new generation. Now, if only we hadn’t ended this mini-series on such a cheap feeling cliffhanger.
Final Score: 6.0 – Too much action, not enough mystery and a lackluster conclusion to what started off as a very engaging book. Their next adventure will need some retooling but the characters are too good for this to be their only adventure.