I loved The Hardy Boys when I was a kid. I liked Nancy Drew too but being raised to think that boys & girls were different blah blah, I went for the Hardy Boys.
(Note: I was also the only boy in grammar school who LOVED Little House on the Prairie – the books and the show. I still have a crush on Melissa Gilbert 😍…)
I had some 30 books of the Hardy Boys, both the traditional blue hardbacks as well as these 1980s softcovers with a decidedly 1980s design, as shown to the right.
(My mom convinced me to throw them out when they moved post-college. Yes, I still hold this against her.)
I remember the 1970s Hardy Boys tv show too – I wanted to like it, but it sucked. Maybe the boys were too timeless for bell bottoms. Or the world is waiting for me to write proper bellbottomed kidlit mysteries.
(I know you didn’t come here to read about The Hardy Boys, but you know where I’m going with this, right?)
The Montague Twins: The Witch’s Hand captures the essence of a classic Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew mystery – which is to say that my 12yo might need to get used to a slightly more classic, deliberate pace to read it. I read it one chapter at a time, rather than ripping through it one sitting like I do with many graphic novels.
To me, it felt like reading a Hardy Boys book, which is a fantastic accomplishment in & of itself. Being transported back to being a 10yo is a sign that something is exceptionally good (example: Pacific Rim, seeing it in the theater took me straight back to childhood) (also, if you don’t like it, please lmk your IP address so I can block you from my server)
It has an older, timeless feel (iirc the story is set in 1971, with no bellbottoms in sight; there’s also a reliance on radio). The art is digital but with a rougher, analog feel that shies away from the clean and precise. And the dialogue sounds like real people talking – not a bunch of witty smartasses (though some parts are witty and some people have smartass in them).
The mystery part is really the most old-school part of this book. It could be swapped into a Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew book and it would very well.
But while this book might be set 50 years ago, it’s not limited to the simple and conservative ideas about things from that epoch. It addresses race, class, and sexuality with a modern perspective – and that’s what raises from just being a good read to a great one.
Both the art and craft are very good as well. This book is another one, like This Was Our Pact, where traditional inking is eschewed in favor pencils, which give a much more analog, hand drawn quality. Check these not-quite-in-sequence pages out:
Drew Shannon’s craft of comic storytelling is excellent. The story is easy to follow while his panelling and layout choices are creative (as seen above) without adhering to a strict grid (there’s nothing wrong with adhering to a grid, btw, but in this case it buttresses the hand drawn vibe).
Combined with Nathan Page’s writing and dialogue, we’ve got an excellent book that somehow melds together old school and new school perfectly.
This one’s a slow burner but well worth the read. And it’s also not what you might expect.