Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Big Lie – Teen Sleuths Go Noir!

Fans of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew may be a bit confused by Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boy: The Big Lie #1 – in stores next week.

Fenton Hardy is dead – an apparent suicide – but the cops think Frank and Joe did it. And what’s this about Frank and Joe coming to blows? And, for much of #1, where’s the titular female sleuth?

Written by Anthony Del Col (Kill Shakespeare) and drawn by Werther  Dell’Edera (Detective Comics), The Big Lie #1 sets up a situation that takes the postcard setting of Bayport and looks behind the camera at a town that has its share of dirty secrets.

One of the biggest is who killed Fenton Hardy – Frank and Joe are certain he didn’t kill himself; suicide note notwithstanding.

We catch a glimpse of the Bayport we know in the first pages before we’re suddenly watching Frank and Joe being interrogated by Chief Colliq (Frank) and Detective Peterson (Joe) – intercut with snippets of a party they attended that night.

The cops may not be corrupt, but Chief Colliq is described as lazy (waiting for his pension to kick in) – at least in terms of doing actual police work. He’s perfectly fine with violating Frank’s rights by beating on him to get a confession; Peterson, on the other hand, knows better.

For the bulk of the first issue, Frank and Joe are the main characters and the two cops are the primary support characters.

Del Col and artist Dell’Edera are setting the stage for a story that works, mechanically, at least, like any Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew mystery – just in a hard-boiled environment where the trio have to adapt or (quite possibly) die.

Del Col’s script is taut and lean, the dialogue crisp and measured. It takes into the heart of the story quickly and efficiently, while not sacrificing character. As the story unfolds, we realize that Frank and Joe are playing to a script of their own and that they expected to be interrogated – the how and why of that is another little mystery (one that’s actually solved by page 24).

Dell’Erder’s art is simple and straightforward – unfussy, but varying nicely from subtle to blunt. It reminds of Jonny Quest’s legendary Doug Wildey or possibly, in spots, unrefined Dave Stevens.

Fay Dalton’s cover wouldn’t be out of place on a sixties Carter Brown mystery.

When there’s violence, there’s nothing pretty about it – when Colliq slam’s Frank’s head into a table top, for example, we can feel it.

Despite its hard-boiled edge, The Big Lie #1 gives us evidence that the boys are still the same Hardy Boys at heart. They just have to be real world tough in a place where that should never have happened.

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