- Posted by Johanna on July 27, 2010 at 7:50 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: written by Janet and Alex Evanovich; art by Joelle Jones
- PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Books; $17.99 US
Here comes another graphic novel tie-in to the works of a best-selling author (see also Del Rey’s Odd Thomas comics, Twilight: The Graphic Novel, and James Patterson’s Maximum Ride: The Manga), presumably in the hopes of getting “people who read and buy books” to check out comics.
Janet Evanovich is the author of the best-selling Stephanie Plum series, with the sixteenth (!) book just out. She also writes about Alex Barnaby, a NASCAR mechanic who crews for driver Sam Hooker, in two novels so far, Metro Girl and Motor Mouth. Here, she’s co-writing with her daughter Alex (whose St. Bernard is named Barnaby, hmmm) to create a graphic novel, Troublemaker, with those same characters.
Having never seen the prose books, I found this romantic comedy/action thriller a breezy read. It’s only 112 pages (in hardcover, at a price of $17.99, but I read it for free off a preview copy, so that didn’t bother me), and it’s only the first half of the story, but the art, drawn by my longtime fave Joelle Jones (You Have Killed Me, Token, 12 Reasons Why I Love Her), impressed me.
It’s a very easy read, suitable for those unfamiliar with comics, with simple layouts — no page has more than four panels — and explicit character introductions. The art, though, is very detailed, beautifully capturing the Miami and other South Florida locations. Jones is assisted by Ben Dewey, providing background pencils, and Andy Owens inked. I also want to highlight the colors by Dan Jackson; from the first page, his bright oranges and deep turquoise blues made me feel like Florida. (I just wish he hadn’t colored the lettuce red in the opening scene’s chicken salad sandwich jokes.)
Alex is in the beach state because her friend Felicia has asked her to help find their other friend Rosa. They fear she’s been kidnapped in a plot that involves the “rat-faced” cigar shop owner Rosa works for, an explosion, meeting Sam’s mother (which unfortunately leads to predictable gags, including her being too marriage-minded, and then really outdated cougar references), and a voodoo ceremony. (When isn’t there, in this kind of story in this kind of setting?)
Alex is very cute, drawn with big eyes and a turned-up nose, while Sam is dashing and the St. Bernard, Beans, is slobbery comic relief. Jones’ figure work, with expressive poses, is impressive, although Alex is almost too attractive for the plot. I found myself wrongly thinking of her as arm candy, since storywise, she mostly gets dragged around by Sam while she complains about whatever they’re doing. Sam doesn’t have much character beyond being flirty and driving fast (both an Everglades boat and a fancy sports car). That may be all the reader wants here — excitement, suspense, travel to an exotic setting. While the story is formula, I found myself lingering over the images of the characters, because they’re so solid and believable, thanks to the art.
Unfortunately, my take on the book seems to be in the minority. I was surprised to check the Amazon reviews and see that they were almost all one star. Then I saw why. A number of the customers automatically buy anything with Janet Evanovich’s name on it, and when they preordered Book 3 of the series, they didn’t realize that this was a comic — a high-priced, short comic that they read in half an hour. They felt misled, especially when they realized that they were expected to buy Book 2 in November to continue (hopefully finish) the story.
This is only four chapters for $18 (although Amazon currently has it for under $10), and they’re used to 250 pages or more for $8. The reader comments include phrases like “money grubbing” (in reference to Evanovich), “cheated”, and “waste of money”. Dark Horse may have chosen the wrong tack in making this a more upscale book. Many other literary tie-ins are paperback, with a price point closer to $10 than $20. The exception is the Twilight manga, but its format more closely resembles that of its parent, and its readers are teen girls who will buy anything with the brand instead of adult women more likely aware of budgeting.
I still recommend looking at the book, if only to enjoy Jones’ art, but maybe borrow it from your library? You can see an excerpt at Evanovich’s website.