Troublemaker Book 1

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.

Troublemaker Book 1 cover
Troublemaker Book 1
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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Sam’s mother (which unfortunately leads to predictable gags, including her being too marriage-minded, and then really outdated cougar references), and a voodoo ceremony.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.

12 Responses to “Troublemaker Book 1”

  1. Julie Says:

    I just read this and I enjoyed it a lot, both for the high energy story and the wonderful art.

    That said, I wonder how fans of her novels will feel about it. I don’t think this is going to hit the target market, and to really enjoy the book, I believe that you need to be familiar with Metro Girl, so new readers might not get as much out of it. Curious to see how it sells…

  2. Johanna Says:

    I hope that came through in my review, that it is enjoyable and fun.

    You make a good point about knowing the characters. If I’d read the books, I probably wouldn’t have found them as shallow, because I’d know more about the history. I found myself confused at times just what the relationship was between Alex and Sam — that’s probably covered more in the books, right?

    Regarding sales, Dark Horse has high hopes, printing 100,000 copies. That’s quite ambitious, and given early fan response, I’m not sure it’s going to pay off.

  3. Julie Says:

    Yes, that did come through in your review, and I felt the same way.

    I started Metro Girl years ago but didn’t finish it (must have gotten distracted), but their relationship is established in the book. If the graphic novel did one thing for me, it made me want to go back and finish the book.

    The print run is 100k? Yeow! I have doubts about that, too.

  4. hapax Says:

    I just saw yesterday that Del Ray is putting out a Diana Gabaldon gn in September. EXILE is supposed to retell the story of OUTLANDER from Jamie’s point of view.

    I dunno. I have a lot of rabid OUTLANDER fans at my library, but I can’t think of a one of them likely to pick up a graphic novel.

    I’m not loving this trend.

  5. Troublemaker Book 2 Preview » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] 2 ($17.99 for 112 color pages), due out in early November. This volume concludes the story begun in Troublemaker Book 1, which debuted last month with a 100,000-copy print run, due to its co-author, bestselling writer […]

  6. ICv2′s Graphic Novel Sales Figures: Consider the Audience » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] and that “Dark Horse received orders for more than 80,000 copies of Janet Evanovich’s Troublemaker“. Since the print run was 100,000, that puts those numbers in perspective. In this short […]

  7. How to Get a Bestseller? Media, Baby! » Manga Worth Reading Says:

    […] guaranteed a predictable amount of enjoyment? That explains two of the hardcover best-sellers: Troublemaker, co-written by Janet Evanovich, in second place on its third week on the list, and the Twilight […]

  8. Helping New Graphic Novel Readers Understand Comics » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] release of Troublemaker Book 2, due out next month and following up the best-selling original Troublemaker graphic novel, Dark Horse put together this ad showing fans of Janet Evanovich’s prose work how to read […]

  9. Joelle Jones Troublemaker Sketches » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] 2 is due at the end of the month, the sequel to the bestseller released this summer. […]

  10. Good Comics Out November 24: Goodbye, Del Rey, and a Manga Flood » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Horse is releasing the Troublemaker sequel. Book 2 ($17.99) is the same slim size (112 pages) and price as the first book, which caused […]

  11. Troublemaker Book 2 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] the Barnaby and Hooker adventure begun in Book 1, this slim graphic novel isn’t as satisfying as I hoped. Troublemaker Book 2 […]

  12. Good Comics Out June 22 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] of some notoriety is the paperback version of Troublemaker (Dark Horse, $16.99), the Janet Evanovich series installment previously published as two hardcovers. Now that the whole story is under one cover at […]




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