By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Sophie Cooper is the next Nancy Drew! Or should that be Lois Lane? Whichever comparison is best, her adventures in SCOOP puts her into dangers that no average television reporter or news journalist would dare face! She hasn’t even earned her wings yet; as an intern, nobody considered that sending her to the archive room to do mundane tasks would lead her to encounters with the paranormal.
This graphic novel series by Richard A. Hamilton also includes aliens and other weirdness. There’s no definitive genre it fits under, as this writer is best known for his fantasy works for DreamWorks/Dark Horse Comics. He authored many supporting novellas for the How to Train Your Dragon and Trollhunters world. I was hooked years ago, as his prose is easy to follow.
This talent also loves his UFO lore, and it shows in this original work. He takes readers to the Florida Everglades and delves into the mysteries hidden there. She is a lot more motivated than anyone else at WMIA 7, a Miami television news station. She will pursue leads to which others won’t, and a lot of the cases she’s on points to a firm connected to all the strangeness going on in Miami.
Not even an encounter with a swamp man can deter her from finding the truth behind why her father, Carson Cooper, was disgraced. He’s accused of embezzling and money laundering. The reason he’s under house arrest is that certain individuals from Matheson Savings and Trust made it so. Even at school, her classmates are weary, and she has to work hard to say her daddy isn’t bad.
Plus, in book one, the splashy intro made for all the difference. The scene of Sophie clinging onto a helicopter landing gear is right out of James Cameron’s True Lies. Joe Cooper’s dynamic art supports Hamilton’s vision. The way he brings out the expressions reveals how daring our red-headed protagonist is. Sophie lands herself in crazy situations just like the film and to add to the shenanigans is her younger brother, Kit, who thankfully isn’t a hindrance. He’s a tech genius and these two are comparable to Player and Red aka Black Sheep in Netflix’s Carmen Santeigo.
By volume two, her quinceañera nears. Sophie has no time to be that “typical teenager.” Neither is she ready for this Latino rite of passage or even a prom. This latest chapter makes an aside to see her deal with that high school life, and it is a welcome diversion to remind readers of her age and show where she’s from. She has Cuban blood and it shows. I just need to have Google Translate handy when the dialogue is in Spanish.
However, when she’s approached by D.L. Bludsoe, a disgraced celebrity chef to find his wife’s actual killer, she’s on the case. The black man “Doc” she finds in the swamps is neither a ghost, Vodun priest or some god. And it’s hard to say who he is because he’s new in this second volume. Though she didn’t see him early on, I feel he has an important role to play for the later in the series. He’s the person telling Sophie to dig deeper, and may well be like the Cigarette Smoking Man, giving the protagonists teasing leads to check out.
I find this series far more engaging when compared to TheCW’s modern take of Nancy Drew, and it’s kind of like X-Files with Scully as the lead. Another reason is because these supporting characters and the mythos Hamilton draws from aren’t mainstream knowledge. The ‘gator men in our reality are nothing like how they’re depicted in this book, and I couldn’t find any information about the Mangrove Man.
The Everglades holds more than one mystery, and the mutants she meets may well be alien. They know things Fox Mulder from the X-Files would salivate over and the cliffhanger left me wanting the next release now instead of waiting a year. Two books remain, and this author confirmed he has ideas on how to continue this series if demand is great.
If more works are planned, I hope my theory about The Trust being a front to a secret order is right. As for how Sophie can find a way to take them down, I’m sure the next volume, “Sci-Fi Witness,” sets the stage for that final showdown.
4½ Stars out of 5