Megan is the new girl in town, a manga-reading, goth-dressing, haiku-writing vegetarian. Raf is the son of a pet food store owner who only wants to be left alone to finish the computer program he is writing. When the two of them meet, it isn’t friendship at first sight, but soon they’re caught up in a mystery at Megan’s summer school. Can they find out why the students at Stepford Academy are so unnaturally happy all the time or will they be zombified first?
Robbins has been a force in American independent comics since the 1960s, so it’s wonderful that Lerner has her writing for their Graphic Universe imprint. As expected from someone who has been working in comics for so long, her story is fun, interesting, and a good set-up for the series. She begins building two very interesting characters in this first volume. Instead of trying to make the story “manga style” or some such nonsense, Robbins makes Megan a manga fan, someone with which readers will easily identify. Megan’s love of haiku may not be as familiar to the older elementary school crowd, but it matches with her Japanese-American heritage and so is easily explained. Plus, being a poetry-loving vegetarian pairs up nicely with her Gothic clothing and makes her seem like a fun 13-year-old that 9-year-old readers can look up to. Raf isn’t as well-developed here, though we get the basic sense of who he is and that allows him room to grow in future volumes….
Chicagoland Detective Agency, No. 1: The Drained Brains Caper
Written by Trina Robbins; Illustrated by Tyler Page
ISBN 978-0-7613-4601-2 (hdbk); 978-0-7613-5635-6 (pbk)
Lerner/Graphic Universe, September 2010