Troublemaker: a Barnaby and Hooker Graphic Novel (Books One and Two)

13-Cover-1Alex “Barney” Barnaby has always had trouble keeping things professional with the playful (and gorgeous) Sam Hooker. Sam’s a race-car driver, and Barney is his mechanic and spotter, so they’re used to working as a team. They’ve gotten in and out of scrapes together before, but this is new territory: the duo and their friends are being targeted by an angry voodoo priest. Between kidnappings and boat-nappings, explosions and bags of snakes, high-speed chases and food fights, Barney and Hooker are scrambling to keep one step ahead of the bad guys – and to explain to Hooker’s mom that they are NOT a couple. Or are they?

Book One starts with trouble brewing in Miami: Barney’s friend Rosa has disappeared. All Barney and her other pal Felicia can find is a voodoo doll that looks like Rosa and a note saying she’s been kidnapped. They don’t know who’s behind the deed, but they suspect it’s somehow related to Rosa’s boss, Percy, who’s always seemed a little sketchy. When Hooker stops by, he’s only too willing to help investigate.

Stopping by a local botanica gets Barney and Hooker information about the voodoo doll. Stopping by Hooker’s mom’s house gets them meatloaf and questions about how soon they’ll be getting married – and they will be having kids, right? Neatly dodging this line of inquiry, they dive back into the case. Crashing a petro voodoo ceremony, Barney and Hooker get a glimpse of Rosa, but then wind up in a boat chase through the Everglades.

After a narrow getaway, Barney and Hooker change tactics, breaking into Percy’s house. There they find two things: a carved wooden hand, and a lead that takes them to Rosa. They manage to rescue Rosa, but despite an escape that uses all of Hooker’s racecar-driving skills, the kidnapper is still on their trail – and they still don’t really know why!

In Book Two, Barney, Hooker, Rosa, and Felicia have taken Hooker’s boat to the Florida Keys to look for Percy, who seems to be the key piece to this puzzle. They do find Percy, but not before the voodoo priest steals Hooker’s beloved boat! Percy, it comes out, was holding onto a statue for him – a wooden statue with voodoo significance. Percy got cold feet when he realized the statue was stolen, and became reluctant to return it – especially after learning that it’s rumored to hold the key to a fantastic treasure! And now the voodoo priest is getting serious, sending them live snakes and armed attackers. Barney and her friends are forced to park the statue with Hooker’s mom while they plot a way out of this mess – a way that’s guaranteed to include comedy, romance, and enough explosions to keep things interesting.

I have not read Evanovich’s novels Metro Girl or Motor Mouth, which feature Barney and Hooker. Happily, that isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying the Troublemaker books. As a big fan of her Stephanie Plum series, I can say that the tone here is classic Evanovich. Comedy and zany action, laced with the fun flirtation of Barney and Hooker, make for a fast-paced and entertaining read.

Joëlle Jones’ art fits the mood perfectly. Bright and dynamic, it seamlessly integrates detailed backgrounds with characters who are just slightly on the cartoony side of realistic. When a major character appears for the first time, a full-page panel identifies her and offers a short, funny description – the kind of thing you can imagine Barney using to sum up the person in question.

The two books form a complete story, and work best as a set. The action is constant but light, with no one getting hurt (unless you empathize deeply with the upholstery of Hooker’s car, in which case, prepare to be horrified). The romance is similarly light – lots of flirting and some suggestive dialog, but nothing physical beyond a celebratory smooch. Comedy is the name of the game here, and the art and writing both provide it in spades. Evanovich fans who are interested in a pitch-perfect graphic novel interpretation of her writing (co-authored with her daughter Alex Evanovich) will love Troublemaker.

Troublemaker: a Barnaby and Hooker Graphic Novel (Books One and Two)
by Janet Evanovich, Alex Evanovich
Art by Joëlle Jones
ISBN: 9781595824882
Dark Horse Books, 2010