The Dare Detectives! are a rough and tumble investigation team whose methods may be questionable and whose finances are slim. There’s Maria, the scantily clad, ex-criminal brains of the operation, Toby, the slow but loveable brawn, and JoJo, the sassy, sarcastic rabbit sidekick. Following in the footsteps of a number of hard boiled, pulp detectives, the gang has the faith of the gruff police chief but are constantly getting in trouble with the rest of the law. They also are constantly on the verge of shutting down completely when they can’t pay rent, but somehow a case always falls into their lap in the nick of time. In this case, their landlord and all the snow peas in Chinatown are kidnapped by a mysterious new villain. The detectives can’t help but take the case, even when it involves all the dastardly villains they may or may not be able to handle.
With explosions! car chases! and scary villains!, The Dare Detectives! definitely deserve their exclamation point. This is an action-packed volume, abounding with witty one-liners and gritty detective work. The fast pace of the book makes it a quick read with every scene pulling you into the next. Most of the characters are a ton of fun. Anthropomorphized animals take the roles of villains, townsfolk, and fellow heroes. I was especially taken with the angry, red monkey named “Furious George,” but the mafia pandas and abominable snowmen also add color and humor. The book does follow many of the major tropes of detective stories, but the strange twists and quirky animal characters add some zing. For kids new to the P.I. genre, this may open up a whole new world of mystery and action.
While I enjoyed that the head of the detectives and one of the main villains were both women, I did wish they would both put some clothes on. In fact, with the exception of an occasional old lady in the background, the women of this city don’t seem to need to retain body heat, even when their compatriots are wearing thick sweaters or animal fur. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from kicking some serious behind, although one small tear would leave them with a very embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.
The art is colorful and demonstrates Caldwell’s background in cartoons. The characters are very expressive, and the animals of the town are fantastically diverse. The humans have dynamic, exaggerated figures and features that emphasize their movements. The scenes are full of action with characters in middle of their moves- sprinting, kicking, sneaking and so on. Every page is a visual smorgasbord containing tons of color and movement.
All-in-all, The Dare Detectives! offers a fun, weird romp through the lives of these private investigators, including a number of hints about exciting adventures to come. With a solid binding (tested by accidentally dropping it down the stairs) and a solid story, these colorful characters can handle anything.
The Dare Detectives!, vol. 1: “The Snow-pea Plot”
by Ben Caldwell
Art by Ben Caldwell, Bill Halliar, Mike Mucci
Archaia Entertainment, 2011
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages