Writer: Nathan Page (@AproposNothing)
Illustrator: Drew Shannon (@montadrew)
Publisher: Random House Graphic (@RHKidsGraphic)
WHAT IS IT?
Twin detectives find themselves caught in an unusual storm that flips their sleepy New England town on its head in this introductory volume of The Montague Twins.
Think The Hardy Boys meets Gravity Falls.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Pete and Alastair Montague are young detectives living in the quiet town of Port Howl in the late 1960s. Known throughout the area as intelligent and clever problem-solvers, the twins live with their guardians and spend their days honing their deductive skills. When they decide to spend a lazy summer afternoon on the beach with their stepsister Charlie, a strange storm begins to spiral over the top of the lighthouse and sets a series of events into motion that captivates the boys and changes their lives forever.
Never ones to turn down a mystery, Pete and Al race off into the eye of the storm and discover the unnatural weather plaguing their town may be the doing of a real-life witch, one who has unfinished business in the sleepy town of Port Howl. The twins are soon told that magic is indeed real and are given the opportunity to hone their dormant powers under the tutelage of local mages. When the daughter of a rich politician goes missing and strange occurrences begin plaguing the area, the Montague Twins and their friends must solve the mystery and learn to control their newfound powers before the witch’s plans come to fruition.
Page has written a gripping whodunnit mystery with truly compelling characters, one that is charming and wholly original. The fun, well-thought-out trail of clues keeps readers guessing until the very end, while the character development and touching story of the importance of found family will tug at your heartstrings.
Shannon has illustrated a story that is as beautiful as it is retro. The style, colors, and aesthetics of the panels have an undeniably classic feel to them and perfectly channels the time period with an instantly recognizable flare.
A reoccurring design choice used throughout the volume is to saturate an entire page or full scene in a singular color and its various shades. It is an impactful choice that notifies readers that something important is happening and highlights key moments.
The word bubbles have a unique look to them with faded edges, ones that fit within the illustration style and help keep the dialogue-heavy story from overwhelming the art during scenes with long chunks of script.
This is an extremely conversation- and exposition-focused title, so the fact that the lettering is easy to read and fits the bubbles appropriately is greatly appreciated.
The sound effects are few and far between and it is a beautiful choice for this graphic novel. When they appear, they are thin and pinpointed, allowing them to become a part of the art instead of detracting from it. The artwork speaks for itself in a powerful enough way that it conjures up the sounds without the need for text.
The book is massive. Sitting at a whopping 352 full-color pages, it covers an entire mystery from beginning to end, allowing for a deep level of intrigue, character development, and storytelling to take place without interruption.
The backdrop of the late 1960s harkens the story back to classic adventure-mystery IPs that are still beloved in our modern times. The burgeoning gay rights movement of the time plays a pivotal role in Pete’s narrative in particular, one that results in a touching exploration of sexuality and growth in the more close-minded time of the not-so-distant past.
The way the magic is introduced and handled works well for the world within the book. The element of magic being within everything, even small everyday details, adds a sense of plausibility to it that keeps it grounded in the realism-heavy narrative. It balances itself out well and allows the supernatural elements to shine without feeling too outlandish.
The cast is filled with strong and charming personalities. The confident and intelligent female characters are realistic and relatable, while Pete’s journey of discovering and accepting his sexuality, and the honest brotherly love between the twins, showcases that boys can be emotionally vulnerable while still being cool and masculine in the process.
At the end of the volume, there are a few pages of behind-the-scenes content featuring concept art from Shannon and a script sample from Page. It’s a neat look into the making of this comic and helps educate readers on the process of making a book like this.
I'm a sucker for a story with brothers as the protagonists. The dynamics between Pete and Al are complementary; each guy is uniquely their own person, and the sense of authentic brotherly love would make even the Winchesters jealous.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: Underage drinking/smoking, strong language, violence, scary and disturbing imagery, horror themes including witchcraft and mild body horror, parental neglect and conversations about child abuse, brief homophobic language, one spread of non-detailed nudity. Though not necessarily marketed as a horror, the horror themes are strong and it makes this title one recommended for older teens despite the 12-17-year-old age rating.
Some of plot points could have been moved around to help make the story more cohesive. There’s a sense of being dropped into the twin’s world as if it were already deeply established and you missed something in the process or as if something was cut and never addressed.
The writing can feel a bit pretentious at times, which does work well for our daring duo of detectives and their haughty, self-assured attitudes, but the heavy dialogue makes some of the word bubbles look bloated and might be a bit too much for some younger readers.
A handful of the bubbles feel a bit too big for the two or three words within. These are few and far between, but it would have been nice to see those particular ones shrunk a bit to allow the art to breathe after several pages of exposition.
The story often feels as if it can’t pick a target audience. Certain aspects are definitely targeted for younger readers, but the majority of the tone and themes oftentimes feels more appropriate for a slightly older audience. While it does make the story approachable and enjoyable to a broader audience, some of the elements feel disjointed because of it.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Perfect for fans of the stories in Life is Strange, Paper Girls, and those in classic crime-fighting book series like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, this graphic novel features daring twists and turns, dark and lushly designed magic, and a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes himself. A mixture of old-fashioned clue-hunting antics and a touching coming-of-age story rife with spells, young love, and a perfectly executed '60s aesthetic, The Montague Twins will easily become your new favorite deductive duo.
Beautifully illustrated, immensely retro, and filled with intrigue, this introductory volume sets the stage for a phenomenal series with twists and turns abundant. With brilliant moments of spellcasting, a sharply written trail of clues, and a fun spin on the classic teen sleuthing genre, The Witch’s Hand is a groovy graphic novel you’ll return to time and again. If you always wished the supernatural elements in your favorite classic detective stories were real, then you’ll definitely want to pick up The Montague Twins: The Witch’s Hand.
HOW DO I READ IT?
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