Book Report: Goldie Vance, Volume 1

Published February 25, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

To call this review overdue is a bit…I’m not sure if it’s an understatement or an overstatement.  I actually read this on Friday, but it was too late when I finished to write a review then, and yesterday I was in the most foul mood and didn’t want to in any way deal with other human beings, not even in the absurdly remote format of writing a blog post.   Aaaaaanyway, that aside, I actually interrupted another book to read this.  Because since I finished the last book, after a day of “what am I gonna read next?”, I’ve been working on Challenge #6 (possibly too loosely interpreted), only then I went to Book Riot’s site and saw that they’d posted a list of suggestions for Challege #21 “A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author.”  When I read the description of this one, I knew it was the one to use for that one.  And it seemed appropriate to read and review it really quickly, so it’d still get posted in February.

This is a graphic novel (well, trade paperback of comic books, actually) about a teenage girl, the titular Goldie Vance, in what I can only call an idyllic alternate early 1960s.  It has to be after 1961, because her friend Cheryl has a crush on Alan Shepard because of his trip to space (I can think of worse reasons to have a crush on someone), but it can’t be much later than that, based on the visual style.  But it’s utterly unlike the real 1961, because no one in this entire volume has any problem with (or even mentions) Goldie’s, her father’s or Cheryl’s skin color.  Not to mention that Goldie’s mother is white — with Goldie being about sixteen or seventeen (it’s unclear what her age actually is) in the very early 1960s, she was probably born around 1945, possibly a year or two after.  There were states where a mixed race marriage was still illegal in the 1940s, particularly in the south.  (I think the south didn’t purge those laws until the 1960s, in fact.)  So, like I said, this is an idyllic alternate 1960s where racism doesn’t exist and apparently never did.  (Perhaps this is what America would have looked like if the northern colonies had stuck to their principles during the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and had left in the clause about the abduction of innocents from Africa was one of King George’s crimes against which the colonists were rebelling.)

Uh, anyway, all that aside, let’s get to the book itself, rather than talking about its world.  Goldie’s father is manager at a Florida resort inn, and Goldie has a (summer?) job as a valet, parking cars.  Her best friend is Cheryl, who works at the desk and is studying to be an astronaut.  (Cheryl is the pink-jacketed girl on the cover.)  Goldie also spends a lot of time hanging around with Walter, the house detective, because she really likes trying to do his job for him.  The last person we need to mention is Diane, who works at a local record store, and is the object of Goldie’s affections.  (Yep, she’s not only a woman of color, she’s also a lesbian.  This, of course, is why I had to read this!  That and because it’s aimed at younger readers, so the mystery isn’t a murder.)  I have trouble getting a good read on Diane — though she’s undoubtedly cool — because I keep getting distracted by her design, which for some reason reminds me of the unaired-pilot-episode version of Susan from Doctor Who.  I’m not even sure why she reminds me of Susan, she just does.

The mystery to be solved here begins with a guest reporting a necklace stolen from his room, and escalates surprisingly quickly into…well, that would be spoiling things, but let’s say that it gets a lot bigger than you’d expect, especially given the quote on the cover comparing Goldie to Nancy Drew.  I think they were actually going for a Nancy Drew-type feeling, though, given one of the alternate covers in the gallery at the back of the volume, which is done up like a 1960s Nancy Drew cover.  I think what they were going for, overall, was the visual aesthetic of the art for the 1959-1970s edited versions of the older books (I had no idea the ones I grew up reading had been ‘cleaned up’ like that!), with some of the bigger, wilder adventures of the Nancy Drew Files that came out while I was in middle and high school.  (Which I didn’t like much, because they had her solving murders more than thefts.  And reading about them on Wikipedia, it sounds like they really made the character into as much of an ’80s Valley Girl as she looks on the sample cover they show.)  Anyway, this is somewhat of a digression; point is that though there’s some conscious influence there, Goldie is very much her own thing, and while various elements are familiar from other places, that’s going to be true in pretty much anything.

The art is wonderfully cute, and the world of the comic is pleasantly idealized:  it’s not just racism that’s absent, but misogyny also seems largely absent.  Which is not to say that everyone’s always sweet and nice, just that hate and meanness aren’t being aimed for reasons of a person’s ancestry or sex.  (I’m curious to find out if this is a world that also lacks homophobia, or if there will be trouble when/if others find out about Goldie’s sexuality.)

Of course, as a trade paper edition of a run of comic books, it’s not self-contained:  though the mystery is (mostly) solved at the end of the volume, there are a number of unresolved plot threads dangling.  So I’m going to have to get out the next volume from the library, too.  (Yeah, I just borrowed it from the library.  I own too much stuff already, y’know?)

Well, that wasn’t much of a review, but…I’m not much of a reviewer.

Though I used this for #21, it could also work for #18, “A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image,” or #16, as the first in a YA series.  Oh, and #15, as it’s definitely a one-sitting book.  Possibly #8, as well; I’m not sure why this qualified for #21, as the only contributor Goodreads had a photo of is white, so I’m not sure if she’s LGBTQ+, or if one of her collaborators is a person of color and/or LGBTQ+.  (But I’m assuming that one of them fits one of the categories, or Book Riot wouldn’t have included it on their list of suggestions!)

My next book report will be for Challenge #6, like I said, but I’m not sure when I’ll get done with it; it’s not all that long, but it’s not really light reading.  (But it’s due back at the library on the 8th, so hopefully I’ll be done by then!)

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