Publisher: AfterShock Comics (Seismic Press Imprint)
Writer(s): Steve Orlando, Steve Foxe
Artwork: Valentina Brancati
Colours: Manuel Puppo
Lettering: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Release Date: 11th August 2021
As the debut offering from AfterShock Comics’ new YA imprint Seismic Press, which is aimed at readers in the 12-18 age range, Rainbow Bridge has a fair amount of pressure riding on its shoulders. However, after being able to excitedly devour the 120-page graphic novel ahead of its release, I can happily confirm that the “Read Dangerously” publisher’s latest imprint has most definitely hit the ground running with this one.
Rainbow Bridge tells the story of Andy, a fourteen-year-old boy who has just lost his best friend and loyal canine companion Rocket. Struggling to move on with his life and deal with his grief, he visits his good buddy’s grave, only to be mysteriously transported to the Forever Fields, a place where beloved – and not so beloved – pets go when they pass. Y’see, Rocket and Andy have some unfinished business, and these two friends have one last adventure to go on.
Before I get started, let me say that this book is an absolute delight. Orlando and Foxe have delivered a fun, upbeat adventure story, but one interlaced with some genuine emotional heft. And while this graphic novel is technically about two pals going on an adventure to save the pet afterlife from some scary monsters, it’s also very much about a young boy coming to terms with his grief and guilt over the loss of his best friend.
That both co-writers are very much “dog people” should come as no surprise to anyone reading this. The emotions feel authentic and raw throughout, and the final pages blend action, drama and lump-in-the-throat emotion with a powerful message about the truth around “bad pets”. The dialogue flows naturally between Andy and Rocket throughout, as well as from the colourful cast of supporting characters they encounter on their journey – the sassy, grumpy Ms Pawdrey Hepburn being a genuine highlight.
On the visual side of things, the artwork is a real joy, with Valentina Brancati and Manuel Puppo combining to deliver a colourful, dynamic and emotionally-charged experience. The character designs are great, the action crackles with just the right amount of peril, and the flashback sequences are given some extra emotional heft with a subtle sepia tone. If the aim of a YA comic book is to grab the attention of the reader as early as possible and make them want to find out more about the story, then Rainbow Bridge succeeds on all counts.
While it may be aimed squarely at the young adult market, I can see any pet owner who has lost a beloved friend too soon getting a lot out of Rocket and Andy’s story. It’s a fun, uplifting tale that frequently delves into some fairly complex emotions, and seems perfectly pitched at the 12-18 year-old market (and, as I mentioned, anyone who’s ever had to say goodbye to a pet). Another massive success from AfterShock and the entire creative team, and an emphatic statement of intent for Seismic Press. Highly recommended.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]