cover image Things in the Basement

Things in the Basement

Ben Hatke. First Second, $22.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-83661-8; $14.99 paper ISBN 978-1-250-90954-1

Tasked with retrieving his baby sister’s special sock from the basement laundry room, young Milo, portrayed with brown skin, is startled when a large rat-like creature steals it. After a brief retreat, Milo shores up the courage to pursue the sock-napper. Uncovering a key from behind a fake brick, which unlocks a hidden floor hatch that leads to an increasingly vast series of secret chambers beneath the house, Milo descends into an ornately decorated room where he encounters a levitating skull. As he follows the twisting corridors, he eventually emerges in a subterranean world inhabited by various unusual magical creatures—including a giant eyeball with tentacles and guitar-strumming toadstools—whose help he will need to find the sock and return home. Hatke (the Mighty Jack series) gently blends both whimsical and terrifying imagery to create a fantastical, dreamily atmospheric katabasis, rich with details that draw inspiration from puzzle-filled, dungeon-delving games such as the Legend of Zelda series. Wandering panel gutters border carefully paced sequences that lead through wondrous reveals while palette shifts between cool blues, grays, greens, and purples evoke moody ambiance. Milo’s bravery, ingenuity, and earnest offers of friendship are handsomely rewarded in this eerie and tender graphic novel. Ages 6–9. (Aug.)