cover image This Was Our Pact

This Was Our Pact

Ryan Andrews. First Second, $21.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-62672-053-4

Creepy yet benign, this leisurely graphic novel opens on the autumn equinox, when a community sends paper lanterns down a river. Five boys and a bullied tagalong science fanatic named Nathaniel make a pact to find out where the lanterns go. They pedal their bikes along a deserted road, but the vow proves daunting, and Nathaniel and the narrator, Ben, are soon alone on a bridge at the edge of town. They pledge to soldier on, unaware of a hulking shadow creature that rises from the river below. Ben approaches their subsequent adventures with trepidation, while Nathaniel greets every vertiginous cliff and bottomless lake with a gleeful grin. They take up with a fellow traveler, a stylish anthropomorphic bear who seeks to catch the floating lights, which are rumored to turn into fish en route to the stars. Andrews (Nothing Is Forgotten for adults) crafts a phantasmagoria of events that recall animation from Studio Ghibli and Cartoon Saloon. Scenes unfold beneath the Milky Way in twilit dark-blue and charcoal-gray panels, while flashbacks and industrial interiors in glowing ember hues amplify a simmering sense of threat. Picaresque episodes and a dreamlike resolution conjure a giddy sensation, like staying up all night. Ages 10–14. [em](June) [/em]