Scout’s Honor

Scout's HonorIn a future set 286 years after atomic bombs destroyed civilization, a group of humans created a new colony by following the seven laws set up by Doctor Jefferson Hancock, who is known as the creator of the Ranger Scouts. Unfortunately, the main character, Kit, is breaking the third law by pretending to be male in order to be a Ranger Scout. She is very skilled and ends up on a scouting mission to determine the hideout used by the highwaymen, the enemies of the Ranger Scout community, where she accidentally comes face to face with the highwaymen and must escape. During her escape, Kit uncovers information that completely changes her view about the Ranger Scouts and her colony’s existence. 

When Kit is offered the opportunity to compete to become part of the Eagle’s Guard (the highest honor for a Ranger Scout), she initially dismisses it, but ultimately decides to compete in order to gain access to the classified information it would grant her. She hopes the info will help answer the questions and quell the doubt she’s felt since the incident with the highwaymen. This pits her against her best friend, Dez, who is the son of the current scoutmaster, and causes friction and dismay when Dez reveals his feelings for Kit, who he believes is male. 

While this story is entertaining and well-paced, it does not cover any new territory or thoughts on the topic of the exclusion of women or power’s corrupting capabilities. The potential is there at the beginning, but the story and characters quickly fall into well-known tropes and characterizations. The art does a good job enhancing the story with its use of muted colors and organic lines, showing the messiness of a world full of mutated creatures and unnatural weather. Overall, I would only recommend this to librarians wanting newer copyright dates in their collection. Otherwise, there are better stories that cover similar themes for older teens, such as Lumberjanes, Monstress, Lock & Key, Rainbow in the Dark, Bitch Planet, or Paper Girls.  

Scout’s Honor  
By David Pepose
Art by Luca Casalanguida
Aftershock Comics, 2021
ISBN: 9781949028690

Publisher Age Rating: 16+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)

Rainbow Bridge

Andy’s beloved dog Rocket has just passed away and finds himself on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. It’s a land of plentiful treats and toys that would be any dog’s dream. But not all is quite right in these Forever Fields.

Rocket seems to be fading, and some frightening creatures lurk in the shadows. Meanwhile, Andy is at home preparing for high school orientation. He is having a hard time with Rocket’s passing. His family runs an animal shelter and cares for loads of pets, but Rocket was special. On his way to school, Andy is suddenly transported over the Rainbow Bridge. He finds Rocket who is now larger than Andy and can speak in human words. The two of them determine that Rocket must have some unfinished business which is why he is disappearing. Rocket recalls a sister from his litter and wonders what happened to her. Andy and Rocket, with help from some entertaining cat characters, go on a quest to find Rocket’s sister and defeat the dark wraithlike characters who haunt the Forever Fields. The story resolves with a victory, yet room for further adventures remain for a possible sequel.

The full-color illustrations are charming, with adorable dogs and cats who are larger than life. Andy is able to ride Rocket around the Forever Fields. The dog breeds are clearly recognizable (Rocket and his sister are corgis) and the characters have expressive faces. The setting is detailed with many humorous touches: tennis balls grow on trees, bones lie around everywhere, and there’s a water bowl large enough to swim in. The panels vary in size and shape and often reflect the mood of a page, becoming jagged on frightening or dramatic pages. Some dramatic scenes take up an entire page while most pages are broken into multiple panels. 

At first, the idea of a book about a dead dog may be off putting. Some young readers avoid books with animals for fear that the animal will meet some misfortune. However, the fact that this dead dog can still go on adventures with his owner is actually an intriguing concept, especially since the ending of the book seems to indicate that they will continue to do so in the future. Rainbow Bridge presents the idea that pets don’t live forever and it is important to move on when they leave us, but it also honors the important role that animals play in our lives. Andy learns to forgive himself for not going with his family to the vet when Rocket needed to be euthanized. Good lessons are also presented through the animal shelter that Andy’s family operates. They do the best they can for every animal. The wraiths over the Rainbow Bridge are affected by the fact that they did not have loving humans on earth, a good reminder to readers that animals need to be protected.

Overall, this book is winsome with lovable characters and an exciting story. Young readers will enjoy the animal characters and find Andy a sympathetic protagonist. The positive messages about respect for animals and the place of pets in our lives are important and Andy experiences tremendous growth throughout the story. Rainbow Bridge makes a valuable addition to youth graphic novel collections.

Rainbow Bridge
By Steve Orlando, Steve Foxe
Art by Valentina Brancati, Manuel Puppo,  Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Aftershock/Seismic Press, 2021
ISBN: 9781949028676

Publisher Age Rating: grades 7-9

NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)