This Was Our Pact

I just received & read this book (in one sitting, of course) on Saturday. And I have not been able to get it out of my mind since. Speaking of my mind, it exploded repeatedly while reading the book – one that I bought on slighty more than a whim.

Last week was one of those weeks where one thing kept popping up over & over, which is usually the universe’s way of getting your attention. The book popped up on Instagram, and in discussions with my peers at Kids Comics United (<– a kickass social network for peeps who make comics for kids, I’ll be blogging in detail about it soon). And I think I came across it while surfing too. The art looked really good and it did seem to be very well regarded so I bought it (in lieu of waiting for it from the library).

The cover hearkens back to the 80s and groups of kids biking all over, like ET & Stranger Things. The premise seems to give away the whole thing except … it doesn’t:

It’s the night of the annual Autumn Equinox Festival, when the town gathers to float paper lanterns down the river. Legend has it that after drifting out of sight, they’ll soar off to the Milky Way and turn into brilliant stars, but could that actually be true? This year, Ben and his classmates are determined to find out where those lanterns really go, and to ensure success in their mission, they’ve made a pact with two simple rules: No one turns for home. No one looks back.

The plan is to follow the river on their bikes for as long as it takes to learn the truth, but it isn’t long before the pact is broken by all except for Ben, and (much to Ben’s disappointment) Nathaniel, the one kid who just doesn’t seem to fit in.

Together, Nathaniel and Ben will travel farther than anyone has ever gone, down a winding road full of magic, wonder, and unexpected friendship*.

*And a talking bear.

My astute 11yo pointed out that one of the kids on the cover is looking back and immediately breaking one of the rules. Methinks that’s a tipoff that not everything is as it seems 🤔

I can sum this book up in one word: magical.

It’s simply magical.

The art is stunning, with Andrews using a hybrid analog/digital approach (analog pencils & watercolors with digital colors). He’s one of what seems to be a growing breed of artists who eschew inks in favor of pencils for lineart. If you’d like a nice, non-spoiler-y look at the analog process, check out this post from his abandoned tumblog.

Here’s the finished panel from the above link:

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Just look at that panel – it’s nothing short of GORGEOUS.

Andrews’ art reminds me a lot of another master of the craft, Cyril Pedrosa. (If you’re not familiar with Pedrosa, get yourself a copy of Three Shadows stat and call me in the morning.) Pedrosa’s art also has an analog, textural feel from pencils, watercolors & inks though Three Shadows has much more texture than his typical art.

Andrews’ use of color is fantastic – most of it is in shades of blue, which makes sense since the most of the story takes place outside in the darkness of night. He makes excellent use of this by changing the color for different locations, so what appears to be monochromatic color palette is anything but. And the pops of different color really make an impact. I’d categorize the art as showing a mastery of the craft – but the combination of the art AND the story makes this so outstanding.

(and yes, I’m immediately thinking of how I can use this in the current comic I’m working on, because I really like to run before walking….)

I already mentioned that I loved the premise and it’s callback to the 80s. The real magic of the story isn’t in the plot (which is genuinely magical and cool) but in it’s honest portrayal of kids, their relationships, and their feelings. That’s my favorite part of the book and what makes it so special.

This reminds me a bit of Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (aka the best superhero movie ever aka the movie that finally broke out Pixar’s boring-ass animation style and raised the bar for the future of animated movies).

That movie is great for many, many reasons (similarly for both the art and the story) but my favorite scene – in any animated movie – is the early scene where Miles goes to visit his Uncle. They’re just talking about life and dating and it feels so real and natural.

Hey
“You know about the shouler touch? I’m telling you man, it’s science!”

There are lot of great animated films that have had emotional moments but nothing like this, where it’s real and honest and natural without being a tearjerking scene.

This is what This Was Our Pact pulls off with the main relationship in the story. Nothing about the dialogue or emotions seems forced – and that’s really hard to pull off.

Structure-wise I need to re-read it and consider it in more detail but I’m thinking that he either went with the Heroe’s Journey or the Save the Cat beatsheet. I’ll post back once I figure it out.

Andrews clearly has a mastery of the craft, one that gives me I’m not worthy vibe. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – go read it so I can have someone to gush over it with.

In fact, you can get started right now because the whole first chapter is available on Andrews’ website. Enjoy!

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If you can read this, I did it right!

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