Not much is known about what happens to us when we move on from this plane of existence. Outside of the traditional theological debate, it’s fair to say there is one unique acceptance amongst all; the existence of the rainbow bridge. For those unfamiliar, the rainbow bridge is a transitional step for animals. Their own great beyond, similar to a Valhalla where they are deservedly praised as adored heroes. As an owner, it allows you to feel like everything is okay because they are going somewhere better and perhaps you will see them again one day. Losing a four-legged friend is an undecidedly morbid topic when considering how beloved they are, but Rainbow Bridge is now the educational gold standard on the matter. While reading it through quiet sobs and laughter, it became clear that care and love was put into this visually charming graphic novel and many lengths were taken to ensure the reader comes out with a soothing cognizance of their fur baby’s final resting place.
In Rainbow Bridge, written by the team of Steve Orlando and Steve Foxe with illustrations by Valentina Brancati, we see our young protagonist Andy meet up with his recently deceased pup Rocket in his new pet-utopia. We quickly learn that Andy is the son of two animal-rescue owners, and his life revolves around the compassionate care of those who have been severely mistreated by an unforgiving society. Andy’s journey to the rainbow bridge is an unexplained one as humans are not part of their companion’s hereafter, a thought that this reviewer adamantly hopes is false. His journey has him meeting with a pun-tastically named feline, Pawdrey Hepburn, who was once the pet of his parents at the rescue. Andy’s escapade has him facing many tough feelings that even full-grown adults struggle with, as nothing ages someone like the weight of grief and the absence of closure. Meanwhile, Rocket is trying to find his way in this new reality, while also escaping the grasp of the in-between creatures known as the wraiths. Sticking to our adherence of a no-spoiler policy, it’s prudent we now turn our attention to the bigger mysteries at hand that Rainbow Bridge attempts to uncover. What happens to those who have unfinished business, or in this case, what happens to those who left this world unloved?
For Andy, the lack of closure with the death of his furry best friend and his apprehensiveness of continuing on in this world without his faithful companion is what drives this narrative. Perhaps learning that saying goodbye and the more important realization that it’s not as final as you think. The Steves do a transformative job in relaying these difficult and at times, indescribable emotions by packaging them so neatly into this vibrant graphic novel. It’s a story that will draw tears from those who have had the unfortunate relative experience to go along with the plot. We are then comforted by Brancanti’s exuberant use of color, allowing the reader to be left wondering if the magic that is brought to the page is as wonderous as the real thing. More importantly, we get a glimpse at an oversized dog that is able to be ridden as a horse, and that alone made this entire thing worth the read.
As an owner who has experienced this grief with the loss of my dog Chase, this was such a tough, yet rewarding piece to read. I was right beside my good boy when he was called to the rainbow bridge, and my only hope was that whatever was on the other side would show him the love that he deserved. There are not many moments in your life that are so solidified as seeing something you consider being a constant in your life, one day just cease to exist. If this graphic novel were to be taken to heart, its message is clear. Show love to everything while it’s here, for when they truly are gone, there unfortunately is no connection to the other side to relay the message. I commend the creators for eliciting such strong emotions, and keeping it light-hearted enough that I expect to re-visit it for future readings. I’ve always envisioned access to the rainbow bridge for a human similar to the test of Mjolnir. Are you worthy, are you still the human that was so worshipped by this animal, that you may play with them forever?
Like Andy with Rocket, I can live this life knowing I was selflessly loved by my good boy, and will greet him in paradise, I just hope it’s as fantastical as the one I’ve already seen in the Rainbow Bridge.