A timid boy receives guidance from the ghost of his beloved pet.
Derrick Hollis, a white, bespectacled seventh grader with long sandy hair, loves art and spending time with his gray dog, Max. An introvert, Derrick escapes problems at school and his implied alcoholic mother by losing himself in his drawings with Max by his side. When Max is hit by a car and dies, Derrick is understandably heartbroken. In a supernatural turn of events, Max’s spirit materializes at his side as a kind of ghostly Jiminy Cricket. Emboldened by Max’s sage, otherworldly advice, Derrick finds the courage to stand up against bullies, show his art, and ask his crush to the dance. At first glance, this seems to be in the vein of Goosebumps, but it actually lands closer to James Patterson’s I Funny series. Striving to hit a balance between gravitas and slapstick, Sullivan does not quite manage to pull off this feat, tipping more toward humor and skimming over the deeper subjects. This slim series opener is told in short, fast-paced chapters composed of very busy, full-color panels interspersed with Derrick’s own comics. Max and his best friend are white and his crush has light brown skin. Secondary and background characters encompass a more inclusive spectrum of skin tones.
A bit uneven but a fun premise nonetheless. (Graphic fantasy. 8-11)