Saturday, January 9, 2010

Read Lately: Bone by Jeff Smith

  • It pains me to admit that this is the very first time that I've read Jeff Smith's Bone from beginning to end. I collected single issues for awhile and bought a few of the trades, but my interest just died away at some point. It might have been during the annual culling of the comic pull list. Eventually when the series came out in the one volume edition I knew it was time to read. Several months later I overcame the sticker shock and bought a copy for myself.

  • Bone is the story of three Bones (short, white cartoony creatures with large noses and no hair), Fone Bone, Smiley Bone, and Phoney Bone. They've been run out of Boneville because of Phoney's latest failed scheme and they find themselves crossing a vast desert. Within moments of the story's opening, the trio are separated because of a plague of locusts, but each eventually find their way into a forested valley right out of a fantasy novel. Fone Bone, the main character in the novel, soon runs into Thorn and her Gran'ma Ben. And through them the main story of the book arrives. Rat creatures are threatening to overrun the valley and the Bones will have to aid the inhabitants as they fight against the tide of destruction.

  • What starts as a light-hearted tale turns darker and darker as the story progresses, much like the fantasy epic. The villains are dastardly, the heroes brave, and their obstacles seem overwhelming. When the book starts, you might not be aware of what you're getting into. But neither are the Bones, so you end up experiencing the same growing sense of dread that they do.

  • Jeff Smith is a master cartoonist and rarely hits a false note here. As a matter of fact even though I've left myself a little wiggle room with that statement, I can't think of a single instance where I thought there was any flaw in the art. The black and white is handled perfectly. (You can find colorized versions of the individual books released by Scholastic that is still great.) The Bones are very cartoony, but eminently believable in the world they inhabit. And each of the human characters is easily distinguish able. You won't mistake one for another, a failing I've found in lesser cartoonists.

  • Although Bone might not be the first book I recommend to someone first exploring graphic novels, it might well be a good second. Anyone who enjoyed fantasy even a little will enjoy this story.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I've been hankering for a good graphic novel lately. I'll give Bone a shot.