Guest post by my best friend, local graphic novel enthusiast and my local dealer and source for all things comic book. Here is her great review of a comic book series called Bone by Jeff Smith, which I will probably be borrowing in the near future:
You’ve read the story before. A kingdom, set in medieval times, is taken under siege by monsters who no longer wish to be subordinate to the arrogant human race. The royal family goes into hiding, is betrayed, and the only two surviving members abandon the kingdom in order to seek refuge in a pastoral farm town. A treaty is signed between the humans and monsters, order is restored, and the once powerful kingdom is only a shadow of what it used to be without its royal family inhabiting its walls. Nevertheless, peace reigns throughout the valley again.
Time passes and the two surviving royal family members are living in tranquility on their farm. It is a grandmother, Rose, and her granddaughter, Thorn. The granddaughter, Thorn, was only a baby when the war had broken out, and knows nothing about her royal heritage. She believes they were always pastoral farmers, and her grandmother intends to keep her in the dark for as long as possible, believing it will keep the monsters, or rat creatures, from breaking the treaty and going back into the valley.
Inevitably, something happens to cause disruption once more. Chaos erupts, war happens, characters die, others are redeemed, and order is restored once more. (C’mon, I didn’t just ruin the ending. Order is always restored in these sorts of tales!) So why should you read “Bone” by Jeff Smith? I’ll give you one word — its namesake — the Bones.
Meet cousins Phoncible P. “Phoney” Bone, Smiley Bone, and Fone Bone. They are bone creatures and residents of Boneville. The book starts with the three cousins wandering the desert, two weeks after having been exiled. One of the cousins, Phoney, had incurred the wrath of the entire town after having implemented one of his famous get rich quick schemes that ended terribly wrong (imagine gastrointestinal troubles on a town wide scale). They are drawn and depicted as sweet and childlike as Tolkein’s hobbits are in the “Lord of the Rings,” and even Phoney’s shady business deals are described as being innocent in their selfish intentions. After accidentally splitting up, each cousin individually makes their way to Barrelhaven, the human inhabited town where Rose and Thorn live. This is when the story really starts.
It is the scenes with these bones, whether with each other, the rat creatures, or the humans, that makes the story attractive to even non-comic book lovers. As we get to know each Bone individually, we find ourselves rooting for Phoney as he implements one of his schemes just so we can see to what humorous means it will ultimately backfire. We then sympathize with the lovelorn Fone who follows Thorn, his unrequited love, and later partner in war. And finally, we smile every time we get to see Smiley interact with his pet baby rat creature, constantly hiding and sheltering him from those who try to kill him simply because of his race. Then, when the war really starts, Smith masterfully has the reader wondering what will become of the innocent spirits of the Bones as they are thrust into ugly times where allegiances are shadier than Phoney’s business schemes and evil doers exists solely to destroy the entire world and sheer existence.
In short, if you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, or any kingdom like fantasy world, you should read “Bone”. Don’t be a literature snob and turn away from this masterful piece of work just because it is drawn like a children’s comic, or simply because it is drawn. “Bone” stands alongside any great bildungsroman or hero’s journey tale, and will suck you in so much that after the last page is turned you will want to go back to the beginning get lost with the Bones all over again.
** Bone by Jeff Smith is available in a 1 volume, 1332 page, trade paperback by Cartoon Books.
** Winner of several Eisner awards, including, but not limited to, Best Humor Publication (1993, 1994), Best Continuing Series (1994), Best Writer/Artist (1994).
** Winner of several Harvey awards, including, but not limited to, Best Cartoonist (1994-97, 2000, 2003, 2005), Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work (1994, 2005).