This is a tale set in the world of BONE created by Jeff Smith. It concerns Rose and Briar in their youth and so can be seen as a prequel. But you don’t need to have read any of the other books to enjoy this one. If you are familiar with the BONE series you already know what will happen. You may enjoy seeing Grandma in her youth, but the Bone family are obviously absent so this doesn’t feel like the stories you are used to.
The art is great and in full colour; another departure from the original series. Many of the little vignettes are stunningly beautiful and have an olde worlde folktale feel that conjures up the perfect mood. Various creatures speak in their own tongues and are given a different colour speech bubble to differentiate the languages and who can understand them. There are also some lovely dream sequences and recollections, all expertly done.
The tale is a simple one and the plot is tactfully signposted. There is also a nice introduction – lifted straight from the main series – that tells you all about the world and its impending peril. This and the fact the book is chopped into neat chapters every ten pages makes it very friendly for the novice reader.
Not a must read for the Bone follower but a solid stand-alone work and a charming Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: 100 Bullets: Dirty – Brian Azzarello
This is the last volume – the bitter end. Actually it is not that bitter at all. There is a little bit of Magical McGuffin and waiting for the cavalry aspect to it. But it is well paced, dramatic, has a few surprises and a real laugh out loud moment. It feels good to reach the end of the line.
The art is excellent as always with some nice touches worth remembering. There isn’t a lot you can do to shake things up at this stage but there are some well thought out scenes.
A highly worthy Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Cowboy Ninja Viking – A J Lieberman
This is another solid volume of the mighty Bone epic. Things trundle along nicely but there is little high drama and few moments of excitement. Things are drawing to an end but are doing so slowly. New characters, and the odd mystery, are introduced late in the day and you get the feeling that things are getting a little flat. There is a dramatic ending however and you know the final book with be an exciting end.
The art is neither better nor worse but lacks the flair of some of the previous books.
A Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: BONE – Book Nine: Crown of Horns – Jeff Smith
Things really kick off now with mountains exploding and instant invisible death, and sometimes highly visible death, all around. The humour has run for cover but the drama has been turned up to eleven. This is definitely in road movie territory but it is a fast and engaging read.
The art is good and we have a lot more double page spreads showing you the scale of what our heroes are up against.
A Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: BONE – Book Eight: Treasure Hunters – Jeff Smith
This is another mythos heavy episode with an extra layer of backstory being added. Unfortunately this exposition is all talking heads which is a real let down. That said there is a wonderful laugh out loud moment and an epic reveal that you would never see coming. It has a great ending that leaves you wanting more.
The art is good and although it struggles during the weary dialogue there are some nice compositions, great silhouettes and a fantastic Roque Ja pose where he looks directly out of the page right at you.
Tomorrow: BONE – Book Seven: Ghost Circles – Jeff Smith
“Do something quick small mammal, before we are all killed to death!” It is lines like these that assure you that you are in safe hands with Smith. This volume is essentially an extended chase scene on a cliff but we still get time to learn more about the plot, have a few laughs, get our heart-strings tugged and even philosophise on the nature of good and evil.
The art is the same good stuff and manages to impart a tangible sense of danger. Crumbling ledges, rockfalls, and giant snapping beasties are all rendered with dynamic excellence and really brought to life.
Smiley and Fone are the only main characters in this volume and it feels lighter than some of the previous books but still a Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: BONE – Book Six: Old Man’s Cave – Jeff Smith
This is where it all kicks off and epic fantasy overtakes the cute and humorous. Princesses, dragons, ancient prophecies, the whole nine yards. It is a bit of a jarring transition but the characters we love are still there, if a little shaken.
The book has become slightly wordier but we have our first double page spread, some wonderful nocturnal vistas and some highly unusual panel work. There are lots of nice artistic touches here.
A Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: BONE – Book Five: Rock Jaw, Master of the Eastern Border – Jeff Smith
Bone has a very old soul. Its familiar tale harkens back to medieval and even Greek myth. Personally it reminds me of Peanuts whose comic characters are the perfect vehicle for imparting a great deal of wisdom about our own lives.
Despite the humorous aspects of this story it now takes a turn into darker territory. Smith does a profound job of creating a looming, brooding darkness that builds at the corner of your mind and makes us fear for our beloved new world. Secrets are revealed and events are set in motion on a larger scale than just our heroes alone. Contrasting this dramatic narrative with almost Laurel and Hardy type gags is a superb choice that works wonderfully.
The art is terrific and really shows off what simplicity can do. White on black night scenes which are flipped when lightning flashes are incredibly atmospheric. He also tackles a tricky extended rain scene with aplomb.
Absolutely spot on. A huge Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: BONE – Book Four: The Dragonslayer – Jeff Smith
Despite this following directly on from the last there is a marked difference. This book follows the cow race and is played almost entirely for laughs. Gone is the tingling mystery of the opening volume as we spend all our time in the safety of the fair.
The art is consistently good with a commanding use of black and white and all the established elements from the first work are here. The characters are well designed and even the bulky, shaggy monsters can emote with great versatility and flair.
It is quite a change of pace and despite the bigger plot getting a mention this is definitely the comedic interlude. Let’s hope we are back on track next time.
Tomorrow: BONE – Book Three: Eyes of the Storm – Jeff Smith
This is a whimsical and fantastic adventure set in an imaginary land. It has the feel of an early animation crossed with a classic fairy-tale. There is a childlike quality to it but it isn’t necessarily aimed at children.
We follow Fony Bone, his cousins, and the friends he makes along the way as they try and get out of the strange land they have become lost in. All sort of different creatures pop up and join in from dragons to tiny bugs. If you crossed the Wizard of OZ with the Dungeons and Dragons animated series you get an idea of the type of story being told.
The art is great, being purely black and white line drawings reminiscent of Usagi Yojimbo. It has the feel of a golden age animated short. The Bone characters are anthropomorphic with blobby bodies, big noses and quirky eyes but capable of great exaggerated expressions. It is quite a shock when traditional human figures are introduced. A lot of the story is told visually and a great deal of emotion is imparted by these clay-like figures. The lettering is also suitably bombastic too.
The tale is simple enough with no forced complexity or unnecessary convolutions. It has a simple timeline and wont tax you as a reader. What it has by the bucket load is charm. As soon as you meet this cast you care about them. You are drawn to them and the pages fly by as you can’t stop wanting to know more.
The perfect Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: BONE – Book Two: The Great Cow Race – Jeff Smith