Out From Boneville
a comic book fan since I was about five, but I didn't come
to the graphic novel section of my bookstore until the mid-to-late
I came late to OGNs and trades, there's always been this backlog
of books that I've been meaning to pick up. There's a lot
of comic name-dropping in Wizard magazine and Comics
Journal: Maus, Watchmen, and A Contract With God
get thrown around liberally, and it makes the newer fans salivate
(and sometimes frustrated when they look for an older book
that's gone out of print, damn you Squadron Supreme).
was at my comic store (yes, it is mine purely because I go
there) getting my weekly comic fix and I saw a graphic novel
that had been sitting on my backlog for a few years: Bone
by Jeff Smith.
and written by Smith, the first volume, Out From Boneville,
is the introduction to the Bone Brothers: Fone Bone, Phoncible
"Phoney" P. Bone, and Smiley Bone. The Bone Brothers
have been recently kicked out of their hometown (shockingly
named Boneville), thanks to a get-richer-quick scheme on the
part of Phoney.
travel, lost in the desert, the boys get attacked and separated,
all ending up in a rather pleasant forested valley, where
kindly possums, freak snow storms, and "stupid, stupid
rat creatures!" roam.
arrival in the valley brings with it some dangers: Fone is
being constantly tracked by the rat creatures, Phoney is being
marked for assassination by some unknown dark power, and Smiley
finds that it's hard to pay a bar tab in a culture built on
the barter system.
sounds like a light and fluffy romp, but Smith really surprised
me when he started throwing in depth to almost every situation.
Fone's instant attraction to Thorn (and her possible reciprocation)
is instantly cute and funny, but Smith shows the reader that
Thorn may have a past that will figure into future stories.
Also, Gran'ma Ben (who is the toughest old lady I've ever
seen, and also a great cow racer) keeps making references
to "the Big War" that I'm positive will figure into
further adventures. (They do -- editor)
has really made a great fantasy story here. He seamlessly
balances humor with action (and there is a surprising amount
of action for the book) and has established a damn intriguing
mystery that makes me crave more Bone (take that however
you want it).
is great, and it's in one of my favorite styles that I call
Frank Cho-esque (or Liberty-Meadows-nouveau). Smith is able
to put the incredibly cartoonish Bone Brothers smack dab into
a realistically depicted fantasy scene and not have it look
awkward. His line work is clean, his inking is crisp, and
he gets to do more with the art style than Cho does since
Bone isn't a daily comic strip. Smith draws some beautiful
landscapes and vistas and one night scene was very impressive
to me in the way he lit the entire scene with only torch-light-effects.
are eight volumes of Bone, with another on the way
as Smith is about to end the series after a decade plus of
producing the book. Also done in collaboration with other
artists are two prequels: Rose and Stupid, Stupid
Rat Tails: The Adventures of Big Johnson Bone, Frontier Hero.
my work cut out for me collecting them all, but I damn well
plan to do it. I don't think I've ever been so instantly impressed
with a series as I have with Bone. My copy ran me $20,
but it was a hardcover (I know, I usually make fun of hardcovers,
but it was the only copy they had Judgmental Jimmy) and I
know for a fact that there are trade editions up for grabs.
So if this week is a decision between another worthless collection
of a Batman or Superman crossover, and the quality that is
well, I think the choice is obvious.
and have your buddy at the counter sneak the Batman collection
out the back. It's not stealing, it's "borrowing."
the powers that be at DC: We've never seen this "Rob
Sparling" before in our life. -- editor
Bone, Vol. 1: Out from Boneville (paperback)
the hardbound copies, go to www.boneville.com.
Heck, go there anyway. And tell Jeff Smith we sent you.