I began reading comic books in the early nineties. There was no local comic shop in my tiny town, but I was able to use a mail-order service, and a few weeks later a package would arrive at home with my new issues, catalog, and if I was lucky a free promotional comic. One such time, I received a copy of Bone #1 (8th printing), and I was transported into the adventures of the Bone cousins.
All those years ago I was able to read the entirety of the Bone series. But last year, as I was debating purchasing the collection digitally, my daughter surprised me with the hefty four and a half pound Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume for Christmas. Rereading the beginning of this Will Eisner and Harvey award-winning epic was an enjoyable blast from the past.
The Bone cousins are: Fone Bone, the main character, most genuine, and my favorite; Smiley Bone, the overly optimistic, way too trusting Bone; and Phoney Bone, the ex-rich Bone who’s greed and scheming got the trio thrown out of Boneville. The cousins initially find themselves separated by a storm, but each finds their way into the forested valley and meet the beautiful Thorne and her cow racing grandma Ben. Fone quickly forms a crush on Thorne and follows her around like a lost puppy.
At first glance, one could assume this is a cute series about a troublemaker, a comic relief idiot, and a little guy with a huge crush. With hilarity ensuring. Just a kid’s comic book. You’d be wrong.
Bone is an epic fantasy tale of good versus evil. Hidden princesses, ancient kingdoms, dragons, and magical dreams are intertwined with the story of the Bone cousins. The adventure starts slowly with greedy Phoney Bone’s attempt to scam the village cow race – with hilarious results. Then we learn Grandma Ben has secrets, and those secrets have secrets. The plot is thrust forward by Thorne wanting to know the answers and Fone Bone willing to do anything for her.
On team evil, we have the Rat Creatures led by Kingdok who is controlled by the Lord of Locusts. Further into the epic, we learn that Rat Creatures don’t appreciate being puppets. Two of these creatures are fleshed out hilarious side characters and eventually join the main storyline. Of course, Thorne is the key to conquering evil in this dramatic Tolkien like quest.
Jeff Smith also presents us with a large cast of side characters – each fully developed and necessary to the story. Smith interweaves the main story with b plots, and these side stories help keep the overall feel of Bone lighter.
Smith also does a wonderful job illustrating his characters and world of Bone. Smith’s style is simple and high in contrast, with no use of grey or halftones. There is no coloring to any of the pages in this one-volume collection, like the original printings, but it doesn’t feel like anything is missing.
While the plots are resolved at the end of Bone’s adventure, I was a tiny disappointed with the lack of a “and they lived happily ever after” ending. I was really rooting for the little guy, Fone Bone. It wouldn’t work though, so I’m glad that Smith didn’t force a Disney ending on his tale.
I highly recommend the epic quest of Bone to readers of all ages! Maybe for the little kids though, digitally would be better than printed.