Bone, by Jeff Smith
Jessica shares this review:
The Wizard of Oz could have been awfully boring. Dorothy could have traveled to Oz, seen some munchkins and a flying monkey or two, and skedaddled back home. It’s the sort of story that would have entertained young children, but only young children.
And that’s what the Bone series is like, at first. Forced to leave Boneville in a hurry, the three Bone cousins– Phoney Bone, Smiley Bone, and our hero, Fone Bone– are separated by a swarm of angry locusts. Finding himself in uncharted territory, Fone Bone encounters a friendly talking bug named Ted and a couple of giant rat-looking things who are dangerous but not very bright… It’s sort of neat, but not what you’d call gripping.
So yes, these graphic novels seem childish at the beginning, and author Jeff Smith includes a lot of elements to appeal to kids, like slapstick humor and silly running gags. But Bone is very unusual because it commands the attention of children and teens and adults (including this adult).
The secret to Smith’s wide-ranging appeal is his superb storytelling. What starts as a simple premise– Fone Bone is lost and wants to go home– soon takes on layers of unexpected complexity. For instance, the dim-witted rat creatures turn out to be minions of a much nastier bad guy, who is at this moment gathering an army to hunt for cousin Phoney Bone. There’s a dragon trying to protect the Bones from the bad guys, but this is proving problematic, seeing as dragons don’t exist. Or do they? The royal family could have told us for sure, but they don’t exist, either. They were massacred fifteen years ago, everyone knows that. (Right?)
Traipsing through the various storylines are some hefty themes, but Smith treats them with a light touch, never getting preachy. The art is uncluttered and enjoyable, and the characters are the kinds of people (or dragons or bugs or rat-creatures) you come to care about. There are funny scenes and scary scenes and dark scenes, and naturally there’s a pretty young woman involved, and there’s a sweet old grandmother who’s really useful in a fight. I heartily recommend this series.
Check the WRL catalog for Bone