I finally discovered what the big deal was with Jeff Smith’s Bone. I’ve heard good things about the series for some time, you can say it’s been at the edge of my radar- but I finally checked a copy out of my local library the other day and here we are.
Bone is certainly a unique accomplishment. It features a juxtoposition between some very abstract, cartoony (what Scott Mccloud would call iconic) characters with realistically drawn humans in an epic fantasy setting.
The plot involves three cousins who’s character models would fit in in an issue of Casper the Friendly Ghost- Fone Bone, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone. Phoney Bone, a hilarious, miserly businessman, gets the three cousins run out of Boneville, (After he runs for mayor with the slogan, “and I’ve got the money to do it!”)
Lost and seperated, our main character, Fone Bone, finds himself struggling to survive in a forest filed with giant rats, talking insects, and a mischiefous dragon. He then meets Thorn, a human girl, washing in a stream, and things take a turn for the odd.
The very unique thing about Bone is its impossible, contradictory world is treated matter of factly; there is no ironic dialogue or metafictional wink winks. This is a title that can mix comedy, pathos, danger, and adventure. The construction doesn’t feel like a juggling act or an evolving work, even from the beginning, it is what it is; a unique creative vision.
A part of me doesn’t know what to make of this title. It’s weird, but there’s no sniff of artiness or pretentiousness. There’s a collage of divergent elements, but it doesn’t have a postmodern or ironic feel. What I’m very clear about is Jeff Smith’s talent. With a few silent panels or reactions shots, he’s able to build characterization like a master.
I suppose the best way to classify Bone is as an arty children’s comic. With it’s unique mileau and solid character development, I’m sure its appropriate for adults too.
Publisher: Self Published/ Scholastic
Author: Jeff Smith