As I have mentioned in a few earlier posts, I am trying to branch out a little bit. One of the ways that this has taken form is in looking at new and interesting mediums, such as graphic novels, to read and experience fantasy. I got the chance to check out a few fantasy graphic novels, but invested most of my time into reading Bone, by Jeff Smith. Bone is a fairly well known nine book graphic novel series about a classic farm girl/boy fantasy tale starring a princess and three anthropomorphic bones, Fone, Phoney, and Smiley. The tale follows them as they leave their hometown to escape a riot and travel through a new kingdom filled with dragons, magic, and an age old conflict.
The set up sounds fairly run of the mill, but Bone stands out as a unique take on the classic fantasy hero’s journey. Fone Bone and Thorn, a human he meets right off the bat, are the two true protagonists and they both have a lot of depth to them. Bone is dripping with charm and atmosphere and has its own unique feel, one that I like very much. Smith has a clean and punny sense of humor that I really enjoy, and it makes most of the dialogue in the book excellent. I rarely found myself laughing out loud, but was often smiling to myself as I read the nine books. The cast of characters is quite large, but they are all very well developed and likable.
The quests and tasks that the cast have to endure are quirky and weird, but in a good way. Jeff Smith has a talent for taking concepts that seem childish and ridiculous and making them very enjoyable for an adult. For example, here are a few of the topics the novels cover: a massive cow race in which everyone enters cows to race against one human, an intricate economy based on eggs, a three story French mountain lion who takes hostages, and a romance for the ages between a human and an anthropomorphic bone. All of these things sound weird, but Smith makes them work really well – all giving Bone its unique fun flavor. One final positive, the art of the novel is also fantastic. Smith has a fairytale style that suited his story really well and I loved the art from start to finish.
Despite all these positive things, I had one major issue with the series. Bone is often regaled as being great because it was written as one cohesive planned out storyline, not nine separate episodic books, something rare for graphic novels. This supposedly makes the story feel much more fluid and well written compared to its compatriots. However, if this is the case, I wonder why I felt so bored with it toward the end. The fun feel of the books never diminished, but as Bone continued into its sixth, seventh, and onward installments I just felt like I was seeing the same plot arc over and over again. The rebellious princess remained rebellious, the trouble making cousin continued to learn nothing from past failures, the protagonists continued to have the patience of angels as the support cast wore on them, and the doomsday like antagonist continued to loom in the distance. In addition, when the resolution finally came in the final book I actually found it fairly anticlimactic – especially when I thought about how much build up went into it. Bone has an amazing world that I enjoyed being in, but I left it feeling like I wished more had happened.
If you had asked me to rate Bone when I was in the first three books, I would have given you something very high. The charming cast, world, and story are all delightful and I would hope everyone would check it out. But, as the books went on the plot started to wear on me until I found myself a little bored with it despite the world still being great. Bone is certainly worth checking out, but I think I will continue to look for alternative fantasy graphic novels that have plots I might enjoy more.
Rating: Bone – 6.5/10