Review of Jeff Smith's Bone
One of the greats, still worth your time

Someone gave me a copy of the collected Bone, and presuming it was a favored but much-too-cumbersome volume to fit in the strict 2 carloads-of-stuff she's limited to moving, I read it—albeit, with a bunch of skipping around to get the basic idea, then going back to fill in all the details. I find myself reading that way more and more often, especially comic books, which is weird, given that I have more time to enjoy books, not less.

This thing won a fistful of awards, and plenty of folks have noted the sharp observations on group think and mob rule. The story is surprisingly structured for such a long run—twelve or fourteen years—and I particularly liked the way long absent characters, introduced way back when, pop in, obligingly driving the plot forward. Excepting the Roque Ja chapters, the various plotlines following the three Bone cousins, Foney, Smiley, and Fone and Fone Bone's love interest, Thorn, and her redoubtable grandmother, Rose, and Rose's long-time friend, Lucius, twine and interact. The humorous quiche-loving rat-thing and his venial partner, the dragon and Flik the ...insect, plus the possums (and their raccoon pal) all lend considerable joy to the narrative.

Unlike Dave Sim's Cerebus, the book never becomes actively misogynist; it just is burdened with the usual ‘beautiful brave princess falling in love with a schlub’ —literally, a cartoon character rendered as a rubber man, without hair, joints or much of anything else, excepting a huge schnoz and expressive, wandering eyebrows.[1] And most of the active characters being male (though kudos for the cow-racing grandmother). Oh, and few to no PoC, certainly not in memorable roles. But the plot is engaging, and the characters, for the most part, sympathetic.

I liked, too, that the goodness and kindness of the Bones is not merely limited to Fone, the romantic one; goofy Smiley is the one whose heart is wrung by the rat creatures, and Foney, for all his fraudulent money making schemes, is also the practical one who more than once saves the day. You kind of get the sense that this triumvirate is a depiction of three aspects of one character.

It's nicely done, and worth picking up.

[1]I don't mind the schlub achieving the love of a beautiful princess. I mind that the princess isn't a rubber schlub to match; that is, that women are the sex class. One wonders, without this particular genre stereotype, whether the creator would've spent so much effort adjusting the ‘realism’ of the various actors, which ranges from quite representational—the princess—to somewhat stylized—her grandparents, the possums, to very stylized—the bones. This technique, it seems to me, has enormous potential (Scott McCloud talks about cartoony characters in very realistically drawn landscapes in European comic, frex) but in this book I think it was mostly used to cope with the pretty princess expectation while still retaining the Bones’ expressiveness, rather than to drive the story forward in a creative way. Though perhaps you could argue it secondarily does sort the character types...certainly geographically, as the Bones are obviously aliens.