If you think of independent comics, underground publications which made their way to the daylight despite the fact that they weren’t backed by any major publication house or corporation, you can’t help but think Jeff Smith’s BONE, one of the most successful independent comic books ever to see the light of day. Jeff Smith’s iconic creation, which first came to light in 1991, has sold millions of copies in 15 different languages and has even scooped up over 38 awards of its lifetime.
Originally published in black and white single issues, publisher HarperCollins Children’s Books has now gone ahead and released the first six chapters of the BONE saga in graphic novel form, this time in glorious full colour, all thanks to the tremendous efforts of the talented Steve Hamaker. 137 pages of BONE as you have never seen him before!
Bone: Out From Boneville introduces us to the main hero of our story, a quirky little bald creature by the name of Fone Bone, a curiously small, white individual who seems to have a heart of gold but just not the body to live up to it. He and his cousins, the ever-scheming Phoncible P. Bone and the always-looking-for-an-angle Smiley Bone have been run out of Boneville, and are currently on the run from a rather angry mob determined to put an end to them.
Stumbling through the mountains, rapidly running out of water, and being very, very lost, this unlikely trio of family soon sit with another problem on their hands as a angry swarm of locusts bear down upon them!
Now all alone, in an unfamiliar wooded valley and only a leaf-bug for company, Fone Bone sets out on a mission to find Thorn (who hopefully has all the answers) and locate his missing cousins – all while trying to avoid stepping on a very moody dragon’s tail and making sure to stay off the menu of some very nasty rat creatures who seem determined to make a light snack out of him!
Bone makes for a remarkably enjoyable read because despite the fact that at first glance this seems a comic written for young readers, one soon grasps the subtle and complex weavings of a story that Jeff Smith conjures up into place. The story slowly grows more and more epic as you progress, and as the final pages come to a close, you are left gasping for more.
Jeff’s writing is clever and witty, leaving space for a lot of humour and dramatic elements, all the while remaining extremely accessible to almost any reader.
Of course, comic books are as much about art as what they are about writing, and in this respect BONE certainly doesn’t disappoint. Jeff has a wonderful skill in composition, how he lays out his panels, characters and backdrops, effortlessly moving the story along with a natural flow and progression. His characters are all simply drawn, but as such ooze character and emotion, simply because of Jeff’s mastery of facial expressions and body language.
The Bone creatures in themselves are about as simple a cartoon character as you can get, but their distinctively simply faces, expression and exaggerated eyebrows make them the most expressive characters you’ll probably ever find in comic books.
Of course, HarperCollins make a big deal out of the fact that BONE is now in full colour, and with good reason too. Steve Hamaker has done an exceptionally good job to breath colour into BONE’s world. He has a deft use of colour and palettes, resulting in an exceptionally accessible look that is easy on the eye but at the same time of an extremely high level of detail. It is absolutely amazing the added depth that colour brings to the book and should certainly not be overlooked by hardcore fans who might feel that the pureness of BONE has now been diluted.
Bone: Out From Boneville is an enjoyable read that is suitable to readers of all ages and really shouldn’t be missed out by anyone who enjoys a good dose of humour and a little bit of fantasy storytelling on the side.
Related link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Out_from_Boneville