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Bone #1: Out From Boneville, Tribute Edition
posted March 3, 2015
Jeff Smith, Steve Hamaker, Various Friends
Scholastic, Softcover, February 2015, $14.99.
I don't have a ton to say about this anniversary edition noting a decades worth of publishing partnership between Jeff Smith and Vijaya Iyer's Cartoon Books and Scholastic's Graphix imprint. It's an event worth noting. The success of the Bone
series as color volumes sold by the book publishing giant paved the way for several such projects through the imprint and in a variety of other places. One thing I think that was particularly important about that relationship that might get lost is that Bone
was first through the door without being changed around a whole lot and with little other than its own creative pedigree to recommend it. There's been no movie and nothing in the way of mass licensing, not really. And while it's not a complicated book, there are hints at adult complexities: the shifting moral landscape of the two supporting Bones and the older human characters, the easygoing intimacy between friends Fone Bone and Thorn, the fact that people smoke and drink and gamble and flirt. It's not the book you'd grow in a marketing meeting to be your point person into a whole new realm of publishing, but it worked.
There's a cute Rat Creature poem section that counts as new material, plus a run of tribute art from other Scholastic-related cartoonist -- including Craig Thompson and Kate Beaton, whose contribution I enjoyed a heck of a lot. So if you're a completist, you'll have something new to see and not just another volume to buy. What was the most fun for me, though, was seeing how much of Bone
is firmly established by the end of this first trade. Perhaps the most interesting things about Bone
is how it eschews three-act or movie-style structure for a kind of rolling collection of climaxes and let-downs. In this first volume we get that Fone Bone/Thorn friendship but also the physical stakes for the Tolkien-style material that will be an increasingly important part of the book, as well as the first half of Phoney Bone's interaction with the villagers -- a storyline Smith calls key to understanding the entire work. And it remains a miracle of comics that Smith's art, so lovely in the black and white of its original serialization, works so well with the color provided by the talented Steve Hamaker. I wanted to read the whole thing again, and maybe I'll do so soon.