Monday, February 20, 2006

Late Blooming Bonehead

On Sunday I finally finished the Bone: One Volume Edition. What a read! I am now the latest Bonehead out there. I love this story. I love this more than I loved The Hobbit the first time I read it and it beats The Lord of the Rings for me as well. I haven’t read much other fantasy that I was very lovey dovey about. Until now that is. And thankfully there is a big lack of thee and thou in this book. I hate that crap.

I suggest you go out and get this collection if you haven’t ever read Bone before. I suppose if you haven’t it’s because you’re a dirty hippy or a Red. Or maybe you hate comics and/or can’t read. Whatever, get your illiterate arse into night-school so you can read this book. You will thank me. But who am I fooling everyone who reads this website is a freedom loving comic buyer for longer than I have been, or owns a comic shop, or bought this back when it was cool and new. I bet you all own t-shirts that say “Everything you like I liked five years ago” right? Well, I don't care. So there.

If you are behind the curve, like yours truly, and don’t want to search for dozens of individual back issues or old trades then get the one volume edition. It’s being reissued by Scholastic in color, which I’m told is good but everyone needs at least one black and white indy comic on their shelf to call themselves true fans. This is the best one for you since it’s both black and white but still fantasy enough not be thought of as “high brow” or “confusing-irrelevant-and full of crappy art.” However, you should be warned that if you have boney little girl arms you probably won’t be able to carry this book home. Unless of course you are a boney little girl, in which case I apologize for making fun of your arms. I like your arms, just not attached to a larger man. Anyway, this book is huge and will help you develop biceps or "pipes" if you can actually manage to lift it off the shelf without tearing something inside you.

What’s so good you ask? How about - absolutely everything! The story is long and engaging as any coming of age story needs to be. If you like any sort of fantasy setting you will appreciate the world created here. The characters are some of the best characters every put onto paper. There is depth to each of them yet none of them really change enough to be completely unrecognizable. It’s such a contrast to continuity comics in that these characters actually grow while maintaining a solid base instead of getting changed completely with each new creative team. The artwork and presentation is fabulous and will make you wonder why more comics aren’t toned down to this sort of effective presentation. The Bones are some of the simplest looking characters created but have more personality than 99% of the super-de-duper books out there. And the way the story is presented is reflective of the actual plot. As the world view of the characters grows so does the framing. It starts out tight on the characters but slowly draws further back showing more and more of the world. Where the focus starts on a few characters finding their way it ends showing how the actions a few affect the world of many. At first I thought it was a rush to finish but then I realized that the pages were showing more and more of the world as the Bones discovered more and more of the world and started to understand their connection to it.

The characters are simple yet wonderful in every aspect. This is probably one of the most charming books I’ve ever read. Fone Bone is so charismatic and heart warming that it was a welcome change from the other comics I’ve been reading. Then Phoney Bone is a rarity in characters these days because he never really learns anything. He is constant and while he does learn a bit and you want him to change you can’t help but still feel his heart is in the right place although he’s never given you a reason to like or trust that it is. You can expect him to act in a certain way and it’s hard to dislike someone who is so true to themselves. He’s pigheaded and greedy and almost completely amoral but you love him regardless. Hell, he’d make a better Batman than Bruce Wayne because at least this story ends with the reader still thinking this rude arse has some personality that’s charming. Phoney Bone is the literary descendent of Scrooge McDuck. And finally there’s Smiley, who could so easily be considered the loving dupe of the group but is probably the most loyal an understanding of all the characters. He refuses to ever think in black and white instead looking at the good in everyone no matter what side they choose or happen to be born on. He’s basically an innocent that won’t compromise his world view.

I’m very happy this book is being marketed to kids through Scholastic. It’s rare to get a great story that isn’t toned down and sugared up so parents can digest them. There are consequences to the actions of these characters. They smoke, people die, good guys do bad or stupid things and there are generally no easy answers. Yeah, that’s not a message we should tell kids. We should tell them nobody smokes and that if you swear you will have to live in a cave with bugs and a hood over your head because everyone will scorn you. The message here is that it’s okay to love people with faults and differences. There’s messages of understanding but also that it’s okay to accept things you can’t change. Mobs do bad things. People get bullied into doing bad things. People die and get killed for no good reason and that being a good guy who works hard and refuses to give up isn’t always the answer. Yeah, kids can’t handle that message. Let’s give them an antiseptic vision of a world where if you sing a song and believe in dreams you can get poor enough to win a new house and a trip to Disney World.

I’m just terrified someone like Disney would get their money grubbing hands on this and make a honey coated movie out of it. I mean think of all the stories that have stood the test of time. A wolf eats a grandmother, tries to eat a little girl and is chopped to death by a lumberjack. A princess is abused by her step-family. People are randomly turned into inanimate objects, eaten, put to sleep or turned to sea-foam. It’s a more primal understanding that won’t warp kids. Presenting falsely idyllic worlds that will never jive with reality may not be good – just maybe.

Sorry, losing track.

This is basically like taking your favourite comic strip characters Calvin and Hobbes or the Peanuts gang then giving them a sprawling fantasy epic. It's part road movie, part comic of age adventure, part fantasy epic. It's like a Tintin adventure that just won't stop. In fact the artwork reminds me a lot of Herge in parts with the realistic backgrounds but cartoonish and expressive characters.

To sum up. Bone = Goodness. Buy it or you are probably a freedom hating Red. If you haven’t read this yet, put down that X-book trade. Yes, you, put it down. I know, Psylocke is back. Nope, trust me. I know it’s hard but you will be stronger for it. Trust me she’ll be waiting for you in the future. You will be a better person for this. Your soul will go to Paradise if you buy this. Yes, you could even be resurrected like Psylocke if you buy Bone first.

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