July 15, 2010

On Bone

I wrote to friends while in the process of reading this that it is `better than _Sandman_.' To many of my contemporaries, Gaiman's stories are the gold standard for graphic novelization. Others may disagree on what hold the top spot but for me the quest of _Bone_ is the bee's knees. I wish I had kids so that I could read it to them.

First off, a warning. This volume is thick - over 1300 pages. Reading the text will not be something you can do on your commute or even laying down on your back. Find a nice comfortable place to sit and lay the book in front of you. Make sure there's fresh coffee in the pot and you have plenty of time to kill, because you're not going anywhere.
The story of _Bone _ is that of a generic quest narrative: our heroes meet some friends, battle a common enemy, face uncertain allegiances and overcome several smaller obstacles to conquer in the end the larger goal. The story overcomes the possibility of boring rote fantasy and is actually well done.

What saves the story is the characters. All of them on some level challenge the archetypes that could easily be found for them. Their change and growth (for the most part) creates interest for the reader and it is fun to watch how they interact and come into their own. I think every reader will be able to find a character to identify with and track throughout the quest. I for one have a particular affinity for the `Rat Creatures'.

A final note is on the artwork. It is internally consistent for the whole of the run. This volume is in black and white, so it sometimes looks like a coloring book. However, the story and the art work hand-in-hand, and there was only one panoramic vista that I wished would have been in color. At around thirty dollars, this printing is a bargain compared to what the colorized version would cost, so there is little need to lament the black-and-white nature of the book. The world of _Bone_ is a realistic one, drawn largely true to life.

The three main `Bone' characters are from another place, and their physical structure shows their otherness. They are not outcasts though, but forever belonging to another place. You as a reader belong to another place too, but once you read the first page, you will live in the world Jeff Smith created for your enjoyment.