In Review: BONE #1: Out From Boneville (Tribute Edition)

This should be read by everyone, at every age. Recommended.

BONE #1: Out from Boneville (Tribute Edition) by Jeff Smith

Published by Scholastic, March 2015. Hardcover of 192 pages at $14.99. Intended for Ages 5 and up, Grades Kindergarten and up.

The cover: Against a blue background and red logo, Fone Bone is dressed in a tuxedo with tails. He’s holding a cane and doffing his top hat. Very classy, very cute, very nice. Illustration by creator Jeff Smith, with cover design by Phil Falco. A good cover for a Tribute Edition. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the back cover, “In 2005, Scholastic launched Graphix with the publication of Jeff Smith’s BONE in full color. To celebrate ten years of publishing, we offer this special tribute edition of Out from Boneville. Rediscover the world of BONE…or explore it for the first time. Join Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone at the beginning of their incredible journey filled with wonderful and terrifying creatures. And as an extra treat, inside you’ll find minicomics and artwork inspired by BONE, created by 16 bestselling, award-winning artists.” I haven’t read a BONE comic since the early 90s, so it’ll be nice to play catch up with this series. Overall grade: A

The characters: Fone Bone is the protagonist of this book, after he’s separated from his two cousins. He’s got a quick mind, is courageous, will do whatever is right, is very funny, and is totally smitten with Thorn. He’s an outstanding lead character. Phoney Bone is his cousin and he’s in a constant state of anger. Nothing goes his way, for deserved reasons, and his anger always gets him into trouble. He reminded me of my favorite Disney character Donald Duck. Their happy-go-lucky cousin is the tall Smiley Bone. He does whatever he pleases and shirks trouble and work whenever and however he can. He doesn’t do too much in this collection, save add some humor in the end. Thorn is the first human Fone encounters and she’s a bright and beautiful girl who befriends our hero. She supposedly knows everything there is to know about the Valley. She lives with Gran’ma Ben, who has more than a little of Al Capp’s Mammy Yokum in her. She loves to race cows and doesn’t like anyone who doesn’t love the beasts. She’s incredibly strong in a fight and she’s a lot of fun. Ted is a tiny insect that’s often mistaken for a leaf and he’s the first individual Fone meets in the Valley. Ted’s final appearance in this collection is hilarious. Naturally there have to some evildoers in this book and they first appear as the Rat Creatures. They are about eight feet tall and are a mass of hair with tiny hands, beady eyes, and sharp teeth. They want nothing better than to eat Phone, and his outwitting them is a constant joy. There is also a bigger bad, the Hooded One. This individual makes a brief appearance in this collection, but further volumes must be purchased to learn more about this character. Every one of these characters is a joy to see and read. It’s like the best combination of Walt Kelly’s Pogo and Carl Barks’s duck adventures. Overall grade: A+

The settings: The Valley is large valley that the Bone cousins find themselves in. It has lush forests, waterfalls, villages, mountains, and everything you would expect in this type of setting. It is populated with the most entertaining characters and creatures. It is gorgeous to look at and is completely believable in every panel. Overall grade: A

The action: Fone gets himself into the most physical scrapes, whether trying to escape the rat creatures or tussling with the environment. And though it might not be classified as “action”, I laughed hard when he tried to prove his manliness to Thorn. Always in the middle of something is Phoney, whose ire gets everyone’s dander up, resulting in him getting into fisticuffs or tossed out of places. He’s a hot, angry mess that always made me smile. In a darker turn, the Hooded One is introduced, leading the rat creatures to war. That’s a major action sequence with Gran’ma running inference so our heroes can get to safety. Every page had someone encountering an obstacle that had to be overcome. Overall grade: A

The conclusion: Our heroes are reunited, but they’ve fallen under the eye of the Hooded One. What will this villain do to them? You’ll have to buy the next volume to see! Still, this wraps up well with the cousins back together. Overall grade: A

The art: Jeff Smith’s art is gorgeous. I’m still dumbfounded why this hasn’t become an animated film or series. The visuals are appealing to children and adults. The Bone cousins are deceptively simple looking but have so much emotion, they are as complex as any character ever conceived. Thorn is beautiful, making Fone’s feelings resonate with readers, and Gran’ma Ben is a hoot and half with her constant overbite and perturbed face. Phoney is hilarious as the angry character who will never be happy. Watching him stomp about, talking to himself is awesome. Another favorite are the rat creatures. They look like something out of a bad fairy tale and their incompetence makes them wonderful. Every page and panel is gorgeous. Also impressive is the coloring by Steve Hammaker, whose blush on Fone mirrored my own. Overall grade: A+ 

The extras: There is an eight page poem titled “An Ode to Quiche”, written and drawn by Smith with colors by Tom Gaadt. It’s “written” by one of the rat creatures and it’s very, very funny. An eight page selection of Pinup Art featuring Moments from Out of Boneville are included, all by Smith. There are sixteen one page “tributes” to Bone by the following artists: Kate Beaton, Jeffrey Brown, James Burks, Frank Cammuso, Nathan Fox, Jimmy Gownley, Kazu Kibuishi, Mike Maihack, Scott Morse, Jake Parker, Dav Pilkey, Greg Ruth, Dan Santat, Raina Telgemeier, Doug TenNapel, and Craig Thompson. All look great, but Pilkey’s takes the cake with its incredibly funny text and pose. There’s also a nine page preview of the next collection, The Great Cow Race. This is a terrific collection of extras that makes this Tribute Collection worth getting. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This should be read by everyone, at every age. It is fun, adventurous, and beautiful. A sensational story with amazing visuals that will make every reader fall into this wonderful world. Recommended. Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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