Tag Archives: comics

Bone

Bone, Vol. 5: Rock Jaw, Master of the Eastern Border (Bone, #5)Bone, Vol. 5: Rock Jaw, Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s very hard not to like BONE. When people want to know a good place to start as far as graphic novels go, this is always near the top of my list. Especially if the person who is asking has kids or is a kid. Because besides being heart-warming, adorable, compelling, humorous, and well-drawn, BONE is also pretty wholesome. Imagine Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and Donald (or rather, Uncle Scrooge) stumbling upon an enchanted valley where they get mixed up with dragons, rat-creatures, a princess, prophecy, etc., etc. And to add to that level of surreality, throw in some lovable Bambi-esque woodland creatures. Our heroes fighting alongside, for example, some orphaned turtles, raccoons, talking bugs, and possum kids. Yet the drawing and the story-telling make this Disney-meets-Lord of the Rings schtick work. And work as more than schtick. This isn’t simply a fantasy epic drawn through the medium of a cartoon. It’s cartoon characters– with all the slapstick and mayhem that entails– actually entering into a fantasy epic as characters (and of some depth) in their own right.

I’ve read BONE up through Volume 8, though it was a while ago. Our kids have gotten into them now, so I’ve had the chance to re-read them again up to Volume 5, and I’ll take completion of this volume as a chance to review the entire series so far. The Bone cousins– Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone (the loosely Mickey, Uncle Scrooge, and Goofy analogues)– were chased out of Boneville after one of Phoney’s schemes to get rich backfired, and at the beginning of Vol. 1 they find themselves in a strange valley and thrust into the center of a conflict that involves everything from a lost kingdom to cow races to an invasion of an army of rat-creatures. Epic really is a fitting description of what Smith does with these volumes. It takes a few volumes of the story to even get a complete picture of the conflict the Bones have found themselves in.

It’s whimsical without being flippant. Smith’s artwork runs the gamut from suitably cartoonish (the minimalist Bone cousins are in some respects ‘toons boiled down to their essential properties) to subtle (as in some of Fone’s dream sequences or the sweeping panoramas of the valley we’re occasionally treated to). Originally black and white, the volumes have been colored, and having never read the black and white versions I can’t imagine them without it. The colors are vivid and bring an additional depth and drama to the artwork.

Smith’s work is somehow, absurdly, a nod to both cartoons along the lines of Ducktales at its best and your standard sword-and-sorcery epics. And perhaps even more absurdly, it works incredibly well. Every character– including Phoney– is likable. The story continues to build in complexity and raise the stakes but in a well-paced manner without throwing out a huge web of characters or inscrutable backstory. By volume 5 we learn that the girl Fone has fallen for is the lost heir of a kingdom, that a Sauron-like power has return to threaten peace in the valley, and that Phoney’s money-making schemes coupled with the townsfolk’s gullibility spell trouble. And that Smiley has adopted a rat-creature cub. Where it will go from here is anyone’s guess, but one thing is certain: Smith proves that there’s nothing at all flat about two-dimensional characters.

King City

King CityKing City by Brandon S. Graham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you’ve ever sat at a railroad crossing and wondered where those boxcars got tagged in vibrant colors and an apparently alien language, the answer is on a siding in King City. King City is Gotham meets China Mievelle’s New Crobuzon. It’s Scott Pilgrim’s stomping grounds with more grit, sex, space aliens, and zombies. It’s the Uglyverse for grown-ups.

Joe is a Cat Master, trained to use his super-genius cat in countless different ways as a living weapon. He’s come back home to King City, where it seems everyone is a spy or ninja or graphic artist and the streets are all marked and re-marked with past battles and advertising. There is a Demon King that needs to be stopped, but the story actually revolves around Joe helping his friend become a hero and saving his ex-girlfriend’s lover from an addiction to chalk. The anti-climax of the story works: King City is a place where you know a hundred epic struggles are playing out in the background, but Joe has come home and learned to grow up.

The art is a paradoxical blend of cartoon and grime. It fits the city Graham creates, which in certain panels resemble the bizarre lovechild of a Where’s Waldo page and a Mad Magazine spread. The entire book is black-and-white, but you almost don’t notice. The electric detail of each image makes your mind supply the color without thought or effort. King City is vividly colorful, and you remember it so. It’s also pleasingly surreal in its position on the junction of fantasy, noir, and sci-fi.

It’s not for kids. None of the images are explicit, but there are seedier places in the city (where most of the time is spent) where you can get anything you want for the right price: knives, drugs, sex. A drug-knife you can have sex with. King City can be a rough place.

But keep your cat close, and things will probably be alright.

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