Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bone Handbook by Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith started writing the comic "Bone" back when he was just ten years old. Now, many years later, the story is done, and the series has been turned into ten graphic novels. But finding them all is hard, and it's not easy to parse the story of the world into one easily readable whole just from scanning the comic books, and so now there is the Bone Handbook, which lays out the story and introduces all the characters, while revealing secrets and hidden tidbits from the creator, artist and colorist for the series.

The three mostly main characters are the cousins Bone. Phoncible, or "Phoney" Bone, and his cousins Fone and Smiley Bone. From a land far away, they come to the valley where the story mostly takes place after a balloon ride and a trip across the desert they crashed in.

The Valley is the last bastion of the humans from a land called Atheia. After the kingdom was destroyed, the Queen, Rose Harvestar, escaped there with her granddaughter, Thorn. Thorn is heir to the throne of Atheia, but she's been raised not knowing of her ancestry. The only people who truly know about it are Rose, now calling herself "Ben", and Lucius Down, the owner of the local tavern, who also used to be Rose's Captain of the Guards.

But fate, and the creatures of the world who would rule over the earth, both the rat creatures and the Dragons, won't let Thorn moulder her life away in obscurity. They come to the village of Barrelhavem searching for her. But because the Bones have just recently arrived, being chased by two of the rat-creatures, Gran'ma Ben assumes that the Rat Creatures are after the Bones. Unfortunately, they are not.

This small book is filled with Character Profiles, a retelling of the story, interviews with the Artist, writer and colorist, and a compilation of covers from the original comic. Also included is a short story involving the Bones, where Phoney Bone make a kite out of Gran'ma Ben's bloomers and Smiley Bone. He gets Smiley up, but crashes the kite, inciting the ire of Fone Bone and Gran'ma Ben along the way.

Also in the pages are plenty of tidbits about the characters and the story. For instance, Bartleby, the good Rat-creature, was named after Bartleby the Scrivener, the story by Herman Melville. The Red Dragon who acts as Fone Bone's unofficial protector was based on a dog he once owned. And so on. The last cartoon in the book is the funniest, where Phoney Bone contemplates starting a religion and a political party all based on greed. For a moment, he's entranced by the thought of the power this could bring him, before sadly concluding it could never happen.

This is a good book that allows readers to pick up on any of the story they might have missed, or, if they read the graphic novels out of order, to put the story together. This expands on and makes the story larger and better, and is a welcome sight. For tons of information on the world of Bone and the story, there is no better source than this book. Recommended.

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