My Books of 2018: “Bone” by Jeff Smith

Rat Monster 1: “Please, comrade! I just want to chop him up for the stew!”
Rat Monster 2: “And that’s another thing! I’m tired of stew! I want to put him in a crust and bake a light fluffy quiche!”
Rat Monster 1: “QUICHE?! What kind of food is THAT for a monster to eat?!”

Bone: Vol. 1

Jeff Smith’s Bone is correctly described as “a cartoon epic.” Not only is it a graphic novel, but its three main heroes are round-featured cartoon creatures in the style of the classic Pogo comic strip, complete with vague anatomy, exaggerated quirks, and a relaxed adherence to the rules of physics. They stumble out of their presumably silly and gag-based homeland into a mystical valley populated by medieval humans, talking bugs, elusive dragons, and other strange creatures, which is being menaced by a dark sorcerer and large, vicious rat-creatures.

You might fear that these two genres wouldn’t mix well: that either the cartoon humor would undercut the epic’s gravitas or that the epic’s gravitas would dampen the lightness and optimism of the cartoons. Yet for the most part it does work, and delightfully well. Bone is an engrossing fantasy saga with enough sweep and scale to thrill, and enough wit and lightness to keep you laughing and hoping for the best.

I read the nine issues of Bone in a one-volume, 1344-page book. It might be the fastest 1000+ pages I’ve ever read, finishing it in under three weeks; it could have easily been faster. Smith’s art is alternately beautiful and hilarious, and well-suited to the balance that his writing achieves.

Some have compared the story’s epic sweep to The Lord of the Rings, although I think that is far too enthusiastic. It has nothing of the deep history and carefully-designed symbolism of Tolkien’s worldbuilding and stories. The characters are lively and have enough emotional depth to give the story some worthwhile meaning and emotion, but there’s no one so awe-inspiring and life-affirming as Sam Gamgee, Frodo, Gandalf, and Aragorn. But that’s okay, because Bone has as much as it needs. Enough sword-and-sorcery adventure and clever worldbuilding details to intrigue, but leaving it light enough that it is accessible to a wide variety of readers and can be digested fairly quickly.

Classic Remarks: A Much-Read Childhood Classic

Which children’s classic couldn’t you read enough of when you were growing up?

Several books could probably be mentioned here, especially given a loose definition of “classic,” but the ones that stand out to me are the Picture Classics graphic novels Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, adaptations of Mark Twain’s famous novels.

As I flip through them now, I’m impressed by how detailed and faithful they are. Twain’s novels deserve to be read unabridged, but their size and age can sometimes be intimidating to younger readers. The Picture Classics adaptations zip from adventure to adventure and an avid young reader can easily finish both in a day—perhaps more than once each!


Much of the flavor of Twain’s prose is also kept. Characters speak with Twain’s dialects, and the bits of narration in Tom Sawyer reflect Twain’s third-person prose, while Huck Finn preserves the boy’s distinct first-person narration.

In some graphic novels the art doesn’t always make clear what is going on, but in both of these the art is easily readable. It also complements the text well and does a good job of evoking stories’ settings.


These adaptations were my first introductions to Mark Twain’s famous heroes, and I’m glad of that. While nothing quite compares to reading the full novels, Picture Classics did a fantastic job of capturing the essence of the stories. Even though the focus is on action and adventure, Twain’s deeper commentaries still linger in every frame. Characters drive the action on every page, rather than merely reacting. These books thrilled me as a young boy, letting me imagine I was a fellow-adventurer with Tom, Huck, and Jim on deserted islands, creepy caves, cool woods, and the long, storied Mississippi River.

Graphic Novel Review: Mouse Guard Fall 1152

Huzzah, my last review of 2010! Happy New Year to all of you!

Nice cover. But what

Title: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152
Author: David Petersen. He’s also the artist.
Format: Graphic Novel
Length: 192 pages
Published: May 2007
Spoiler-free Synopsis: “In the world of Mouse Guard, mice struggle to live safely and prosper amongst harsh conditions and a host of predators. Thus the Mouse Guard was formed: more than just soldiers that fight off intruders, they are guides for common mice looking to journey without confrontation from one hidden village to another…Saxon, Kenzie and Lieam, three such Guardsmice, are dispatched to find a missing merchant mouse that never arrived at his destination. Their search for the missing mouse reveals much more than they expect, as they stumble across a traitor in the Guard’s own ranks.” (from the official website)
Reason for Beginning: I’m a fan of the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, and this looks clearly inspired by it. Plus it’s easy to read graphic novels on my lunch breaks at work.
Reason for Finishing: It’s a quick read and the artwork is very good, very textured. Read more

Graphic Novel Review: “Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale” by Zack Whedon

Title: Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale
Author: Joss Whedon, Zack WhedonAdmit, the man IS cool.
Artist: Chris Samnee
Format: Graphic Novel
Pages: 56
Published: November 3, 2010
Reason for Beginning: It’s Serenity! It’s Shepherd Book! Book is a character that I both loved and was a little disappointed with in the show, and I’ve been waiting to learn his backstory so as to better understand him. I couldn’t not read it, really.
Reason for Finishing: Uh…ditto? Plus it’s so short, and has cool pictures.
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Wherein we learn which moments have defined Book’s life from childhood, and how he came to be a roaming preacher with the mind/combat skills of a spy on the good ship Serenity. Through a flashback in a flashback in a flashback in a flashback in a… Read more