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Jeff Smith: Bone

Bone is a 55-issue long comic book recently collected into a single omnibus volume. It’s a weird hybrid between funny-animal cartoon (there’s lots of slapstick, and one of the protagonists bears a marked resemblance to Goofy) and epic fantasy (saving the world from the forces of Evil).

The comic is pretty widely revered, and one reason is probably that it blends those two genres. But to me the blending felt artificial, and I was never really sure exactly what sort of work it was. For example, the good guys are frequently hunted by “rat creatures”, monsters that serve the bad guys. These encounters are portrayed as high-tension life-or-death situations —but then when they occur, half the time they’re played for laughs as the rat creatures act “hilariously” stupidly. (I had a similar problem with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, where I never got the feeling that any of the characters ever really believed they were in real danger.) Often I like this sort of blending of high and low — I’m a Pynchon fan, after all — but somehow it didn’t really coalesce for me in this work.

I should point out that it is drawn exceptionally well and there is a lot of pleasure to be derived just from admiring that aspect of it. And from reading reviews, I’m clearly in the minority in my lukewarm attitude.