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Includes Issues:Bone 1-55, 13 1/2; Bone Holiday Special
Issue Dates:June 1991 – June 2004

This review is spoiler free! Skip To The Verdict? »

If you are lucky enough to have $20 spare and are struggling to find something to spend it on, your search ends here.

Bone: One Volume Edition is well worth your money.

Why this book?

If I told you it was possible to purchase a single book collecting comics earning 10 Eisner Awards, 11 Harvey Awards, and a further 11 Eisner Award nominations, you might be excused for saying I was talking a lot of hot air.

Okay, so I may have neglected to point out this is a mammoth 1344 paged monster, containing all 55+ issues of Jeff Smith’s series.

Nevertheless, the accomplishments remain impressive.

The story is centered around the three Bone cousins Fone Bone, Smiley Bone and Phoncible P. ”Phoney” Bone, who have been driven out of their homeland.

They cross the desert and find themselves in a strange new valley, a valley which is under threat from a mysterious dark entity.

The three cousins are all quite differing in character and their appearances draw attention to their variations. Fone is the “ordinary” character, Phoney is a greedy person who wants to get rich quickly, while Smiley is a little bit goofy and not the brightest of persons.

After living in the valley for a brief period the three cousins soon find themselves involved in a struggle, forced to protect a young country girl called Thorn from evil rat creatures.

This small conflict spins itself into a sweeping fantasy tale comparable to classic epics; most often Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings because of its evolution from something so small to something almost too big to comprehend.

Luckily, Bone avoids being overly dense, unlike some sprawling epics.

Also divergent from many classic fantasies, the adventures are mixed with a great deal of comedy. It doesn’t detract from the story – the majority of the humour is present in the earlier chapters and helps the reader to become attached to the characters.

One of the funniest parts of the book is the entire 2nd chapter, The Great Cow Race.

The whole segment is a laugh a minute – unfortunately I can’t go into meticulous detail without spoiling it.

The one part I will tell you about is Phoney’s scheme to get rich off the race.

He intends to dress up Smiley as a cow and enter him into competition, while taking bets on who would win. He would then use Smiley to fix the race.

Of course, employing Smiley to do anything right is never a good idea.

Another ongoing comedic theme is the stupidity of the two main Rat Creatures; they often find themselves outsmarted by their prey or find themselves getting into dangerous situations because of their sheer idiocy.

Also, these creatures are meant to be carnivorous in nature, yet one seems to prefer the idea of a nice quiche – much to the horror of its companion.

The art helps carry the humour. While remaining delightfully simple in style, the characters’ expressions manage to perfectly convey a full range of emotions.

I personally feel the simplistic artwork only adds to the this and any addition would only detract from it. For this reason, even though there is a series of colour reprints available from Scholastic, I personally prefer the original black and white linework included here.

One of the most charming and refreshing things about the book is that it is suitable for any age. There isn’t a single case of inappropriate language or behavior that should stop a young child from reading Bone.

I have personal experience reading the comic with a 6 year old and an 8 year old. They both enjoyed it enormously and were excited to hear it might be getting made into a series of films.

I did find a couple minor negative points. The ending seemed to be slightly anti-climatic; it was good, just not on the scale of what I had imagined it to be.

The other negative point is that I read it all in one sitting! But that is my own fault. I would recommend you don’t read it straight through, even if the story is compelling you to read on.

Having said that, it is cracking read and I have had to be a nitpicky to fault it.

Bone truly deserves its place in TIME Magazine’s 2005 list of the Top Ten Graphic Novels of all time.

Five stars out of five.

I especially love that I will be able to read it with any children I may have in the future.

Essential Continuity:
Other than the two spin-offs produced so far this title contains everything in this ”universe”, so it is very essential.

Read first:
Nothing, just delve straight into the beast of a book.

Read next:
You could delve into one of the spin-off titles, Bone: Tall Tales or Bone: Rose.

There is also Stupid, Stupid Rat-Tails: The Adventures of Big Johnson Bone, Frontier Hero where Smith is joined by Tom Sniegoski (also writing for Tall Tales) and Stan Sakai.

Obsessive fans young and old may be interested in the Bone Handbook, including profiles and background information.

Apparently there will soon be a color hardcover version of the one volume edition, released for the 20th anniversary.

Or you could try Smith’s Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil.

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21 Comments Post New »

  1. avatar Ryard wrote on at January 9, 2011 11:12 am:

    I looked long and hard at this – I have the complete hardcover series…in fact I have a shelf with the Red Dragon, Smiley Bone and Fone Bone statues (never did get the Rose one…one of these days, eBay…one of these days) bookended by the hardcovers. It’s a pride of my collection. That said, I was afraid that a book that thick would interfere with some of the double page spreads, so ultimately I passed. I did get the colorized versions, for the kids when they’re old enough, right next to my Akikio and Abadazad books, so I think I’ll probably pass on the hardcover, too. I love collections, but I think over 1000 pages is seriously pushing it.


    avatar Ian replied on January 9th, 2011 at 7:21 pm:

    Part of you wants every version available, and you know it.


    avatar Simon replied on January 11th, 2011 at 5:35 pm:

    I know what you mean about the 2 page spreads but other than that the size of the book doesn’t affect the read at all. I myself never liked the addition of the colours, I felt it took away from the art, but each to their own.

    I am very jealous of your bookends though.


  2. avatar Dirt55 wrote on at January 9, 2011 11:45 pm:

    Well this is definitely going on my amazon wishlist! I would always see this on “Top 10” lists for graphic novels along with Diary of a Wimpy kid and would ignore it thinking it was for children. After reading that this is for all ages I very much look forward to picking it up in the future to read with my son. He is only one right now, but I have a pretty good DC collection going for him when he gets older (some parents may pressure their children to play sports, it’s his decision, but he should expect pressure to read trades/GN). The most shocking thing about this review is the fact that you read it in one sitting. I re-read that sentence three times because I didn’t believe what I read. Wow.


    avatar Simon replied on January 11th, 2011 at 5:38 pm:

    It’s only the equivalent of reading about 200pages of a novel, a lot less words in comics :)

    I too avoided this for a few years but finally got around to it and was pleasantly shocked; Amazon “Top Ten” lists can be full of all sorts of terrible comics.


  3. avatar Eric wrote on at January 10, 2011 10:17 am:

    If you haven’t read this you need to. It is for all ages, I reread it every year and it makes me so happy.I always say if I could read something like this for the rest of my life I would be the happiest man alive. I love all comics from 100 bullets and preacher to batman and green lantern, and Bone is THE BEST COMIC EVER WRITTEN!

    Thanks for doing this review!


    avatar Simon replied on January 11th, 2011 at 5:42 pm:

    Thank you Eric for reading it and taking the time to show your support, it is very appreciated.


  4. avatar Joshua Clark wrote on at March 16, 2013 10:16 pm:

    I absolutely adore Bone. It’s way at the top of my list whenever someone asks me what comics to read first, and one of a limited number of works that actually merits the descriptor of “graphic novel.” I’m really glad that this omnibus edition exists because the story’s epic sweep is best savored in one book. However, this is one of the very few times in my life as a reader that a book’s paper quality has interfered with my reading experience. The paper’s simply too thin, and the linework on one page can be faintly seen on the opposite side. I still read the book of course, and loved it to death, but the white spaces in Jeff’s art are so important to the mood and ambience he creates, and having them be invaded – however faintly – by the opposite page’s art took me out of the story on a few occasions. But other than that, I have no complaints about this volume.


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