A Review of Bone: Out from Boneville
Jeff Smith’s first part of his three-volume series Bone, Out from Boneville marks the beginning of a journey for the unique main characters of the story. The three main characters in question are each members of the Bone family, who were recently ran out of their hometown of Boneville due to the misdealings of Phoney Bone. Phoney, a pun on the word “phony,” is one of the three Bone cousins ran out of town and is portrayed as rich, loud mouthed, and self-centered; always sporting a furrowed brow and a contemptuous attitude. The second member of the Bone family, Fone, is demonstrated as the level headed, goal oriented, witty lead character trying to keep his family together and ultimately bring them back to Boneville. Smiley Bone, the third and final of the cousins is portrayed as a care free, cheery, cigar smoking simple man who tends to accept his current condition as outlaw as opposed to getting back to Boneville.
The graphic novel begins in the desert with the three Bones already out on the run; two weeks after they had escaped from Boneville. Smith chooses to not show us the events that took place in Boneville or even show us Boneville itself. He does this so that the reader can form his or her own opinion on what Boneville represents and to show the Bones out of place from the very beginning of the novel so that a conflict and goal for the story can be immediately present. After a bit of introductory dialogue, this scene continues with the arrival of a swarm of locusts that separates the Bones and ultimately thrusts them, each on their own path, towards The Valley. The Valley, a rural forested community, is supposed to juxtapose the urban modernity of Boneville. The residents of The Valley often speak in broken English or with a slur to their words, attend cow races, chop firewood, and trade goods in a 100% barter based economy. This community operates on its own and seems to be completely unaware of the modern world. Each of the Bones struggle to survive and understand this new world; and to find their cousins so they can leave and return to Boneville.
In terms of illustration, Smith does a particularly good job personifying his characters and keeping the comic interesting by using specific framing techniques. In this page, which
shows Fone Bone escaping from the swarm of locusts and falling down a cliff. The top three frames can actually be interpreted spacially as one larger frame with Fone appearing at two different points to indicate him both on the cliff and running off it. The bottom three frames are depicted in nontraditional long columns. Smith did this to accentuate Fone’s downward fall and to show just how far Fone fell. Smith also strongly designed his characters’ portrayal by capturing specific emotional and individual characteristics in the characters’ facial expressions, body language, and dialogue font. In this page, which shows the coming of the locusts, we can see the vast difference between these characters. First, Fone is the only one
who notices and investigates the coming locusts. His eyebrows are almost always up expressing his concern and hyperactive mental state. Smiley is pretty much just smiling throughout the novel, which proves his character to be care free. Even in the case that he sees the locusts, he sports a massive, teethy grin and thinks nothing of them. Finally, Phoney Bone is drawn with a constantly furrowed brow and can be seen occasionally sweating. This leads the audience to view him as panicky and makes sense considering his highly emotional decision making.