Sunday, July 8, 2007

Book Review: Bone 6: Old Man's Cave

Our heroes are bone tired, but one of them has a bone to pick. Yet this bone of contention will cut too near the bone!

Bone 6: Old Man's Cave by Jeff Smith. Color by Steve Hamaker. Scholastic (New York): 2007. 118 pages. $9.99. ISBN-13: 978-0-439-70635-3, ISBN-10: 0-439-70635-1.

The interlude of Rock Jaw is over. Rat creatures rampage across the northern Valley, Thorn discovers her magic powers as she leads the villagers to safety, and Fone Bone and Smiley find themselves lost in the forest. Meanwhile, the mysterious and evil Hooded One closes in on Phoney Bone, who is part of his plan to unleash the Lord of the Locusts on the world. Troubled by more mysterious dreams, Gran'ma's dishonesty, and her own confusion, Thorn makes rash decisions that could threaten not only herself and her friends, but the entire world.

This volume is the last of the so-called second Bone trilogy, variously titled Solstice or Phoney Strikes Back. It marks a distinct end of the series's light humor and brings to the fore the grimmer elements that will dominate the final trilogy. That's not to say Old Man's Cave isn't funny (it begins with a hilarious moment involving a grouchy ground hog), but the drama and action have taken center stage.

Steve Hamaker's coloring keeps getting better. His color accents Smith's artwork with numerous subtle shades and highlights. Panels that are lamp or firelit are particularly well done, and some light forest backgrounds have been added to panels that in the original black and white were mostly empty. The color gives Bone a lush look and feel appropriate to the setting and action and complementary to Smith's brushwork. It also highlights the distinct contrast between the humans and the cartoonish bones. In particular, when Bone and Thorn are arguing on pages 76 to 77, note the difference between Bone's blank white body and the carefully shaded cloak Thorn is carrying.

After her absence in the last comic, the return of Thorn is refreshing, and her reunion with Bone is very sweet. Plus, this is the volume where Thorn finally puts on the cool warrior outfit with the war paint that has become iconic of her character. I especially like that she's planning to go on a stealth mission while wearing bright red.

This is the volume that explains many of the story's mysteries; the following three volumes will be devoted to bringing the series through its climax and conclusion. Followers of Bone thus far will be pleased with the fast pace, the many revelations, the increased mythic tone, and the continuation of the quality artwork.

The Sci Fi Catholic's Rating for Bone 6: Old Man's Cave:

Myth Level: High (this volume brings in the Bone cosmogony)

Quality: High (good art and good storytelling combined)

Ethics Religion: High (nothing objectionable, a few good messages about trust, etc.)
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